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DFN Project SEARCH launch lifechanging supported internship at Westmorland hospital

A new life-changing DFN Project SEARCH transition to employment programme for people with learning disabilities to be launched from Westmorland Hospital.

Kendal College, Right2work, DFN Project SEARCH, Cumbria County Council, UHMBT and LSCFT have formed a collaborative partnership to give young people in the area with learning disabilities and autism vital work-based learning opportunities within Kendal College, to help them to secure meaningful paid employment.

The DFN Project SEARCH programme includes 6-8 interns, from Cumbria, aged between 18 and 24.

The individuals will be learning competitive and transferable skills for a variety of roles at Kendal College and will receive an employability curriculum each day to develop their work-based skills.

DFN Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and autism with ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade.

The pioneering programme involves total workplace immersion at its very best, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

Over 1,800 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated with over 1,600 interns securing full-time paid employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK.

Nationally only 5.1% of people with these needs are in paid employment yet 70% of those supported by DFN Project SEARH secure paid roles.

With the largest data set in the UK, DFN Project SEARCH’s evidence-based model challenges misconceptions and changes the way society views and enables young adults with learning disabilities and autism to ensure that they reach their true and full potential.

David Wilkinson, UHMBT’s Director of People & OD, said: “UHMBT is delighted to be involved with Project Search as part of our commitment to widening participation through access to work and improving the employability of people with disabilities within our local communities.”

“The Trust believes that giving its full support to programmes such as Project Search will make a positive difference in reducing disability inequality, which is a key strand in our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion approach.”

Maria Nelligan, Chief Nurse & Quality Officer, Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation trust, said: “LSCFT are delighted to be part of this project with UHMBT, to ensure people have access to work placements to support them meeting their aspirations and to ensure we continue to break down barriers and reduce inequalities across our society.”

Sally Senejko, Senior Manager for SEND and Inclusion at Cumbria County Council, said: “This is a really exciting project that we’re delighted to support.

“Young people with additional support needs have so much to offer, but sometimes need a little extra help to get into the workplace and find a role that suits them.

“The support that’s on offer through this programme will make a huge difference and we’re excited to see the progress these young people will make.”

Peter Bradbury, Right2work Lead said: “Right2work are proud to be expanding our support to young adults with learning disabilities and autism into this exciting new programme.

“Our Job Coach will work with the fantastic cohort of interns, alongside our dedicated new partners, supporting them to gain valuable skills and experience during their time working with The Kendal College.

“We are eager to see the interns begin their first roles and start their journeys towards paid employment.”

Tam Breeze, Director of Learner Experience and Quality from Kendal College, said “At Kendal College we aim to give all our students the best possible chance to achieve their goals, the Supported Internships are a proven way to do this and we are delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to our learners.”

Claire Cookson, CEO, DFN Project SEARCH said: “We are very proud to be launching our programme here in Cumbria with Kendal College and our other amazing new partners.

“We are delighted that our first cohort of interns will begin soon, as they are at the very start of their DFN Project SEARCH journey to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives.

“We can’t wait to see the fantastic work they will be doing here and have the opportunity to demonstrate how young people with autism and learning disabilities, when given the right support, can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.”

DFN Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for those with learning disabilities and autism through 76 operational supported internships schemes across the UK and growing.