I know that this is not following on from the early years stories that I have been writing but I think it is relevant to our times. I also need to let off a bit of steam.
The opportunities that are available to young people with Down syndrome have always been pretty few and far between. There have been companies, such as Remploy, in the past who specifically ran training centres and set up companies to employ people with learning and physical disabilites. Funding was withdrawn a few years ago from Remploy. What did the government do to replace this? Companies cannot afford to offer positions to our young people, mainly because they need support and could take longer to learn their roles. With the recession in full swing and some economist saying that it will continue for a few years yet, when will SJ ever get a job? The fact that not only can our young people work, in a variety of roles, they want to work, apart from anything else it helps their self esteem and self confidence. It also takes them off benefits. There has been a vast change in the rules for receiving Incapacity Benefit of late, due to the huge amount of fraudulent claims made. This has resulted in everyone being tarred with the same brush. It also adds to the misguided view that if someone can work they should not be on any benefit support. But most can only work with support so why not give them a chance. What is the government doing to achieve this?
On our last visit to the Jobcentre, we were told, that although SJ has the relevant qualifications, GCSE's, NVQ's, part completed BTEC, all achieved with hard work and support. Along with the fact that she has had work experience within an office environment, again with support. However the cost of sending her on a residential training programme that is designed for people with physical and learning disabilities with the main outcome after 26 weeks is that they will find her a position within some of the companies who have committed to supporting them. Unfortunately SJ is not a good enough candidate because, as the Disabiity Employment Advisor said, she would still need support in a role so would be harder to place, so the opportunity of this training will be given to someone who is more likely to be placed at the end of it and continue within the role. Who can guarantee a job nowadays?
The Learning Skills Council only fund roles within colleges who can ensure that our children come away with a qualification that is recognisable as an employable career. But which company will support our children even if they have the right qualifications? The raising of outcomes is a good thing but the possibility of becoming employed does not seem to have changed. Even more so now. So what will happen? Who knows but the outlook is very bleak.
SJ now says that she wants to work in a pub. Collecting glasses. This is fine and I will try and make it happen for her. Will it be enough to get her a flat of her own. I doubt it. The future of our children is entirely in our hands because if we do not make provision for them, I really don't think anyone else will.