Currently: • There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. • There are approximately 54,000 adults with a learning disability in Wales (Mencap). • D-disabled people are the least well-represented group on our screen, with only 7.8% of people on TV being disabled and 0.3% of the total film workforce, despite 15% of the actual UK working population being disabled (it is worth noting a figure does not exist for learning disability alone). • According to The Employment of Disabled People 2019 statistical publication (DWP), less than a fifth of people with a learning disability aged 16-64 were in employment between April 2018-2019.
A young adult with a learning disability who leaves school at 18 or 19 is faced with limited options. They often will have no qualifications to allow them to pursue their interests and access further education or paid work, often leaving them isolated at home or in supported housing. Like many young people they want to socialise and enjoy some autonomy but leaving their safe, known environment can have a long-term detrimental effect. According to Mencap, as many as 9/10 people with learning disabilities have been the victim of hate/mate crime and/or harassment. This has a very damaging effect on their self- esteem and confidence and more often than not results in withdrawal from the outside world with many experiencing prejudice, stigma and extreme levels of social isolation and exclusion long before Covid.
At Hijinx, we aim to showcase a world where the arts and society can be full inclusive. A central component of our work is the professional performance training that we provide across Wales in our five Academies, unlocking the untapped talent of learning disabled and/or autistic adults and providing them with the skills they require to fulfil their potential as professional actors. They are then promoted to the wider creative industries via our casting platform, Hijinx Actors, the UK’s largest casting platform dedicated to actors with learning disabilities and/or autism. These Hijinx Actors, who have conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, are at the heart of the company’s work.
In addition, we also facilitate: - Award-winning communications training to the corporate and public sectors facilitated through role play by Hijinx actors - Two Drama Foundations courses teaching life skills through drama to 30 people with complex learning disabilities in Cardiff and Prestatyn - Two inclusive youth theatre groups in Cardiff and Bangor - Odyssey, an inclusive community theatre featuring actors with learning disabilities and/or autism and neurotypical actors who perform together as equal partners
Our work is perhaps now more important than it ever has been, with Covid worsening the levels of isolation people with a learning disability face already, and 7/10 people (Mencap) with a learning disability having their social care support, which is often key to ensuring people with a learning disability can lead a happy and fulfilled life, stopped, or cut at a time when it is needed the most. Therefore, as we start to re-open, it is even more important that we continue to drive opportunities to level the playing field for learning disabled people in the arts.
But we can't do this without your support.