Podcast Episode 77 When we’re young we think we can do anything, be anyone, achieve everything. But as many of us get older we learn to fit into the box of expectations. For young people with additional needs this box can be small, with many assuming that they will not be entering the employment market any time soon.

This week’s guest Alison Thwaite, the Employment Development Manager of the WorkFit programme run by the Down’s Syndrome Association, does not agree. She offers a much better model of presumed employment.

Presumed employment comes from the angle that employment will happen at some stage and works towards that time. The WorkFit program takes young people though the process of deciding what jobs they might like to do while also helping them be realistic in terms of the skills they have. In addition, they are helped to identify whether there are local employers that can offer the roles they may be suited for.

Alison talks about the wider issues around why young people with additional needs find getting paid employment a challenge, as well as the role that parents play – this can be very positive but occasionally can also restrict opportunities and hinder progress. She also discusses the importance of supporting employers, educating fellow employees, and providing ongoing support to ensure that the transition into paid employment is not only as smooth as possible but is also sustainable in terms of the individual staying in a role and even advancing within the company.

If presumed employment was a reality for all young people with additional needs who do want a paid job, then we really could see an inclusive society where people are valued for themselves as individuals and not for any label they may have been given.