Why employers should look beyond the disability

All colleagues bring something different to their role. When you look at the various attributes within a team, you can see a whole range of skills and personalities. All these different factors come together to create a high performing team with a strong balance and great dynamic. It’s how you create a vibrant and energetic working environment.

You might find two people employed in the same line of work who are polar opposites. One might be creative and the other might be analytical. If you didn’t have this balance, output would suffer.

Similarly, somebody with a learning disability brings with them a wide range of skills. There may be areas that they need a little more support with, but in other ways, they can exceed in the role. And that’s why I think it’s so important to look beyond the disability and see the person, the colleague, the team player.

As a national charity, Home Group has a wide range of support services throughout the UK. These include mental health, extra care and learning disability services. In supporting individuals who access these services, we don’t mollycoddle and hand-hold. Far from it. We empower people to realise their dreams and ambitions. And we take this approach through into our working environment.

We’ve seen many people from our services progress through our training and apprenticeship programmes. But it’s a two-way thing. It’s not simply about what they can achieve, they also give so much back to the organisation.

One apprentice, for example, was a customer who joined the organisation in a part time role. He has a mild learning disability and had worked in a number of low-paid, short-term roles that didn’t offer any opportunity for progression. However, since joining our HR team he was in high demand. His friendly demeanour and excellent customer facing skills soon saw our facilities team trying to poach him! He was the perfect fit for that team as they existed to provide a service to our hundreds of colleagues based within the building. The person undertaking that role needed strong communications skills and a can-do attitude. John gave 110% every time.

While working with the facilities team he also completed a level 2 apprenticeship – so now he has solid evidence that he is up to the job.

And then there are people like Jas. Jas lives in one of our supported accommodation services, but the whole team know him! He never forgets a name and lights up the office every time he visits. He’s one of our best fundraisers – his personal approach and friendly chit chat means that people find it hard to walk by without first having a natter.

Some of our learning disability services also find work experience roles for customers outside of Home Group. We’ve got some great guys at Kingston House in Hull who have volunteered in lots of roles including with the Hull City of Culture team. They’ve done a cracking job and we are so proud of them.

The big point here is that you should never underestimate somebody because they have a learning difficulty. That is one small part of who they are. Look beyond, see the whole person and you will unlock so much potential that will not only allow that person to lead a more fulfilling life, but it will also bring so much more to our work forces, communities and our lives generally


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