PEOPLE WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY BY WORKING THROUGHOUT THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC

As covid-19 has forced businesses to change where and how they work this year, learning disability charity Mencap NI is calling on employers to think differently about who they employ.

During Learning Disability Work Week, taking place from 9 - 15 November, Mencap NI is shining a light on the valuable role of people with a learning disability in the workplace and the contribution they are making to the community throughout the ongoing pandemic.

Many employers report that people with a learning disability are loyal, hardworking and dedicated employees. Their participation in the workplace helps to boost staff morale, champion inclusion and enhance diversity.

Mencap NI supports people with a learning disability in a wide range of workplaces from supermarkets to hospitals. Many have been keyworkers throughout lockdown, the people that society has relied on to keep Northern Ireland moving through the most difficult of times.

Matthew was supported by Mencap NI into his job in Patient Client Support Services at Musgrave Park Hospital

Matthew was supported by Mencap NI into his job in Patient Client Support Services at Musgrave Park Hospital, at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Matthew found the job changed significantly due to covid 19 and during lockdown. Even though it was difficult at the start of the pandemic with social distancing and new cleaning procedures, Matthew quickly adjusted to the new way of working.

Matthew said: “I’m proud that I worked during lockdown. It was stressful at first with having to wear masks, gloves and making sure everything was deep cleaned, even more so now. It was difficult at first, but now I am used to all the new rules, it’s just the new normal now.”

“Having a disability makes you lose confidence. You can feel alone. But work makes you more confident, you can be included, not excluded in society. Im very grateful to Mencap for their support and the opportunity to better myself, I know there are better things to come. 

Mencap NI’s Employment and Personal Development Service has been supporting Matthew since 2015 on the EmployAbility Project, where Mathew gained work experience in several job placements, before securing a place on the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Positive Action Programme. Matthew is now supported by Mencap NI on the Workable NI Programme in his paid employment.

Aisling Curran, Service Manager - Learning Disability, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said:  “Delighted as part of Learning Disability Week to highlight the success of Matthew as part of the Belfast Trust’s Positive Action initiative, working in partnership to support initiatives that broaden opportunities and enable people to reach their potential have to be encouraged.”

Paid employment can help make people feel valued and equal, included in society and increase their independence and self-esteem. Often all that is needed, are small adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability who want to work, such as accessible application forms or offering a work trial instead of a traditional job interview.

Rachael McCauley, Mencap NI Area Operations Manager for Employment & Personal Development said: “The world of work has been turned upside down by covid-19, now is the time for employers to think differently about who they hire. This year, every employer has had to adapt and innovate to support their workforce through this unprecedented time. Including people with different experiences and skills will only enhance businesses and their offer.’’

“People with a learning disability can work and want to work. With the right support, they can make fantastic employees - many are keyworkers who we have all relied on to keep things moving.”

Through its employment service, Mencap NI supports people with a learning disability to become more independent, develop their employability skills and move closer towards and into the labour market.  

Mencap NI is also inviting employers to find out how they can open their doors to people with a learning disability. The charity can support with everything from making the application process more accessible, through to providing in work support, ultimately helping to open opportunities for this untapped talent pool.

The Mencap NI ESF EmployAbility project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy. The project is match funded by the Department for Communities, the five NI Health & Social Care Trusts, North West and South Eastern Regional Colleges. The Workable NI Programme is funded by the Department for Communities and is delivered by Mencap NI via the Supported Employment Solutions Partnership.

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To find out more about the Mencap NI Employment and Personal Development Service click here.