Jobs & Training for people with learning disabilities

LAST UPDATED: 16/01/14

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Getting a job boosts self-esteem, fosters independence and makes life much more interesting, not to mention paying the bills. Everyone has the right to work, but people with learning disabilities are not always given the right opportunities to realise their potential.

One of the most important things to do when supporting someone to find a job or training is to find something that interests them. While it may not be possible to secure the job of their dreams, it’s important to try to match up at least some of their interests and passions with what’s out there. 

Your local Parent Partnership – which you can find through your council - is a good place to start. They offer support to people with learning disabilities through college, jobs and training.

Local and online support groups are also really useful for advice from other parents, along with social workers. And you can find help from your nearest branch of organisations like Mencap and Cerebra, or carers’ associations. The local Citizens Advice Bureau is another good place to try.

Some of the services below may face cuts in the foreseeable future. It’s advisable to check with the local branch of the service for the most up-to-date news on what’s available.



Use your contacts. Ask friends, neighbours and extended family whether there is any scope for work placements or on the job training at their place of work.


Make links with other parents and find out what techniques they’ve used to help their offspring get work.

Self esteem

Do everything possible to boost self-esteem. Entering the world of work is hard for everyone and self-belief can really help someone achieve success.

Realistic Goals

Set realistic goals so that you’re not setting the person you're supporting up to fail.

Small steps

Take things slowly. Break goals down into small, bite-sized tasks which are more achievable than one big goal. Achieving lots of small steps will make the person you're supporting feel successful and able.


Explore as many forms of job training as possible (see below). If one kind of training turns out not to be suitable it’s worth exploring other options.


Keep checking on what’s available with your local authority and major learning disability charities. Funding for many initiatives is precarious at the moment and what’s available may change in the next few months.

No job too small

A job can be anything from one hour a day to full-time. Even working a couple of hours a week can make a big difference to someone's self-esteem and enjoyment in life.

Key organisations and initiatives


Two Ticks Disability Symbol

Employers are awarded this symbol by Job Centres if they prove themselves to have a positive attitude towards job applications from people with disabilities. Two Ticks website

Disability Employment Advisors

These advisors are based at Job Centres . They can carry out assessments and decide what the most suitable work might be and can also advise about the kind of support available and suitable job vacancies. Disability employment advisors link

Access To Work

Government initiative that can help pay for support to allow people with disabilities to access the workplace. Support workers, specialist equipment and funding to travel to work are amongst the things which may be provided. Access to work link

Work Choice

A Government initiative that has replaced Workstep, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme. Government support to help people with disabilities get work and appropriate support while they are in work. It also provides more support for employers so that they can employ more people with disabilities. Work choice link

The Knowledge Base

An open, freely accessible trove of information and resources, both for supported employment and for disability/employment support generally. These resources include practical guidance and support, policy and research reports, evaluations, framework documents and links to relevant content elsewhere on the web.

National Valuing Families Forum

Dave Barker, who is a family carer and Amanda Platts, who has a learning disability are leading a national campaign to promote the presumption of employment for people with a learning disability.

Funded by the DH via VEN and National Valuing Families Forum/National Forum, they can deliver a presentation to families, self-advocates and professionals. Contact or 07968798123

Moving On Up

A guide for young people with learning disabilities detailing post-16 options – staying on at school, going to college, working or volunteering.


One of the UK’s leading providers of employment services and employment to people with learning disabilities and complex barriers to work. It provides sustainable work opportunities for this group.


Supports people in gaining and sustaining employment in large corporations, public sector bodies and local employers. It also offers training.
Scope also offers vocational training at six regional centres in England and Wales.

The National Autistic Society

Prospects Employment Service offers student support, work preparation, job finding support and employment support. It also helps employers with the recruitment, training and retention of staff with an autistic spectrum disorder.

Aspirations For Life

Aspirations For Life is a campaign funded by the Department for Education as part of the Valuing Employment Now strategy. The campaign is designed to raise aspirations and expectations for children and young people with learning disabilities, with a particular focus on employment.

Employ Me

Employ Me is a specialist programme run by Mencap. It supports people with a learning disability to gain skills and undertake practical learning opportunities, which enables them to find paid work and lead a more independent lifestyle.

Employ Me also supports companies and organisations to recruit people with a learning disability. or call Mencap Direct on 0300 333 1111.

Preparing for Adulthood

The Preparing for Adulthood programme (PfA) is funded by the Department for Education as part of the delivery support for the SEN and disability reforms. They offer a number of resources and publications about employment, supported internships and study programmes, as well as positive stories about disabled people in work.

Employment support and training


British Association for Supported Employment (BASE)

A membership organisation for supported employment agencies which offer job opportunities to people with learning disabilities. Helps this group by encouraging the provision of support in employment and promotes quality standards in supported employment. More than 200 supported employment agencies in the UK are members.

North West Training and Development Team

A not for profit training and development team based in the north west of England which works with both young people with learning disabilities and their families and the commissioning and development of services for this group of young people. It helps with the development of training and new projects and forges links between families and commissioners and providers of services.

The Harington Scheme, London

A training scheme in horticulture for people with learning disabilities that may lead to work placements.

Disability Rights UK

Campaigns for rights and equality for people with disabilities and offers support, advice and consultancy. Provides a resource on areas like direct payments and works towards enabling people with disabilities to be equal citizens with choice, rights and control and the ability to lead full economic, social and cultural lives.

First Step Trust

Provides real work, training and employment opportunities for people excluded from ordinary working life because of disabilities or other problems. It helps people become less dependent on health and social care and to make the transition to paid employment and to become more employable by updating skills, building confidence and developing disciplines like punctuality and reliability.

The Shaw Trust

Supports people with disabilities and helps them to prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently. Help is provided with moving off benefits into work, work preparation and skills training, helping people to find jobs and offering ongoing support once people have jobs.

Autism Initiatives Group

Provides a range of services for people with autism including one stop shops offering advice and support, residential care and community outreach offering people support in their own homes. It also provides employment and apprenticeship activities including an artists’ initiative at a gallery and studios in Edinburgh offering young people the opportunity to create artworks for sale.

Kisharon, London

Organisation for people of all ages with learning disabilities. The Asher Loftus Business Centre is an initiative that offers a variety of work-based learning projects and supported employment opportunities including a bicycle repair workshop, a print shop, a woodwork enterprise and retail sales

Norwood, London and South East

Runs a supported employment service offering work experience programmes, work searches, help with interview skills as well as on the job support. Training and qualifications in catering are also offered.

Disability Law Service

The service can offer advice and support for people with disabilities who are having problems in the workplace. With support from Apasenth and Green Shoes Arts, the service ran a series of workshops about this which culminated in a film produced by the young people who participated. The film can be viewed at along with an easy words and pictures guide to Your Rights At Work at

Action For Kids

Provides work-related learning services. It provides work experience, work placements and key skills development.

Real Roles

Useful site for people looking for work, employers, third sector organizations, councils.

Support for Self Employment

MiEnterprise and Community Catalysts are two organisations that work creatively with individuals, supporting them to set up their own businesses. Covering everything from support with tax forms to purchasing equipment which individuals can rent. Lots of positive outcomes all round!

From 14th January 2013, disabled people who want to set up their own business will be able to get help from Access to Work if they enrol on the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA).

The NEA provides expert coaching and financial support for jobseekers with a business idea.  Access to Work support can help pay for specialised equipment, support workers and travel costs when setting up a business. For further information, please see the following links:

Access to Work Factsheet
Employer’s Guide to Access to Work

Individual projects


Values Into Action Scotland

Practical help with CV and covering letter writing, help with preparing for a job interview, provides information and advice about supported employment and work-related benefits issues.

Now Project, Belfast

Training and employment service for people with learning disabilities in Belfast. Offers a transition and employment service.


A national organisation led by disabled people, working for equal rights for all people with learning difficulties. They produce and deliver training packages and accessible resources about issues raised by people with learning difficulties. 

CHANGE has produced an Employment Pack for Employers. The Employment Pack contains an accessible book and DVD ‘Guidance for Employers’, and the Employment Picture Bank, which have been developed with people with learning difficulties.

SEEN - South East Employment Network

Guiding jobseekers with additional needs on their journeys to find and keep paid employment:


National charity promoting opportunities for young people and adults with any kind of impairment in post-16 education, training and employment. Information and advice about all the various options available to post-16s. Runs one-day introductory courses with Disability Alliance on the benefits, grants and loans available to students with disabilities.

Ability Media Centre

A Leonard Cheshire Disability project based in Southwark, South London for 16-25s. It offers cutting edge media training in the hope of increasing the percentage of people with disabilities in the media industry from 5% to 13% in the next 10 years.

Speaking Up

Charity and social business which enables people with learning disabilities and mental health problems find their voice and take action to make positive changes in their lives through advocacy.

Stepping Stones, Northern Ireland

A community business that offers adults with learning disabilities vocational training leading to employment. Training includes picture framing and catering.

Camden Society, London and Oxfordshire

Offers a range of employment and learning services. People with learning disabilities can access help to acquire skills, experience and qualifications so they can get jobs. Support is also offered to employers to help them understand various forms of disability in the work place.

Kith & Kids, London

Kith & Kids Employment & Life Skills Project provides a Monday to Friday term-time service for young adults (18 – 28) who have a learning disability and/or autism. The young adults are supported by volunteer mentors to develop skills to access further education, employment opportunities, and mainstream community facilities. This scheme also incorporates creative art activities alongside exercise sessions including disco/Zumba dance and yoga. Additionally, parents can access individual support and information relating to carers' needs assessment, personal budget management and residential provision. Full details are available at or you can call 0208 801 7432.

Getting a Life

A project for young people with severe learning disabilities. It is about raising aspirations, making changes to the system and creating a clear path to paid employment. The main aims of the project are to find and share new ways of working, so that people with learning disabilities have equal life opportunties.

Aldingbourne Trust, Sussex

Provides training and development for adults with learning disabilities. Provides accredited work preparation through Work Aid, working with employers, agencies, specialist benefit advisors and partnerships. Also provides training by people with learning disabilities.

Where Next Association, Worcestershire and Warwickshire

Where Next provides work experience and accredited training in a real working environment to people with learning disabilities or other special needs.

There is a choice of work across social enterprises in Redditch, Worcestershire and Studley, Warwickshire.

Link Up, Berkshire

Link Up is a work skills unit based just outside Newbury, Berkshire who support adults with a learning disability to do real work for real customers. Part of West Berkshire Mencap and established in 1995, Link Up helps the trainees to develop work skills in a supported environment and also provides an accredited educational element. or contact

Schools offering post-16 support and colleges


Macintyre, Wales and Buckinghamshire

Runs two special schools in Wales and Buckinghamshire and a further education college in Oxfordshire, along with registered care homes, accredited training schemes and lifelong learning. Offers highly specialist education and residential care services.

There is a No Limits programme for young people post-16 offering a bespoke community-based education and support programme. They adopt a multi-agency approach to post-16 provision, blending different funding streams to get better value for money.

Offers My Way project for transition, a facilitator works with a young person for 2 years before they leave school and coordinates care for the young person with a range of professionals including local authorities, teachers, social workers, medical staff, family and friends.

Prior’s Court Foundation, Newbury

A specialist school for children and young people with autism who have particularly complex needs. The school, near Newbury, focuses on developing skills to prepare young people for adult life, offering classes in cooking and cleaning along with vocational training such as animal husbandry and horticulture. It offers pupils the chance to get nationally recognised certificates of achievement and to go on work placements.

Beaumont College, Lancaster

On the outskirts of Lancaster Beaumont College caters for 19-25-year-olds. It emphasises ability rather than disability. The college uses creative arts as a vehicle for developing students’ confidence as well as building literacy, numeracy, social and communication skills. The college supports some students who are aiming for higher education, employment or volunteering schemes.

Treloar’s School, Hampshire

Based in Upper Froyle, near Alton, Hampshire, a non-maintained, special school for children with disabilities. It is part of the Treloar Trust which provides education, therapy and medical support and independence training for young people with physical disabilities.

Orchard Manor, Hertfordshire

Part of the SCOPE transition programme. It is based in Hertfordshire close to the charity’s school Meldreth Manor. It caters for 18-25's with complex care needs and provides a three-year course in a stimulating environment combining life and social skills with care. It helps young people make the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Area 51 Education, London

A further education college that caters specifically for young people with severe, complex and profound learning difficulties. Individualised learning packages and a strong focus on preparation for work.



Benefits Advisor Service

Benefits are still available for people with learning disabilities when they are in employment. The link below helps those in employment tcalculate what they are entitled to. The same service can be provided over the phone on 0800 882200.

The Benefits Advisor Service is the best place to go to provide individual advice, as benefits vary according to the nature of the learning disability, the number of hours worked and the amount of income earned.

Disability Living Allowance, tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit are amongst the benefits it may be possible to claim for.

General benefits information

For general information about benefits for people with disabilities visit:



Employing people with autism: a brief guide for employers
By the National Autistic Society Northern Ireland. Guide aims to raise awareness of autism among employers; outline the benefits of employing someone with autism; help employers understand the necessary adjustments; inform employers about their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA); provide information about the support programmes available; and signpost employers to further information and advice on

Ideas for employing people with learning disabilities

Tips contributed by independent living advisers Pete and Wendy Crane. Tips (74.4 KB)

Easy read guide to Your Rights at Work

The Disability Law Service has produced an easy words and pictures guide to Your Rights At Work. Guide (1.2 MB)

Training courses for people with Autism & Asperger syndrome

The National Autistic Society holds one-day training courses to ensure people with autism, including Asperger syndrome are given opportunities to access and retain meaningful employment. NAS Prospects Training Courses 2011.pdf (511.1 KB)

  Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided in these info packs or any of the activities suggested.

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