A record number of people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions are being helped into work with the Access to Work scheme.

More than 2,000 people with a learning disability were helped by the initiative in the past year. The number of people with mental health conditions using the scheme has also increased to 1,600.

The service offers users help with travel to work and access to support workers and specialist adaptations to overcome the challenges they may face in the workplace. Employers also receive financial support with the extra costs associated with employing a disabled person beyond reasonable adjustments expected under the law.

Minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, says:

“It’s great news that more people are taking advantage of the support on offer through the ‘Access to Work’ scheme. These figures show we are making real progress in supporting disabled people to find and stay in employment – delivering on our commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

“With almost a quarter of a million more disabled people in work compared to last year it’s clear employers are waking up to the talent that is out there.”

The government is now planning to expand the existing Mental Health/Fluctuating Conditions Team of Access to Work advisers into a Hidden Impairments Specialist Team. This expansion will target support for people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities as well as dyslexia, autism and other less visible disabilities.

Jolanta Lasota, CEO Ambitious about Autism, highlights recent relevant research on employment and autism and explains why not-employing those with autism is a missed opportunity for all involved:

 “With the right support, planning and opportunities from parents and employers, many people with autism have the ability to work. Despite this, recent figures show that only 15% of people with autism are in full time, paid employment. 79% of those polled who are not in employment would like to be.

“Although not without its own issues, employment and the job satisfaction that it hopefully brings can help many people with autism overcome other problems they face including a sometimes overwhelming lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. This record number of people using the Access to Work scheme is testament to those with disabilities who are keen to work and shows the type of committed employee that they could be.

“Ambitious about Autism is working with The Department of Work and Pensions and HMRC to provide their staff with autism training and to provide work experience for young people with autism.

“It has been shown that those with autism can make for loyal, diligent and hard-working employees. It is great to see that employers are waking up to the talent that is out there and we hope they will realise there is still more to be gained by employing those with autism and other ‘less visible’ disabilities, too.”