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DFN project SEARCH launches new supported internship programme

DFN Project SEARCH, a learning disability charity, has recently launched a new supported internship programme in Lambeth to give young people with learning disabilities and autism in the area vital work experience to help them to secure meaningful employment.

This latest DFN Project SEARCH programme will be run in partnership with Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who will be the host employer, Lambeth Council and Lambeth College, the education provider, and Unity Works, which is providing the job coaching element of the programme.

Seven young adults have joined the programme for the first year with the interns going on to complete three 10-week work experience placements within Kings College Hospital.

Compared to the general population, young people with a learning disability are less likely to be in full time paid employment with nationally only 5.9% of people with special educational needs and disabilities gaining permanent paid employment in the UK.

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 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.

DFN Project SEARCH Programme Specialist, Emma Lord, said:

“It is really exciting to be working with King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for our new DFN Project SEARCH programme in Lambeth. There are so many skills and opportunities for young people to learn inside such a diverse and inclusive workplace. The commitment to change the life chances of young people with learning disabilities and autism in the area is shared by all the partners in this great programme and we are really looking forward to welcoming the interns.”

Professor Clive Kay, Chief Executive at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who welcomed the new interns, said:

“We’re excited for our young interns to be joining Team King’s and I look forward to watching their confidence grow in their new roles.

“Entering the workplace can feel like a daunting prospect for many young people. For our interns, we are putting in place extra support including access to a mentor and on-site job coach, who will work alongside them in their new roles.”

This is the first time King’s is piloting the programme. The Trust is working with specialist education providers to ensure the interns are provided with tasks that match their individual interests and skills.”

Professor Clive Kay added:

“As a Trust, we proudly champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace and strive to ensure our staff reflect the communities we serve. Our new BOLD strategy sets out how we plan to ensure each member of our diverse community receives the best care and is equipped with the tools to live a happy and healthy life.”

Cllr Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Jobs, Skills and Community Safety, said: 

“This is an exciting programme that will help young people in Lambeth get vital experience in the workplace. Young people with learning difficulties or those with autism are often unfairly excluded from the opportunities afforded to their peers.

“This kind of on-the-job learning will improve their opportunities and open up new avenues to securing long-term, fulfilling paid employment. The DFN Project SEARCH programme can be an important outlet as we look to create a more inclusive, equal borough where young people can thrive whatever their circumstance.”

A spokesperson from Lambeth College said: 

“We are always delighted to play a key role in partnerships like this. Creating opportunities for young people with learning disabilities from across Lambeth is a key priority for the College. We know that delivering our Supported Internship programmes as work placements set in a busy professional environment such as at KCH provide the very best outcomes for our learners.  We remain committed to extending these opportunities even further and am sure we will see a large number of success stories coming out of this important collaboration.”

You can learn more about DFN Project SEARCH, by visiting:  https://www.dfnprojectsearch.org/.

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