Using qualitative research methods, this research will explore how people with learning disabilities feel about paid work and how employment can impact upon their lives. The UK employment rate for working aged adults who have a learning disability and are in receipt of social care is at 5.2% (Hatton, 2017). To tackle low participation rates, policy (Valuing Employment Now 2009) emphasised and encouraged the use of Supported Employment programmes, yet funding for such services has declined significantly over the last 5 years and impacted negatively on employment rates (Humber 2014). At the same time, evidence also shows that a mainstream approach to accessing employment support and supported employment (such as job centres) are not addressing the needs of the ‘customer’ appropriately for people who often have complex barriers to securing open employment (Goodley and Runswick-Cole 2015).
In response, a ground up approach to increase the presence of people with learning disabilities within the paid labour workforce has emerged. Smaller organisations are beginning to utilise their position in the community to facilitate their own employment programmes (Lin et al. 2012).
This project aims to understand the impact of paid employment for people with learning disabilities by tracking the journey that participants make when they begin to engage with paid work opportunities. It will have a key focus on how people’s citizenship status may evolve from a passive role to active citizenship and the impact this can have on their identity individually as well as their perceived identity to others (such as service providers, employers, colleagues, family, friends, the local community and commissioners). The overarching research objective is to understand multiple perspectives on a common story with the narratives filling the gaps between the reality of the lived experience and theoretical concepts (Young 2010).