Differences found between people with learning disabilities who worked and those who perceived themselves to be at work


The economic, social and psychological benefits of being work have been well documented in the literature, but in 2010/11 in England, only 6.6% of adults with learning disabilities were reported to be in paid employment and the majority of these people were working part-time.

A number of people however, will say they are working, when in fact they are attending a non-work site, such as a day service. The authors of this Irish study were interested in looking at this issue of perception and what impact thinking and being treated on the basis of this perception had on other areas in the lives of those affected.

What they did was interrogate data from the intellectual disability Supplement to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (IDS-TILDA). This included questions on employment and provided data for a representative sample of 753 participants with learning disability aged 40 and over.
Interestingly, the researchers found that 6.6% of the population were in real paid employment and 7.4% in ‘perceived’ employment. They found 12% in sheltered employment and 73.5% were unemployed.

They found a number of differences between the two groups in terms of social activities, levels of depression and self-rated health.
They suggest their findings have identified a number of areas for further research into the impact of perceived employment on the lives of those involved.

In relation to the numbers in employment in England, the Improving health and lives website has an interactive map which shows this by region.
Exploring the Issue of Employment for Adults with an Intellectual Disability in Ireland, McGlinchey, E et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 26: 335–343.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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