A CAREERS summit held to help disabled people in South Tyneside find work proved to be just the job.
The event was held at the Dunes entertainment centre in Sea Road, South Shields, by learning disability charity Your Voice Counts.
It brought together people with learning disabilities, carers, employers, and representatives of South Tyneside Council were on hand to help break down the barriers preventing some from getting a foot on the career ladder.
According to the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, only seven per cent of people with learning disabilities have a job, but 65 per cent say they want to work.
Coun Mary Butler, lead member for adult social care and support services at the council, said: “This event was a great idea, and I’m delighted that so many people came along and made it such a phenomenal success.
“People with learning disabilities are more excluded from the workplace than any other group of disabled people.
“Research shows that 65 per cent of people with a learning disability would like to work and, with the right support, they would make highly-valued employees.
“This event has been a crucial first step to making positive changes towards seeing more people with learning disabilities finding work in South Tyneside.”
At the event, people with learning disabilities currently in work shared their stories, including Andrew McWhirter, an admin and clerical assistant at Monkton Hospital in Jarrow.
The 29-year-old said: “I feel very privileged to be able to make a difference, and I take real pride in my work.
“This event has been a great idea. I would like to see more of these events to help more people with a learning disability overcome the barriers they face.”
Cody Whinn, 21, of Jarrow, found work at Sunderland Royal Hospital with support from Project Choice, an organisation set up to support people with learning difficulties.
She said: “I do office work at reception but also do a lot of other tasks such as making beds, taking specimens to the lab and going to the pharmacy. I love my job. My boss is wonderful.”
Stephanie Smith, a Project Choice programme manager, said: “We use a three-pronged approach to find jobs for people with a learning disability which involves using work experience and an internship to develop the skills they need to make them work-ready.
“Around 63 per cent of the people we work with go on to find employment, which reflects just how successful this project is.
“I’ve been impressed, but not surprised, by the turnout at this event as we know that employment is a high priority for people with a learning disability.”