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Learning Disability Week: The importance of stability and relationships

For Learning Disabilities Week, Tracy Hammond, Catch22 social entrepreneur and founder of Recrewt, talks about the impact of lockdown, the post-pandemic job market, and her hopes for future job seekers with learning disabilities and autism.

17 June 2020

Recrewt, founded by Tracy Hammond, supports individuals with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and mental health problems to find employment. The organisation has been backed by Catch22 as part of its Incubate, Accelerate, Amplify programme since 2019 and is based within support agency, KeyRing.

This Learning Disability Week, Tracy discusses why she works so closely with businesses and why stable jobs are so important for the demographic she works with.

The first half of 2020 has been an interesting time to start a recruitment agency; I’ve had plenty of people tell me it is in fact, a terrible time to start one. Just today, it was announced that the number of people out of work and claiming work-related benefits in the UK has jumped 23% to 2.8 million in the last month.

However, this period has highlighted why Recrewt was set up in the first place – COVID-19 and the lockdown has emphasised the very issues we already knew about: loneliness, known to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day[1], was already on the rise; the use of foodbanks had increased by 73% in five years; and 94% of people known to their local authority as having a learning disability were out of work.

Also, and as is often the case, society didn’t know what we had until it was gone: the importance of a collegiate work environment and regular human interaction. Up and down the country, I suspect there was a ripple of eye rolling as those with routine experience of loneliness and poverty heard about the plight of those for whom this was a new reality.

Businesses in the UK had recruitment problems too: they couldn’t find and retain the staff they needed. Trapped in a constant round of recruitment, training and attrition, with no time to think about how to do things differently, employers were struggling against low unemployment, intense competition for candidates, and declining staff loyalty.

At Recrewt, we knew before and we know now that more support is needed to link the aspirations of people with learning disabilities and autism to the needs of businesses seeking reliable candidates. Recrewt was set this up with the knowledge and evidence that:

  • people with learning disabilities make great employees[2],
  • everyone benefits from a diverse and supportive workplace[3], and
  • customers from wider backgrounds feel more welcome when a business is demonstrably inclusive.[4]

As we begin to unlock, people whose lives have been disrupted by unemployment will clamour to return to the workplace, seeking any role they can find to tie them over. But, once the initial competition for any role is over and people start to move from just any job to seeking a meaningful and sustainable career, a true purpose, the value of Recrewt candidates will be clear. Evidence shows that people with learning disabilities have a deep understanding of the value of good relationships and show long-term commitment to a hard-won role; they stand out because they offer the reliability and mind-set that employers seek. Their commitment will soon shine, shaped from their long-held resilience of overcoming loneliness, embracing stability, and seeking financial stability.

Before lockdown, people with learning disabilities understood the true importance of friendship and we wasted no time in maintaining those relationships while in lockdown.

At Recrewt we have known for a long time what is now becoming even clear; employment and finding a purpose gives us so much more than having a job to pay the bills; it’s about building and maintaining meaningful relationships, the feeling of security, and of future stability.

We must do more to ensure that everyone, regardless of the barriers in they face, are given the opportunities for these things too.

Tracy Hamond is supported by the Catch22 Incubate, Accelerate, Amplify programme and is part of the 2019 intake of social entrepreneurs. The programme is designed to support those with solutions to some of the greatest challenges faced in public services. Learn more about the programme.

[1] Valtorta, N.K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S. and Hanratty, B., 2016. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Heart, 102(13), pp.1009-1016.

[2] https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/employing-people-with-disabilities-benefits/

[3] https://smallbusiness.co.uk/business-benefits-employing-disabled-people-2533637/

[4] https://www.and.org.au/pages/business-benefits-of-hiring-people-with-a-disability.html