Change that leads to better lives

Employment support for people with learning disabilities – how to spend less and achieve more

Back in 2014 we published research into employment support for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities which is, as far as we know, the most thorough to date. It showed that public money is being wasted on non-evidence-based models of employment support.

We estimate that if the two thirds of local authority/NHS budgets currently spent on non-evidence based services was spent on support that works, at least 15,000 more people could get a job without us spending a penny more.

One of the most astonishing things about completing the research was sitting with commissioners listening to how they choose and purchase employment support. Most choices were based on historical commissioning patterns because they had so little knowledge and even less time. As money is getting tighter our only hope for doing things better is knowledge-based commissioning where people, whether they are using block or individual budgets, invest in proven best practice.

At a time when a financial meltdown in social care is widely predicted, headlines about wasting money are easy and powerful. But they can hide the real issue – crushed aspiration. Every survey on the aspirations of people with learning disabilities is clear – people want jobs. Real jobs with colleagues, wages and challenges. Training courses, job clubs and publicity campaigns just don't deliver these.

We have recently started working with four local partner sites on a new project called Employment is Everyone’s Business, in partnership with BASE (British Associate for Supported Employment) and funded by the Department for Education’s (DfE) grant programme.

Each site is a collaboration between young disabled people, their families, local authorities, health, education, schools, colleges and employers to raise aspirations for employment and to use education as a great launch pad into work. We will be sharing our learning early next year but some of the early messages seem quite clear: raise aspirations until getting a job replaces conversations about programmes and day centres, build partnerships between services that are based on commitment and an understanding of best practice and get ready to invest a lot of time.

If you are commissioning employment supports you might want to check out this tool. And if you’ve got a good story on how your commissioning has improved outcomes, let us know and we’ll share it!

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