Appeal to tap into hidden talent

Staff at work in the Kingsmeadows Catering kitchens, a social enterprise based in Peebles.
Staff at work in the Kingsmeadows Catering kitchens, a social enterprise based in Peebles.
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HELPING Borders businesses find out more about the benefits of employing people with learning disabilities is the central theme of this year’s Learning Disability Week which runs from Monday.

Despite the fact two thirds of people with a learning disability want to work, around 86 per cent are unemployed, compared with 8.6 per cent of the rest of society.

Anne Peacock, catering assistant, delivers filled rolls for social enterprise, Kingsmeadows Catering.

Anne Peacock, catering assistant, delivers filled rolls for social enterprise, Kingsmeadows Catering.

A simple truism will underpin next week’s initiative: that people with a learning disability can make a significant contribution to the workplace. They have a lot to offer and are able to achieve a high standard of work as well as being consistent, reliable and willing to learn.

The Scottish Borders Joint Learning Disability Service has organised a programme of events in Peebles, Galashiels, Duns and Hawick to help local businesses tap into this reservoir of hidden talent. These sessions will showcase the work of people with learning disabilities who are already in paid employment, on placements or working as volunteers.

There will also be an opportunity to find out more about employing someone with a learning disability from the Ways2Work Employment Support Service which will also dispel some of the urban myths which can put barriers in the way of employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

A wide range of other services which provide volunteering opportunities and training to help people find work will also be attending.

Invitations have been sent out to local businesses and it is also hoped the general public will drop in to find out more about how the learning disabled community can contribute to the local economy.

Scottish Borders Council’s director of social work, Andrew Lowe, explained: “What we’re aiming to do is help local businesses discover how they could benefit from employing someone with a learning disability, and at the same time give someone the opportunity to make their mark in a real job that gives them independence and some control over their own lives.”

Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work, specialising in social care and health, told us: “It’s so important to have events like these because it allows both local companies and communities to see that there are lots of advantages in employing people with a learning disability – it means such a lot to them as individuals, in as much as they develop more independence and higher self-esteem.”

Jane Davidson, chief operating officer for NHS Borders, added: “Learning Disability Week will provide the opportunity to link with local businesses to demonstrate that people with learning disabilities can add value to a business. Employing people with learning disabilities helps those individuals to lead a more integrated life in their community and is of real value to them and their families.”

The Learning Disability Week events, from 10am-2pm, will take place as follows: Monday, June 20 – Peebles Rugby Club; Tuesday, June 21 – Market Street marquee, Galashiels; Wednesday, June 22 – Southfield Community Centre, Station Road, Duns; Thursday, June 23 – Heart of Hawick, Kirkstile, HawicK.