Almost nine out of ten adults with learning disabilities in North Somerset are without paid employment

Kevin Griffey from the Strawberry Line Cafe```

Kevin Griffey from the Strawberry Line Cafe``` - Credit: Strawberry Line Cafe

Close to nine out of ten adults with learning disabilities in North Somerset are without employment, a new study has revealed.

Lucy Colman from the Strawberry Line Cafe

Lucy Colman from the Strawberry Line Cafe - Credit: Strawberry Line Cafe

Statistics by Public Health England show 14.1 per cent of people with learning difficulties of working age in the district are currently in a paid job, compared to 80.7 per cent of the population as a whole.

While UK employment is at its highest ever level, the charity Mencap says employment rates for people with learning disabilities continue to be hampered as they 'face many barriers'.

One prominent employer of adults with learning difficulties in North Somerset is the Strawberry Line Cafe, found at Yatton Train Station.

The cafe ring-fences all non-supervisory paid positions for people with learning disabilities.

Director, Natasha Pester said it began when she and fellow director, Ann Ramsey noticed a 'clear need for an employment scheme for those with learning disabilities'.

Natasha said: "We've realised that sometimes these people receive support from the government, either money or a support worker, and this can be lost or reduced if they take a paying job."

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"They also tend to spend longer in education or training programmes, so when they leave and look for entry jobs, they're no longer eligible for a younger rate of minimum pay so employers see it as a waste of money."

She added: "Everyone we've employed has been amazing employees, and when the public realise what we're doing they want to support us even more."

Mencap head of development Mark Capper has called the findings 'really disappointing' and 'stubbornly low'.

He said small and reasonable adjustments in the workplace could help people with learning disabilities to become committed members of the workforce.

He said: "People with a learning disability can work and want to work. But they face many barriers, often falling at the first hurdle as a result of inaccessible application forms."

Currently, there are 4.4 million disabled people employed in the UK, a record high.

However, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman admitted 'we know there is more to do'.

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