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Acting Mayor Of Liverpool Attends Online Open Day as DFN Project SEARCH Launches Second Liverpool Programme

Cllr Wendy Simon, Acting Mayor of Liverpool City Council opened DFN Project SEARCH Liverpool’s online open day on Wednesday 10th February alongside Deputy Chief People Officer, Education and Organisational Development, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Jason Brannan as the organisation, a leading charity that supports young people with learning disabilities and autism to move into work, began the recruitment campaign for its 2021-2022 intake.

There is already a successful DFN Project SEARCH programme running in the Liverpool University Hospitals Trust with the support of its partners Liverpool Heart and Chest, ISS and Avrenim and the Acting Mayor announced that a new programme backed by Liverpool City Council will also be launched in September 2021.

DFN Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping young people with learning disabilities and autism to access high quality work-related learning through immersive supported internships leading to a much improved opportunity to access long-term, full time paid employment.

The online event, which had the support of the Acting Mayor, was attended by around 40 prospective participants and their families and not only promoted the supported internship programmes available through DFN Project SEARCH but also highlighted the positive impact that the scheme can have on the lives of the young people involved.

Latest data from DFN Project SEARCH shows that in the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job with 262 of those young people moving into full time work. These outcomes are well beyond the national statistics which show just 5.6 per cent of people with a learning disability or autism who are known to local authorities are in work. The national average wage for its graduates £8.71 which is well above National Living Wage for 25+, despite the fact that the majority of graduating interns are under 23.

The charity has ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade and 20,000 in the next 15 years.

Cllr Wendy Simon, Acting Mayor of Liverpool City Council: "Every young person deserves a chance to fulfil their potential – no matter what their circumstances. The responsibility to create opportunities to enable this is vital. I’m proud that Liverpool City Council is fully committed to making this happen with Supported Internships.

"We have been helping our schools and colleges to deliver supported internships for the past four years. In that time, we have helped 31 young people into paid employment and we have heard all about how life-changing it has been for them. We all know that paid work can give us purpose and responsibility, but in addition, these young people have earned their own money, have an extended circle of friends and increased their life skills and self-esteem.

"Our City Plan has laid out a roadmap for how we want to make our city a better place and tackle inequalities to give everyone a better quality of life. One of our key commitments is to enable disabled young people and those with special educational needs, to live independent and successful lives. Supported Internships demonstrates our commitment."

Deputy Chief People Officer, Education and Organisational Development, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Jason Brannan: "We're really proud to be starting our second DFN Project SEARCH internships, with Liverpool City Council and Greenbank College. The feedback we have received from our first programme has been excellent; both from the interns learning new skills and from our colleagues who are working with the students each day. We’re confident that our second programme will be equally successful.

"It's incredibly powerful for us to have a workforce that reflects our local communities and our patient groups. It gives confidence to the community that our staff understand their needs and that we are always working to improve representation across our staff groups. This programme is an important step in providing opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities and autism, who are not sufficiently represented in workforces."

DFN Project SEARCH Director and Programme Specialist, Carmel McKeogh: "It is very exciting to have two DFN Project SEARCH programmes to offer the young people of Liverpool and the support of the NHS Trusts in Liverpool and the City Council has been fantastic in getting us to this position."

"DFN Project SEARCH is a high aiming programme and we believe that young people with learning disabilities and autism are an untapped talent pool for employers in Liverpool and we know that with the right training and support they can contribute significantly to the workforce. It is an ambitious programme that has found a great fit in an inclusive and an ambitious City."