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Research to investigate the impact of supported employment on people with learning disabilities

Dr Rachel Forrester-Jones, Lecturer in Community Care at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent, has been awarded £25,000 by MCCH Society Ltd, with support from the Shaw Trust, to investigate the benefits and impact of supported employment on people with learning disabilities.

Her research will focus on four Tuck by Truck services based in East and Mid Kent and the London boroughs of Bexley and Bromley.

Tuck by Truck is a project that involves people with learning disabilities preparing and delivering snacks to offices and small factories in the surrounding area. Profits from sales ensure that the delivery assistants are paid the national minimum wage for each delivery shift.

The aim of Dr Forrester-Jones’ research is to measure the success of Tuck by Truck from the viewpoint of the employees rather than by profit making margins. The following questions are at the heart of the research: has Tuck by Truck provided individuals with technical and social skills commensurate with those needed in mainstream employment; has Tuck by Truck enabled trainees to develop their social networks; have individuals experienced vocational changes (for example, have individuals’ aspirations for employment changed or developed for the better and has their actual or potential income increased significantly, whether through Tuck by Truck or access to open employment opportunities); have individuals been equipped with knowledge concerning employment rights to protect them in the workplace; have individuals who are employed experienced changes in their self-esteem and quality of life; does this type of service provide a pathway to real employment for people with learning disabilities?

The objective of the research is to provide pointers to good practice in relation to social inclusivity via supported employment.

Dr Forrester-Jones said: ‘The benefits of supported employment for people with learning disabilities have been documented as increased choice, empowerment and independence. At the centre of these benefits are social relationships based on both formal transactions within work, and on informal interactions not required for performance of the job but which, apart from helping to complete tasks, facilitate feelings of unity and empowerment.

‘However, there are concerns that these benefits are not experienced by a large number of people with learning disabilities. Social isolation remains a problem for many people with learning disabilities. While we know that probably less than 10% of people with learning disabilities have jobs we know little about the experiences of those in jobs from their own perspective. That is what my research aims to learn.’

Dr Forrester-Jones aims to publish her findings in September.

Karen Baxter | alfa
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