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The (un)intended consequences of employment policy for people with learning disabilities

Dearing, Kim 2021. The (un)intended consequences of employment policy for people with learning disabilities. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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People with a learning disability, who are in receipt of social care, often have a precarious relationship with paid work – less than 6% of working-aged people within this demographic are in any form of employment. In a society that privileges ‘productivity’, employment can recast individuals into a role that holds value and meaning. The ‘welfare-to-work’ policies for learning-disabled people follow a similar trajectory to mainstream policy that locates the barriers to employment with the individual and specialist work programmes prioritise those who have a mild/borderline learning disability. However, little research captures the experiences of people who wish to engage with work who have a more complex diagnosis. This thesis is based on ethnographic research from a community organisation that responded to the underserving of work preparation support for people with higher forms of interdependent need. Additionally, three further sites of data collection complement the ethnographic study. Together, this research explores not only the impact of paid work on the lives of people with learning disabilities, but also the complex, persistent and prevalent barriers to employment inclusion. In doing so, this thesis unpacks the nuanced, multifaceted reality of everyday life for learning-disabled people struggling to access paid work. Further, when employment and learning disability policy is scrutinised with my empirical analysis, this research exposes a central paradox between ability, expectations, and realistic job prospects. Consequently, structural job discrimination and unconventional experiences of work that falls short of national minimum wage legislation are commonplace. Yet, more subtly, ethical and moral considerations of value and worth are brought to the fore. As such, much of this thesis considers the grey, blurred lines, challenging not only the conceptualisation of what work is but also how it is rewarded, when faced with tension within the broader labour market structures of how employment is organised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 June 2021
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2022 01:07

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