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DFN PROJECT SEARCH HAILS FRONTLINE GRADUATES DURING LEARNING DISABILITY WORK WEEK 2020

DFN Project SEARCH has hailed the impact of its graduates in frontline roles during this year’s Learning Disability Work Week.

The leading transition to employment charity for young people with learning disabilities and autism has supported a number of graduates into key worker roles for NHS and Local Authority partners during the Pandemic.

DFN Project SEARCH is helping young people with SEND get great jobs, during the past year 477 interns completed its pioneering supported internship programme, with a 93 per cent retention and completion rate.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: "We are extremely proud of the number of DFN Project SEARCH graduates who have been working in and securing key worker roles during the Pandemic. Hopefully this period can act as a springboard for long-term change and more fairness and equality in society."

DFN Project SEARCH, a leading transition to employment charity for young people with learning disabilities and autism, has hailed the impact of its graduates in frontline roles during this year’s Learning Disability Work Week.

Learning Disability Work Week is led by Mencap and runs from 9 to 15 November, celebrating the impact of employees with a learning disability.

The pioneering supported internship programme has created an employment pathway for many graduates who are now in frontline roles with NHS and Local Authority partners.

Young people are excelling in a host of key worker positions, spanning administration, technical assistants, portering, waste management, catering, facilities management, domestic services, laundry, specialist cleaning and laboratory work.

The success is testament to the effectiveness of DFN Project SEARCH’s pioneering transition to work programme and partnerships, which equips its interns with so many employability skills for jobs that are making a difference to the country in a time of crisis.

DFN Project SEARCH offers its partners a high performing evidenced-based programme, materials and support structure to effectively support young people with learning disabilities and autism to transition from education into full-time, integrated, competitive employment.

In the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job. Of the 286 interns who secured a full-time job, 262 retained their role despite the impact of the Pandemic, which is well beyond the national statistics of 5.9 per cent.

The national average wage for its graduates is also £8.71 which is well above National Living Wage for 25+, despite the fact that the majority of interns are under 23.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: "One of the things that I am particularly proud of during this time is the number of DFN Project SEARCH graduates who have been working in and securing key worker roles during the crisis.

"There are so many inspiring stories that challenge the social hierarchy and force us to re-assess what we consider key and essential roles to be.

"Our interns have certainly risen to the challenge in frontline roles and continue to do amazing work within their local communities.

"Their work ethic has shone through and they have shown themselves to be able to understand and adhere to new ways of working and follow stringent health and safety guidelines.

"The success they are having is testament to the effectiveness of our pioneering transition to work programme along with the strength of our partnerships. Together we equip our interns with an array of employability skills for the job market, our interns are making a huge difference to the country in a time of crisis.

"These developments and progress are certainly working to create a greater awareness of young people going through supported internships and the value they can bring to society.

"Society is now beginning to better understand the value and skill set that people with learning disabilities and autism can bring to the workplace and we now have a huge opportunity to transform workplace culture throughout the country and drive long-term change."

DFN Project SEARCH has ambitions to get 15,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade.

Today the DFN Project SEARCH charity has 69 internationally recognised programmes across the UK, Ireland and Iberia, and has supported over 1500 interns into work, 1300 of which meet Project SEARCH’s success criteria. This criteria means that the work is over 16 hours per week, is non seasonal, is paid the prevailing wage for the role and that the work is in an integrated setting.

On average 60 per cent of graduates obtain full-time paid employment meeting these criteria, which is well beyond national statistics of 5.9 per cent. Yet an additional 10 per cent find some type of paid employment, meaning the lives of 70 per cent of graduates are changed for the better.