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21 November 2019

Learning disability week - Caris finds her dream job

Caris (mencap)

Less than 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment. Despite the many barriers facing her,
Caris Douglas, 30, from Bristol, who has a learning disability, has achieved her dream of getting a job working at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, thanks to support from the UK's leading learning disability charity, Mencap.

As part of Learning Disability Work Week (18th  - 22nd  November 2019), Caris will be helping Mencap to inspire others, like her, to not let a learning disability stop them from achieving their dreams. For people with a learning disability, employment is more than just a job - it empowers them to be more confident, independent and feel a part of society. Sadly, many people with a learning disability tell us that unemployment makes them feel isolated, depressed and excluded from wider society.

Caris Douglas said: "I tried to find a job before, but I found it really hard. No one around me was hiring. It was difficult to get experience so that I could get a job. I wanted to do work experience because it is really nice to get out of the house for a few hours. It gave me a chance to speak to other people in my area. It can get a bit depressing at home.

"Mencap has helped me a lot with my confidence and talking to new people. I have been able to meet new people that I wouldn't have met without this scheme. I just want to say 'Thanks' to Mencap."

Inaccessible application forms mean that nearly a third of people with a learning disability found it hard to apply for jobs, according to Mencap's new survey of 1625 adults with a learning disability in the UK.

Vanda Martins, Deputy Manager of Hotel Services at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: "I would recommend other employers to engage in Learning Disability Work Week.   Caris has worked for us for approximately two years. This is a very busy working environment and I'm very impressed with her performance and improvement in these last couple of years. She is a hard worker, always willing to learn and helpful to colleagues, patients and visitors.

"When Caris first started she lacked confidence and was very shy. Two years later, Caris performs well and I always have a positive feedback from colleagues and patients of her performance and conduct. Caris's confidence has improved 100% and she is now a different person from when I first met her. She takes her own initiative and works without supervision. We completely trust her to carry out jobs on her own and she always performs well. I would love to have more staff at work like Caris, she is a joy to work with."

Mencap is hosting a business breakfast, co-hosted with Virgin Money and supported by the Financial Times, at which people with a learning disability will talk to employers about how they can change attitudes towards disability in the workplace and adopt practices that will open doors for this untapped talent pool.

Mark Capper, Head of Development in the Lifestyles and Work team at Mencap, said: "People with a learning disability can work and want to work, and with the right support they can also make really fantastic employees. Our research has shown that simple things like inaccessible application forms are a real barrier to people with a learning disability applying for jobs. Often all that is needed is small and cost-effective reasonable adjustments to open the doors for people with a learning disability who want to work and who go on to be committed employees. In 2018 alone, Mencap supported over nearly 1800 people with a learning disability through our employment programmes, with over 250 people securing employment by the end of it. We're pleased to have teamed up with the Bristol Royal Infirmary to help Caris achieve her dream job. We know that for people with a learning disability, paid employment transforms their lives. Aside from the money -  which gives more  independence and choices -  it's also  a sign of social inclusion and  being valued and seen as an equal, a full  member of society.It is also good for business - it's a real win-win."

Find out more about Learning Disability Work Week (18th - 22nd November 2019) and Mencap's employment services: