New picture books about work and volunteering will raise aspirations

Four new picture books have been published by independent charitable publisher Beyond Words to help people to think about and explore ideas around work and volunteering.

Having a job brings many benefits. It enables us to build relationships, provides us with more financial independence, increases our social capital, and gives us pride and purpose – outcomes which all have a positive impact on our mental health and overall wellbeing.

Adults with learning disabilities have the lowest rate of employment of any group, with just 6% in paid work. One reason is the low expectations of employers, families and supporters, as well as their own low expectations. In response to this, Beyond Words have published a set of books that will help to raise the aspirations of people with learning disabilities, as well as those around them.

Through 12 months of research and planning, lead authors, Baroness Sheila Hollins (Beyond Words Founder and Series Editor) and Dr Roger Banks (Senior Psychiatry Lead in the Learning Disability Programme of NHS England), worked with a team of artists and expert advisers in the field of supported employment and transition, including experts by experience, to produce four engaging accessible books: ‘Choosing My First Job’, ‘Glory Wants a Job’, ‘A Family at Work’ and ‘A Good Day’s Work’.

The stories include finding the right job later in life as well as at transition from education, the benefits and responsibilities of a good job, solving problems and getting the right support to stay in work, as well as self-employment and social action.

Each story is designed specifically for people who find pictures easier to understand than words, with additional guidance provided at the back of the books for employers, schools and colleges, families and supporters. By telling the stories through pictures alone, the books provide information in a format that is accessible to all.

Six partner organisations including employment support services, FE colleges and employers, have been trialling the books in practice since October 2017. People with learning disabilities participating in the pilot have been using the four new books in group sessions to support discussions around work and volunteering and encouraging people to consider what these ideas mean for them. Partners involved are East Kent College, Skillnet, The Tower Project, Langdon, Kisharon and The Grange Centre.

Over 200 people with learning disabilities have been directly involved in the book development process and associated pilot project, both of which have been funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Baroness Hollins said: “These new titles in the Books Beyond Words series will challenge negative attitudes, showing that work is for everyone and inspiring people to think about what their own unique strengths and interests could enable them to achieve.”

Supported employment expert and Series Consultant Kathy Melling said: “The books will be such a help to so many people with learning disabilities and autism to understand the world of work, and what will enable them succeed with their career aspirations. I hope they will support an increase in the numbers of people with learning disabilities in meaningful and fulfilling jobs as we know that so many people are keen to work.”

Author and expert by experience Wayne McGregor says his book, ‘A Good Day’s Work’, will inspire others to reach for a successful work life just like his: “I’m very happy with it. It will help people to find that confidence and that belief to say, ‘I want to be like that guy!’.”

For further information, visit the Beyond Words website:

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