The significant unemployment gap for people with learning difficulties is being driven by social exclusion, segregated educational settings and a lack of support, experts have warned.
As the nation marks Learning Disability Week, figures have revealed that more than one million people in the UK with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are out of work. That is despite ONS figures showing a record number of job vacancies as of May this year – with 1.3million openings advertised by employers.
Employment data shows that just 5.1 percent of young people with learning difficulties known to adult services make it into paid work, compared to 80 percent of young people without learning difficulties.
The divide is most felt in London, where people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those without.
Research has found that segregated educational settings and a lack of support in mainstream schools leads to fewer qualifications, unemployment and low wages for those with special educational needs or disabilities – resulting in a lifetime of poverty.
City Hall figures from 2018 found that a third of disabled children with special educational needs in London were taught at specialist schools, while findings from Trust for London revealed that 70 per cent of students with special educational needs in the capital lack a Grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths.
Michelle Daley, CEO of the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has said that segregation of disabled children in schools is one of the key things that “reduces people’s opportunities”.
She said: “Disabled people – particularly people with learning difficulties and people who require adjustments in the workplace – are much more likely to be out of work, to be managed out of work, to experience bullying and exclusion from social events.
“Additionally, there are limited opportunities for career development and moving into higher positions. Disabled people from black, minoritized and marginalised communities are more likely to experience further oppression.”
ALLFIE, which campaigns against policies that exclude disabled people from education, has previously published research that found mainstream schools in England are using Accessibility Plans to “drive out” disabled children, leading to further segregation.
Children with learning difficulties are also more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools compared to their peers, leading to worse outcomes for their education.
In 2018, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the Skills for Londoners strategy which outlined the skills challenges facing the capital with the aim of aligning skills provision with the needs of the economy.
Last year, the scheme provided £57.6million of funding for projects aimed at delivering skills training, including a project in Harrow that provided construction training for people with learning difficulties in Harrow.
Khan also announced a 10 per cent uplift in funding for adult education courses up to Level 2 – the equivalent of a GCSE Grade A* to C – aimed at helping more Londoners, including those with disabilities or learning difficulties, to achieve qualifications needed to progress in work.