Edge responds to the ‘Disability employment gap’ inquiry

Our young people deserve an education system that brings learning to life, and is relevant to the twenty-first century. At the Edge Foundation, we want to support all young people to develop the transferable skills needed to succeed in the labour market of the future and believe that a vibrant, coherent and relevant education system can support social equity and enable all young people to fulfil their potential.

However, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can often face extra barriers in their education and employment journey, including inaccessible resources and lack of specialist support. These barriers can also continue beyond education with many struggling to move into training or meaningful employment.

We believe that our education system can do much more to support SEND pupils into work and that employers should have more awareness of the benefits of inclusive recruitment. In December 2020, we responded to the Work and Pensions ‘Disability employment gap’ inquiry drawing on our recent report “A journey to employment for young people with additional needs”. This includes examples from St Martin’s School and Horizons Sixth Form which are educational institutions in Derby, East Midlands for SEND pupils. We also included the example of Project SEARCH at Royal Derby Hospital which offers a programme of supported internships for young people with disabilities.

Here are some of the key points that are important to consider:

  • The recent Covid-19 pandemic has had severe repercussions for young people, and has disrupted their education as well as impacting their job opportunities. However, for those with additional needs, the opportunities to gain and sustain employment may be even more challenging.
  • First hand encounters with employers and the development of employability skills are key to supporting SEND students into the workplace. Collaborating with educational institutions is also beneficial to employers as it improves their understanding of how to provide meaningful work experience, offers an appreciation of the practical work-place adjustments needed, and showcases the breadth of skills that SEND employees can offer.
  • Most importantly, these activities need to be carefully planned, designed and fine-tuned to suit SEND pupils interests, aspirations and needs. This can be done through teachers and employers collaborating on designing or adjusting activities.
  • Work placements/internships that offer extra wrap-around support (such as personal tutors, classroom-based learning, and reflection sessions) also enable students to identify areas for their own personal development (such as independence, self-management, and communication skills) – important skills for any job in the future.
  • Not all employers are yet aware of the benefits a diverse workforce can bring and/or they do not feel they have the knowledge to recruit and support employees with additional needs and disabilities. To address this, we would like to see DWP and DfE collaborating closely with BEIS to support community actors, particularly businesses, in providing supported work opportunities tailored to the needs of young people with SEND.

For more information, you can read our report here which brings these examples to life.

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