Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Disabled charity calls for improved provision of supported internships

Hft, the national learning disability charity, has welcomed the Government’s commitment to double the number of supported internships in its SEND improvement plan, published recently, ‘as a step in the right direction’ but adds that it would like to see improved provision for follow-on support to enable learning disabled people to stay in paid employment.

Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft said:

“As an employment support provider, we know the importance of providing the right support for learning disabled adults while at work to ensure they can stay in their job. However, this kind of support is patchy and hard to access.

“The proportion of people with a learning disability in work has remained at around 5% for too long, and it is clear that more needs to be done to support people with a learning disability to move into, and stay in work.”

The plan reiterates the Government’s commitment to double the number of supported internships by 2025, a step welcomed by Hft.

She added:

“As an effective model of employment support, we also believe that supported internships should be available to all adults with a learning disability who want to move into work. We encourage the Government to look into routes and funding so learning disabled adults over the age of 25 can also benefit from supported internships.

“In addition, we would like the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process to be streamlined. Within our supported internship programme, DFN Project Search, we have people applying for the programme who would benefit from the programme, but who haven’t got an EHCP and therefore aren’t eligible for funding and not able to participate.

“If the EHCP process was easier, it would be really beneficial to ensure nobody falls through a gap and misses an opportunity to access crucial support.”

Hft recently called for the Government to improve the transparency of employers and their disability data, and for greater funding for supported internships as part of its new campaign, Voices for Our Future, which launched in Parliament on 21 February.

One of those who has joined the campaign is Erin O’Donnell, a graduate of DFN Project SEARCH, and a current Hft staff member. She said:

“There is a stigma around employing people with a learning disability. Too often, changes that make workplaces inclusive aren’t made. It feels as though some employers just don’t give people with a learning disability a chance.

“Just because you have a learning disability or autism doesn’t mean you can’t have a job or be a valuable team member.”

Ms Matthews concluded:

“We would like to see people with a learning disability receive the right support so they can find and keep fulfilling meaningful work, where they receive the same wage as others doing the same job.”

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