Janice McClelland

NHS champions the cause for people with learning disabilities

Texthelper Janice takes a closer look at where the NHS stands on supporting people with learning disabilities.

The NHS is increasingly vocal in its commitment to supporting  equality & diversity; to develop its workforce into one which is truly representative of the communities it serves.

As one of the UK’s biggest employers, it recognises the significant contribution individuals with learning difficulties can make and is adopting a whole new approach - not only in the care provided to people with learning difficulties but also in the NHS approach to employment.

An initiative was launched in June this year to  employ more people in the NHS with learning disabilities. As part of this a new national network was set up providing advice, ideas and impetus to all NHS organisations – from local hospital trusts to national bodies – to remove barriers and take steps to accelerate employment of people with learning disabilities. 

It’s a great initiative,  which can support people to develop the careers they deserve - and help break down some of the barriers surrounding learning disabilities along the way.

Benefitting the NHS

It’ll benefit the NHS too. A more diverse workforce, that’s better aligned with the society in which it operates, offers a greater breadth of knowledge and understanding - which ultimately improves the care and service on offer. As Lela Kogbara, Director of the newly-established Learning Disabilities Employment Programme at NHS England says: “This isn’t just the right thing for people with learning disabilities; it’s right for the NHS, helping us to deliver better care for everyone.”

Surprisingly, under this initiative NHS England does not recognise dyslexia as a learning disability, despite being legally just that under the Equality Act 2010. With 1 in 10 of the UK population affected by dyslexia - and 1 in 4 of these severely dyslexic - the NHS need to make sure this group is represented and fully supported as part of this initiative and within their workforce.

Looking beyond the workplace, the NHS has been making headlines recently, not just for its employment policy, but for changes in the way care is to be provided for people with learning disabilities. 
The voices of individuals and their families have been heard at last and the focus is now to have community based support and housing - a seismic shift in approach, and the general opinion is it’s a better one. There’s little point refocusing on previous failings in NHS care for vulnerable people - let’s move on and think about how best we can be part of this transformation of care and provide support to the people involved.
As anyone who has moved away from home knows, suddenly being in a different environment can be daunting. We bolster ourselves by communicating regularly with friends and family and of course, in today’s age of technology, this is mainly done via social media.  That’s fine if you have the capability to log on, read messages and start interacting, but for many people with learning difficulties it’s not that simple.  A recent study by Ofcom Sept 2015 found that 3 out of 10 people with learning disabilities said their disability stops them using communication technology.  This needn’t be so.
At Texthelp we passionately believe in digital inclusion, where having a learning disability, literacy or language challenges shouldn’t stop you from using the computer, tablet or smartphone. We firmly believe that literacy is everyone’s passport to professional and social success both within and outwith the workplace. By keeping channels of communications open, we believe independent living and integration into the community will be easier.


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