A new government-backed national day of action will be marked today (Monday 27 March) to help boost the number of people with a learning disability or autism spectrum condition in employment.
Led by charity DFN Project SEARCH, the first-ever National Supported Internship Day will showcase the tremendous contribution that young adults with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) can make to the workforce and raise awareness of the hugely positive impact a Supported Internship has on the lives of the interns who take part.
The Day is part of DFN Project SEARCH’s wider #InclusionRevolution campaign launched last year to encourage UK businesses to recognise the social and economic value in employing young adults with SEND.
Most recent figures show that just 4.8% of young adults with a learning disability and/or autism in England (4.1% of people in Scotland) secure paid employment following education, compared to 80% of their peers.
During National Supported Internship Day, DFN Project SEARCH is calling on employers in all sectors to redouble efforts to employ young adults with SEND and come together to challenge the everyday misconceptions that all too often unfairly shape their life opportunities.
Minister for Children, Families, and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho said; “Supported Internships provide brilliant support to young people with EHC plans, equipping them with the skills they need to have fulfilling and successful careers. This is why we are boosting investment for the internships by doubling their numbers, and through the extra £3m the Chancellor announced last week we’ll explore ways to extend this programme to young people with SEND and without an EHC plan.
“Ensuring successful transitions into adulthood is a central part of our SEND and AP Improvement Plan, through which we will make sure all children and young people have the support they needed, no matter where they live or what school they go to.”
Having meaningful paid employment is known to improve health and well-being and is central to individual identity and social status. If given the correct support and opportunities, young adults with SEND can thrive in a wide variety of jobs enabling them to become net contributors to society.
Catherine Holden, Bradford College Curriculum Area Manager for Progression to Learning & Work, who is the educational partner on the Bradford programme, said; “We are incredibly proud to be the educational host for Bradford DFN Project SEARCH. Seeing the interns develop and grow from strength to strength as they gain employability skills in the workplace, is what inclusive education is all about.
“Bradford College’s partnership with Bradford Teaching Hospitals, Bradford District Care Trust, Bradford Council, and HfT provide outstanding and meaningful work opportunities for young people with learning disabilities. We have a proven track record of interns gaining paid employment on completion of the programme at both the BRI and in the College.
“The support the interns receive on completion of the programme is unique to DFN Project SEARCH thanks to our partners at HfT who provide follow on job clubs and job coaching to support the interns take their next steps in the world of work. If you live in Bradford and have a learning disability and want to work, Bradford DFN Project SEARCH is the place to start. Please apply through the Bradford College website.”
Interns on both Bradford programmes – BRI and David Hockney Project – celebrated the day by hosting an information event for prospective interns. Interns gave individual talks about their rotations, their journey on the programme, and the skills they have learned whilst on DFN Project SEARCH.
Bradford College’s Head of Department for Progression to Learning and Work Matt Robinson and Curriculum Area Manager Catherine Holden also attended the showcasing event as the college supports the educational development of the interns.
Supported internships – work-based study programmes for 16 to 24-year-olds with SEND, who have an education, health, and care (EHC) plan – dramatically change the employment outcomes for those who take part. DFN Project SEARCH figures show that 70% of people who complete their supported internships go on to secure full time employment, thanks to the skills and confidence they gain during the programme.
David Forbes Nixon, Founder and Executive Chair of DFN Project SEARCH, said; “We created National Supported Internships Day to give every young adult with a learning disability the same opportunities as anyone else to transition from education to employment. There is often a fear factor among employers of getting it wrong in hiring young adults with a learning disability, but it doesn’t need to be like that. It makes good business sense to explore the wealth of untapped potential among this group of enthusiastic and capable young people. They are keen, ambitious, and have an array of talent to offer employers.”