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Mainstream employment for people with the label of 'Learning Difficulties': the experiences and perspectives of supported employment providers (SEPs)
Ghasem Norouzi, Lecturer at the School of Education & Psychology of Isfahan University, Iran and a member of the Inclusive Education and Equality Research Centre, University of Sheffield
This paper discusses the findings of analysis of the research question 'How do supported employment providers promote 'meaningful work' opportunities for people with learning difficulties?' This was done through a thematic analysis of the views and experiences of the eight supported employment providers (SEPs).
The findings highlighted that the perception of all the SEPs of the ability of employees with learning difficulties was positive. The SEPs perceived these people as capable, punctual, reliable, willing, hard-working very helpful and trustworthy workers. It also described 'meaningful work' as a job opportunity in mainstream employment that developed a person in all respects.
The findings addressed how supported employment agencies affected the employment of people with learning difficulties. It argued that the current supported employment programme, despite supporting employees with learning difficulties at work and increasing the employers' awareness of the ability of people with learning difficulties, was not successful in enabling people to gain meaningful work. It addressed why most of them are excluded from meaningful work. Most SEPs argued that the reason for individual limitations was not related to the learning disabilities of people, but to cultural and structural barriers.
The findings point towards a number of ways in which employment services can be improved for people with learning difficulties in society: increasing disability awareness on the part of employers, parents and carers; the provision of suitable social and vocational training for people with learning difficulties; increasing adequate support at work for people with learning difficulties and employers; providing suitable employment opportunities in the job market and a flexible benefits system.
The findings also described some benefits of the Workstep programme in helping people with learning difficulties to get a paid job. It also introduced the Workstep programme as an important normalisation programme. It suggested further study in considering the effect of the Workstep programme on the employment and the lives of people with learning difficulties.
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