They fought against the odds to find a job they love

To read on United Response website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

Finding work with a learning disability: Kevin & Andrew’s story

Published:    Author:Sophie Cooper


Finding a job can be difficult in the current financial climate, and if you have a learning disability, it can be even harder. Just 5.8% of people with learning disabilities are in employment, compared with 47% of the wider population with disabilities, and 80% of non-disabled people.

We found out about the stories of Kevin and Andrew, both visitors at Oakfield day service in Liverpool, who are fought against the odds to find a job they love.

Kevin’s story

Back in 2001, Kevin was given a person-centred plan – a way for people we support to plan what they want now and in the future – where he made it his goal to work in his local Tesco, the same branch he had done a job placement at when he was at college. He met up with the manager, and began to do voluntary work one day a week, which eventually progressed to two days a week. After a year of working at Tesco, they offered him a paid position.

“He enjoys stocking shelves and is very skilled in his job. We have visited the store several times,” said Veronica, former service manager at Oakfield day service. Kevin has been in paid employment ever since and works three 4 hour shifts a week, receiving the same benefits and holiday as other staff. “After 14 years, Kevin is still very happy and knows the job.”

Andrew’s story

Andrew was also given a person-centred plan in the same year, where he said his goals were to learn about photography, become more independent and find a job. The first opportunity he was given was a job at a hotel launderette one day a week. He was given travel training, which enabled him to use public transport from home to work. Andrew worked there for two years, until the hotel’s closure.

After this, he began to attend college on days when he wasn’t visiting Oakfield, and in 2006 found another job at a hotel launderette. Unfortunately, this job was short-lived, and only lasted four months due to a seizure he experienced while working.

This didn’t deter Andrew from searching for new opportunities. In 2008, with the help of his carer, he approached the Liverpool FC shop at Anfield Stadium, and secured some voluntary work for four hours a day, two days a week.

“He loves volunteering, loves the camaraderie with his colleagues and has met many of the Liverpool players and managers,” said Veronica. Andrew is supported by a regular team of workers at the store, receives staff discount on his purchases and is proud of his position. His confidence and social skills have also increased enormously since his employment.

Transforming independence

Both Kevin and Andrew continue to go to Oakfield day service to improve their learning, do some sports and meet with friends. Veronica and her team have also made sure that their support is there when they need it. “We regularly check that they are happy and that there are no issues at work.”

These two stories show the real benefits supported employment can have for people with learning disabilities: from transforming independence and increasing confidence, to making new friends and contributing to the workplace. Through more person-centred plans and supported employment schemes, we hope that stories like Kevin and Andrew’s will become more common.

Find out about our Supported Employment Services


She lifts people up and gives us a perspective on things

To read on The Canberra Times website:

Caroline Brunner: pioneering Canberra public servant with Down syndrome retires

August 26 2016    Natasha Rudra

For nearly 25 years, Caroline Brunner has lit up the offices of Housing ACT in Belconnen, bringing the mail with a smile and a kind word, and putting together housing application kits – an estimated 250,000 of them in her long career.

The Canberra public servant retired on Friday with a big party and a bit of media attention.


Caroline Brunner has worked at Housing ACT for more than 25 years. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Caroline made headline news in 1992 when she started as a full-time permanent employee in the ACT public service – the first Canberran with Down syndrome to do so.

Her mother Renata Brunner had worked tirelessly to advocate for integrated employment – not just for her daughter but all Canberrans who have Down syndrome. When she took her cause to then attorney-general and prominent lawyer Bernard Collaery, he decided to create an opening.

A scan of the front page story on Caroline Brunner in 1992.

A scan of the front page story on Caroline Brunner in 1992. Photo: Supplied

She worked at Housing on short-term contracts, filing documents, before finally being offered a full-time ASO 1 position, and making a bit of history.

At the time, Caroline was unfazed by the media, telling the Canberra Times that Mr Collaery was « a very nice man » and she had been nervous about whether her contracts would be renewed. At Housing ACT, Caroline thrived.

« A lot of people [hate] Monday[s] but for Caroline it was ‘Oh, it’s Monday, I can go back to work!’ She loves her job, » Renata said.

It’s Caroline’s failing health that has necessitated her retirement – otherwise she would keep on working. « I love my job, » she declared. « I’m feeling okay. I’m looking forward to [the party]. I do miss my job. »

Her mother said she initially thought Caroline would be suited to work in a childcare centre.

 »I never imagined her to be in an office. And we never thought an office with a view as beautiful as this, » Renata said, gesturing to the blue waters of the lake behind her. « It turned out, as it happened, the right way – because later on with her nieces, there wasn’t that much patience! »


Read more.