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Royal Lancaster Infirmary welcomes talented young adults with learning disabilities to a lifechanging transition to employment programme

Posted: 14.06.2022

A lifechanging supported internship programme for young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum conditions has just launched at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

The programme, which is coordinated by charity DFN Project SEARCH, sees the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, HFT, Lancaster & Morecambe College and Lancashire County Council form a collaborative partnership to give young people with learning disabilities and/or autism vital work-based learning opportunities within Royal Lancaster Infirmary, to help them to secure meaningful, paid employment in the future.

The DFN Project SEARCH programme will recruit 8-12 interns, aged 18-24, from across North Lancashire. The individuals will be learning competitive and transferable skills for a variety of roles at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and will undertake employability training each day to develop their work-based skills.

Fewer than 5.1% of young adults with a learning disability or autism spectrum condition get into paid work, compared to 80% of all young people nationally. DFN Project SEARCH’s mission is to overturn that imbalance, working in partnership across the public, private, and voluntary sectors to create supported internships that young people with learning disabilities undertake during their last year of education.

DFN Project SEARCH is a national transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and/or autism. They work in partnership across the public, private and voluntary sectors to create supported employment internships within private and public settings that these young people undertake during their last year of education, helping them to make positive transitions from education to the world of work.

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 1,600 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated with over 1,475 interns securing full-time paid employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK. Typically, 70% of interns secure employment against the national average of just 5.6%.

Ray Olive, Assistant Director of People and Organisational Development of UHMBT, said

As an actively inclusive organisation, we are all very excited to welcome these fantastic young people to University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. This programme will ensure that they learn important skills to gain employment following the programme either with the trust or another local employer.

“Working with this cohort, who are from our local community, shows our commitment to improve opportunities for individuals with disability to gain employment and to help with widening participation for individuals. Being an active supporter of this programme helps the wider community across the Bay in creating and developing opportunities for all.”

Edwina Grant OBE, executive director of education and children's services at Lancashire County Council, said:

It is so important for young people with learning disabilities and autism to have equal access to employment and advancement opportunities, and the DFN Project SEARCH programme is helping to make that happen.

"The internship training, support in building strong relationships and confidence this initiative can provide for young people is invaluable, setting them up with the skills and experience they need to access wonderful opportunities and flourish in adulthood.”

"In Lancashire, our vision is that children, young people and their families are safe, healthy and achieve their full potential, and I am delighted that this initiative can do just that – help young people to realise and achieve their goals and all of the fantastic things they have to offer."

Bryony Dolby from Hft, the Supported Employment Lead said:

Hft are proud to be expanding our support to young adults with learning disabilities and autism into this exciting new programme. Our Employability 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 partners at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. We are eager to see the interns begin their first roles and start their journeys towards paid employment.

Charlotte Rawes, Vice Principal (Progress and Performance), at Lancaster & Morecambe College said:

“At Lancaster & Morecambe College we believe in creating opportunities and building positive partnerships across our community; enabling our learners to progress into further or higher education, training, or employment once they complete their time with us.

Being part of the Supported Internship programme allows us to provide an additional opportunity for our learners to work within a key local organisation and to develop vital employability skills and competencies in order to be successful. 

“It is a real privilege to be part of this programme and we are keen to support our interns to develop crucial vocational skills, knowledge and behaviours, and to be successful in securing lifelong employment.”

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said:

We are very proud to be launching our programme here in Lancaster with Royal Lancaster Infirmary 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.