People with learning disabilities are just 8 per cent as likely to be in paid employment as the wider population in Reading, new figures reveal.

And while UK employment is at its highest ever level, the charity Mencap says employment rates for people with learning disabilities continue to be hampered as they “face many barriers”.

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The latest Public Health England data compares the percentage of working age people with learning disabilities who are in paid employment with that for the population as a whole.

In Reading, 76.8 per cent of the working age population was in employment in 2018-19, while the figure stood at just 6.2 per cent for adults with a learning disability – a gap of 70.6 percentage points.

The data covers people aged 18 to 64 with learning disabilities who were known to the council during the period.

The local gap was slightly wider than the figure of 69.7 percentage points across the country as a whole, but was smaller than the figure for the South East, where it was 72.0.

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Mark Capper, head of development at Mencap, called the national figures “really disappointing”, adding that less than 6 per cent of people with a learning disability known to their council are doing paid work.

He said: “Despite the general population’s employment rate rising over the years, the employment rate for people with a learning disability has remained stubbornly low.

“People with a learning disability can work and want to work, and with the right support they can make really fantastic employees.

“But they face many barriers, often falling at the first hurdle as a result of inaccessible application forms.”

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Small and reasonable adjustments in the workplace could help them become committed members of the workforce, Mr Capper added.

The difference in the employment rates in Reading in 2018-19 was less than in 2017-18 (72.5 percentage points), but wider than in 2011-12 (67.5), the earliest year with comparable data.

Across England as a whole, the 69.7 percentage-point gap was the widest on record.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “There are 4.4 million disabled people in employment in the UK, the highest since records began, but we know there is more to do.

"Levelling up the playing field for disabled people is a priority for this government, and that's why later this year we'll launch a national strategy to set out how we can better support them so they have equal access to all spheres of life."