Employing people with learning disabilities


17 / 08 / 2011

The organisation

NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT)employs 2,400 staff in commissioning and provider roles.  It serves a population of 550,000 across a geographical area of 1362 square miles, plus the Isles of Scilly 30 miles off the mainland in the Atlantic Ocean.

What we did and why

This project is about workforce diversity and aimed to increase the representation of individuals with learning disabilities. It was a joint venture between the PCT, Cornwall’s Learning Disability Partnership Board and Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities, a new service in the county to support employment and placements for people with learning disabilities.  

The need for the project was supported by the Government White Paper ‘Valuing People Now’ (2009) which states that people with learning disabilities who are economically active live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

How we did it

A project steering group was formed. Monthly, multi-disciplinary team meetings took place and each team member has specific actions, for example, production of easy read literature and review of human resources procedures. 

The project has led to a team of eight people gaining substantive employment and two students have been given work experience placements.  The team is referred to as CHAMPS (Cornwall Health and Making Partnerships) in part because partnership working is integral to success.

The CHAMPS team support primary care and hospital workers to improve their care and support to patients with similar disabilities. They have become a familiar presence in all health settings. 

Some of the innovations within this project included:

  • job design for people with learning disabilities
  • production of information in easy read formats for example, induction packs, job descriptions
  • training for managers so that preconceptions around the recruitment process are challenged. 

Results and next steps

The CHAMPS have produced health promotion DVDs, including ‘Your way to oral health’ and a training DVD for acute trusts on better discharge planning.

The CHAMPS role has had a positive effect on other people with learning disabilities, for example there has been a large increase in those going for an annual health check, and for dentistry treatment. 

There has been positive press coverage in the local press, and an article in the professional journal ‘People Management’.

The CHAMPS have an infectious enthusiasm for their work, and considerable pride in working for the NHS. 

One of the CHAMPS said: “It’s given me loads of confidence.  I’ve been waiting for this sort of job for a long time. Before I didn’t have this so it’s quite new to get a wage and a real job. I am doing a video around Treliske to train health professionals on what they can expect when dealing with people with a learning disability. Teaching and training is so important.”

Next steps involve sharing the learning with partners locally, regionally and nationally, and trying to move it to a provider setting so that some roles, for example portering and house keeping can be filled by people with learning disabilities.

Contact details and further information

Kate Milton, Senior Equality and Human Rights Manager,  07825 112076, kate.milton@ciospct.cornwall.nhs.uk


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