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Learning Difficulties: Support

Volume 621: debated on Monday 20 February 2017

7. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that people with learning difficulties are supported into work. (908763)

The Green Paper consultation, which concluded on 17 February, asked a range of questions about how we can better support people into employment and highlighted learning disabilities as an area for further work. We will bring forward shortly schemes to support this group in their ambitions.

Will my hon. Friend join me in praising the work of the Balance community interest company in Surbiton, which provides employment support for people with learning difficulties? I urge her to raise awareness of organisations such as Balance and, indeed, of the Government’s own Access to Work scheme, so that everyone knows what support is available out there.

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in praising the work of Balance CIC. This is a group of individuals we want to do much more for. We will be bringing forward a young person’s work experience scheme shortly, and we wish to open up apprenticeships, but more is needed in this area, and organisations such as Balance can help us do that work.

The disabled students allowance has been a great help to students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia in gaining the qualifications they need to enter the world of work. Will the Minister not accept that the £200 fee is acting as a real deterrent to the uptake of this allowance and that it is unfairly penalising students who need that extra help?

We are looking at a range of things we can do in particular to help young people with learning disabilities, with autism and with mental health conditions. They need more options available to them, and they need more financial support in some of those areas. I am happy to look at what the hon. Lady suggests if she would like to write to me with evidence that these things are happening.

Governments of all persuasions have tried and failed to shift the employability rate of those with learning disabilities from 6%. That rate is an absolute waste of the huge amounts of talent and enthusiasm that are out there. That is exactly why we brought forward plans to open up apprenticeships and to have a special disability apprenticeship scheme. Please would the Minister update the House on where we are with creating those opportunities?

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the apprenticeship scheme. We wish to open up the opportunities such schemes bring to those with learning disabilities, and we are making good progress on that with the Department for Education, but we need to do other things as well. When we talk about people with learning disabilities, we are talking about a huge range of individuals. We have not done enough for those who are at the highest-need end of that spectrum, and I hope we will be able to do more shortly.