When I Grow Up

Being asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?", dreaming about jobs you may do and imagining the kind of future you'll have is a fundamental part of growing up.

Yet, for many children with learning disabilities, this is simply not the case. The assumption is that they will not "be" anything. Many miss out on that basic right to aspire to a career, along with the wider social networks, better emotional and physical health and increased independence that come from having a job.

We believe it's important to embed the idea that young people with learning disabilities have the right to a working life, the desire to do so and the ability to succeed early on.

Fewer than 6% of people with learning disabilities have a job

Only 5.8% of people with learning disabilities are in some form of paid employment. This has fallen over the past five years from 6.6% in 2010/11. This is well below the figures we would expect to see for people who do not have learning disabilities.

We understand the need to tackle this issue early on and to raise the aspirations of people with learning disabilities (and their parents' expectations for them).

When I Grow Up (WIGU) was a four-year programme run by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities and funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which aimed to increase work expectations, aspirations and opportunities for students with learning disabilities at three schools and colleges in West Berkshire, Kent and the London Borough of Redbridge.

Increasing the focus on employment

We worked in partnership with schools and colleges, supporting them to develop a more intense focus on employment. They informed us that:

  • they needed help adapting plans to include long-term goals such as employment
  • work experience opportunities were rare and where they existed were often segregated and did not lead to paid work
  • they needed help to engage with employers to provide real jobs for students leaving school
  • there was no provision for much-needed job coaches to support people with learning disabilities into work.

Highlighting good practice and challenging low expectations

The WIGU programme highlighted good practice and challenged low expectations by:

  • raising the aspirations and expectations of the schools about employment
  • supporting schools to ensure work was embedded in the curriculum
  • developing a series of workshops that prepared students and their families for the world of work
  • supporting schools to develop person-centred employment plans
  • supporting the development of individualised work placements
  • ensuring paid employment opportunities were developed for students
  • running a number of national seminars and all-site meetings to bring schools together to learn about the role of job coaches and share good practice
  • working with families to help them to think about employment as a positive life goal for their sons and daughters
  • raising other people’s assumptions and expectations around employment for this group of young people.

Facilitator's handbook

As part of this programme we developed a Handbook for Teachers. This consists of three main elements:

  • 10 session plans
  • Resources (including exercises, instructions and activity sheets)
  • Work profile

The programme is delivered as a series of 10 workshops which are designed to supplement the existing employment-focused activity at school, while also developing a conversation with families and engagement from employers. The work profile is to be completed during session nine, using information gathered during the activities and conversations that took place over the course of a programme. Session 10 offers an opportunity for the student to prepare and present their skills, qualities, preferences and support needs.


Download the facilitator's handbook

Download the editable work profile

Download the project information and policy document

More information

If you would like more information about this project please contact us on [email protected].