Increasing the number of people with a learning disability and/or autism employed in the NHS
The NHS provides better care when the people employed in its services reflect the diversity of the communities it serves. A more diverse workforce brings a broader range of experience to services and demonstrates to members of individual communities that they are valued and respected. Moreover, research tells us that good employment itself improves people’s health outcomes and the NHS has an important role as an anchor institution within communities to promote and expand the diversity of employment.
The NHS Long Term Plan acknowledges that employment rates for people with a learning disability and/or autism have remained low for many years. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional employment challenges and the impact of the pandemic has been particularly detrimental on people with a learning disability and/or autism.
Launched in 2015, the Learning Disability Employment Programme (LDEP) supports the development of local and national solutions to remove barriers and increase employment opportunities for people with a learning disability and/or autism in the NHS in England, and it also encourages service improvements.
This programme helped to deliver commitments in the NHS Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View on the employment of people with a learning disability. This programme is also key to delivering a specific commitment to employ more people with a learning disability and/or autism set out in the NHS Long Term Plan which was launched in 2019.
The NHS will benefit from having a workforce that is more diverse and representative of those we serve. The LDEP encourages NHS organisations to draw on the talents, expertise and experiences of people with a learning disability and/or autism. We believe the programme can make a positive contribution to address the needs of people with a learning disability and/or autism and reduce the profound health inequalities that they face.
The Learning Disability Employment Programme Pledge
A key pillar of the Learning Disability Employment Programme Pledge (LDEP) is to get NHS organisations to commit to improving the journey to employment through the three-step LDEP pledge. This sees organisations advance through the following three steps to deliver tangible advances in employment across their operation.
- Step one – This means organisational commitment
- Step two – This mean real action planning
- Step three – Achieving success. This means employing more people with a learning disability and/or autism
The LDEP pledge is open to NHS providers, NHS commissioners, NHS Arms-Length Bodies and third-party providers of services to the NHS. More than 120 organisations have already made the LDEP pledge. We are actively encouraging as many NHS organisations as possible to make the pledge.
One of the most effective ways of helping people with a learning disability and/or autism on the journey to employment is through supported internship programmes. These provide a structured transition-to-work programme combining real-life work experience with training in employability and independent living skills for small groups of young people.
Tools and guidance
To support NHS organisations that have taken the pledge to deliver the LDEP, tools and guidance are being published on the NHS Employers website soon. These tools will include practical examples from across the NHS of how organisations have improved their employment of people with a learning disability and/or autism and the benefits to those organisations and to the individuals concerned.