A lack of support for Scots with learning disabilities has created a “reliance on the welfare state”, MSPs have been told.
Campaigners at Enable Scotland, which provides support to this group, said too many “fall off a precipice” after finishing college.
Ashley Ryan, director of Enable Works, said a fifth of learning disabled youngsters leave school with no meaningful qualifications – and she condemned the “lack of aspiration” for them.
Ms Ryan told MSPs on Holyrood’s Economy and Fair Work Committee: “We’re seeing consistently, young people coming through school, 20% of them not achieving qualifications past level two, that shouldn’t be happening today.
“We shouldn’t see 20% of school leavers with a learning disability with no qualification at all and nothing to show for it.
“What we’re seeing is there is a real lack of aspiration for that client group in school.”
Parents of learning disabled youngsters “go through life being told what your child won’t do and less about what they will do”, she added, which results in “significantly lower” aspirations for them.
Ms Ryan continued: “We’re still seeing young people with learning disabilities leaving and go into supported college courses with no vocational focus. At the end of that three years, they fall off a precipice.
“That creates reliance on the welfare state, creates a reliance on benefits, and many of these young people have aspirations to do something more but we’re just not getting that support right for them, even at that very early stage.”
Calling for more action to help learning disabled youngsters while they are still at school, she told the MSPs: “Employment starts way before a young person leaves school, it starts as young as primary.”
Ms Ryan told the committee that the employment rate for people with learning disabilities “hasn’t improved that much in Scotland in the last number of years”, describing them as being the “most marginalised group”.
She added: “That is despite organisations like Enable Works supporting more than 5,500 people each year, we are getting more than 1,000 people into work.
“But those challenges remain, they start before people go into work, they start in school.”
A report by the Fraser of Allander Institute think tank from 2021 suggested that just 8.4% of people with learning disabilities were in employment, though it added the employment status of more than half (51.5%) of people in this group was not recorded.
The Scottish Government has set the target of halving the disability employment gap by 2038.
Emma Congreve, deputy director of the institute, told the committee “some progress” has been made towards this.
But she added: “We don’t really know why the disability employment gap has improved, which actions that the Government has put forward have led to that, if any.
“That’s quite a hard place to be.”
She said more “robust information” is needed, adding: “It is that transparency and clarity of what’s happening and best estimates of what those things may be.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe