Supported Employment for People with Complex Needs: No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel, Just Move it in a Realistic Direction! Social Policy Association European and Asian Conference,

Rachel Forrester-Jones, Nick J. Gore, Rhea Young

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Throughout the last three decades, the UK, US and Australia have implemented government policy and service practice drives towards providing more equal opportunities for people with learning disabilities (LD) to experience employment (DoH, 2001; Cohen-Hall et al., 2007). Primarily, this has reflected evolving principles of normalisation and the inclusion and disability rights agenda (Nirje, 1985; Wolfensberger, 1983). More recently in the UK, Public Service Agreement 16 aimed to increase the numbers of people with LD in paid work. Alongside this, a cross government strategy, Valuing Employment Now (2009) outlines a goal of radically increasing the number of people with LD in paid employment by 2025.
In a UK study of almost 3,000 people with ID, Emerson et al., (2005) found that almost half said that they wanted to work and Bass (1995) found that people with LD who did work were more satisfied with employment than previous day services. As well as benefiting employees, employment of people with LD has been shown to benefit employers. Hill, et al., (1999) in a UK based study found that employers of people with ID reported high levels of satisfaction with work completed and in a US study of customer attitudes, 92% of participants favoured companies that employed disabled people and 87% said that they would prefer to give their custom to such companies (Siperstein, et al., 2005).
Despite the evident benefits of employment and the wealth of policy drives, few people with ID in the UK are currently in paid employment; the Learning Disability task force (2007) estimate that around 83-90% of adults with ID are unemployed. For people with ID and additional complex needs including profound and multiple ID, challenging behaviour and mental health problems, the number in paid employment is even lower.
The Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for people with Complex Needs (SHIEC) is a demonstration project that aims to support people with ID and complex needs to find and maintain paid employment. The aim of this paper is to report on a qualitative study of SHIEC in its first year, exploring participants’ (i.e. 16 paid carers) perceptions about the process’ involved in supporting people with complex needs into work. Seven themes significant to participants’ experiences of supporting people with complex needs were derived from the data set, including structural and emotional barriers to finding appropriate employment for individuals. Recommendations for future policy and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages128
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventSocial Policy Association European and Asian Conference - University of York, York, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Jul 201219 Jul 2021


ConferenceSocial Policy Association European and Asian Conference
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom

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