More than 120,000 Scottish adults with a learning disability are in need of help finding work, according to a shock new report.

The estimate, based on the number of school leavers who education authorities say have a recognised learning disability, is a huge increase on previous estimates.

Around 26,000 people with a learning disability are known to Scotland's councils, but they tend to be those with the highest needs in receipt of social services.

The new figures, published in a report by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD), in association with researchers at Glasgow University and the Scottish Government, are part of an attempt to find out how many people need employability help.

The report calls for changes to help people with learning disabilities participate fully in society by getting real jobs. It says too many currently rely on part time or sheltered employment that can be for as little as three ours a week and often amounts to not much more than day care.

The SCLD report says 120-150,000 adults with a learning disability are not in employment. While 73 per cent of the general population are in work, the figure for people with a learning disability is as little as seven per cent. The report calls for a substantial effort to overcome low expectations among the public and employers, to encourage people with a learning disability to see themselves as having a valuable role to pay in society and the labour market.

As well as low expectations from employers, some young people also face low academic expectations from schools and college staff, it says.

Parents can also be a barrier - by looking to protect young adults with a learning disability from the outside world, by having low expectations themselves, or by looking to avoid raising expectations and risking disappointment. In some cases they fear that a child with a learning disability would lose out on benefits if they worked, lowering household income.

Existing schemes such as Work cChoice, Access to work and Community Job Scotland are helping more adults with learning disabilities ranging from dyslexia to significant cognitive impairment, to find work, the report says.

But some councils are transferring supported employment services out of social services departments, leaving them vulnerable to cuts, it warns.

A range of recommendations to the Government, councils, skills bodies, colleges and employers include a call for companies to be given a target of employing one person with a learning disability for every 25 employees.

Maura Lynch, depute chief executive of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, said: "Change is not going to come overnight, but if you get a job you get a life. Three hours a week is not a real job, but as well as working in jobs such as portering, shop work and cafes, people with learning disabilities are working in industries such as electronics."

The report would help identify the kind of support people need, she said. "Having a learning disability doesn't mean you can't get a really good job."