As we recently marked World Autism Day, where people are encouraged to provide opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, I’d particularly like the business community to consider the benefits of employing people with a learning disability, autism spectrum condition or both.
The pandemic hit young people in the job market first and hardest, with people under 25 accounting for three in five of the jobs lost during the crisis. For young people with learning disabilities and autism, getting and holding on to a job is even more of a struggle.
There are 1.4m young people in school with Special Educational Needs. Yet, today just 5% of this population move into secure employment (compared with 80% of their peers), which means an astounding 95% will be forced to live a lifetime on benefits. That can lead to many feeling socially isolated, living in poverty and poor housing and ultimately having a shorter life expectancy. At best their skills and talents simply go unrecognised, or overlooked, by society. At worst, they face complete social and economic exclusion at a huge personal and economic cost.
While the UK has made welcome progress on the diversity agenda in recent years, albeit with much more work to do on issues like the gender pay gap, disability feels like the final frontier. I see three specific reasons why business should give an opportunity to those with learning disabilities or autism spectrum conditions.
Firstly, it is morally the right thing to do. To my mind, there are two key indicators to judge how advanced a society is, based on the following principles: every life is equal and the provision of high quality of care for those in need. All organisations have a responsibility to champion diversity in the workplace and adhere to the Equality Act, but research has shown the public also agree and expect it. A large study from 2017 showed that 92% of consumers felt more favourable towards companies that hired…
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