Dear Sally-Ann Hart,
We are trainees at Little Gate Farm and we are writing about the article you shared and the comments you made at the hustings. We are adults with learning disabilities, and we want to share our opinions.
We would like to extend an invitation to you to visit our farm in Beckley so that you can see the work training we do to get into paid employment. Sometimes people don’t realise the potential of people with learning disabilities, but Little Gate Farm is here in East Sussex to help them get paid jobs.
What you get paid depends upon the work you put in. If the amount of work you put in amounts to minimum wage whether you have a learning disability or not, you should get minimum wage. ‘Minimum’ is in the name! Sometimes people with learning disabilities need work adjustments to achieve their best, sometimes we need more support to get into jobs, but we do deserve to get equal pay.
We agree with parts of the article you shared – employment is important for health and mind. Having work gives us a quality of life and a sense of purpose. It helps us be more independent. After college you’re left adrift to float in the wind, and Little Gate gives us a way in which we can enter paid employment in a way which is comfortable for us.
Some of us believe that if it became legal to pay any of us less than minimum wage, it could easily become more difficult for others to get full pay.
This letter is just to increase general understanding of people with learning difficulties. It is not intended as an attack because we’re all learning all the time. This is why we would like you to come and see what we do. If you can’t come, we would like to hear your feedback about this letter, please.
If you are interested in visiting and having lunch, or to send a reply, please contact the senior project leader Biff Mooney at email@example.com
We are also including some information about how Little Gate helps us find jobs, and some quotes from trainees about our experiences.
Thank you for your time.
The Little Gate Farm trainees
What Little Gate Farm do
Little Gate Farm works with adults with learning disabilities and autism. We use the activities on the farm to develop employability skills such as independence, communication, leadership and professional behaviour. We also work on life skills such as money handling, cooking, travel training and self-advocacy.
While a trainee develops these skills, we support them into paid employment. They may go on work placement to try different areas and to see what they enjoy.
A job coach assists them in the work role to begin with. They conduct a task analysis and assist them with the job. Each person is different but the job coach will gradually withdraw as the individual learns the job and can eventually work independently.
A trainee’s experience of struggles to find work:
“I would apply for a job at the places where I was volunteering and they would give me more additional volunteer responsibilities and yet they wouldn’t pay me for it. Sometimes the people who were paid would ask me for my help and advice. They would keep saying that this would lead to paid work, but it never did. I have qualifications and experience, but I hadn’t had the support I needed to actually secure a job”
We are really pleased that our trainees have been actively involved in politics over the last few weeks. We had a visit from Labour candidate for Hastings and Rye, Peter Chowney, on Thursday morning. It was a brilliant morning and the trainees had lots of great questions which they got to discuss. The trainees were keen to know if there were easy read manifestos, how they were going to address the lack of PA’s in East Sussex. Some of our trainees have funding, but we can’t find any PA support. The trainees were also concerned about general issues facing the population including:
How do you plan to lower emissions in the local area?
Do you plan to create jobs in the local area?
How do you plan on helping young people to establish themselves in the property market?
Overall, its been a very politics-heavy week but it has been so refreshing to see our trainees being such active participants in the issues that will be affecting them.