Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New project aims to support 10,000 people with SEND into paid employment by 2030

A national charity is leading a campaign which aims to boost the number of people with a learning disability or autism in paid employment.

Currently, only 5% of people with learning disabilities are in secure, paid employment. DFN Project SEARCH want to change this, and aim to support 10,000 young adults with SEND into paid employment by 2030.

Seven in 10 who complete the internship programme gain a job once graduating

The charity offers one-year support internship programmes for young adults with SEND, helping them make the transition from education to employment.

By working in partnership with local authorities, education providers, families and host employers, DFN Project SEARCH is able to offer a wide variety of work placements at some of the UK’s biggest companies including DPD, Marriott Hotels and various NHS Trusts.

The charity says their programme has a “transformative effect” on the interns who take part, with 70% of interns gaining jobs once graduating, and 60% achieving full-time permanent roles.

David Forbes Nixon, former City financier and now Founder and Executive Chair of DFN Project SEARCH said: “The UK is wasting talent! Young, ambitious adults who can offer employers so much are being prevented from accessing jobs due to stigma, prejudice, or inadequate support.

“Their skills and talents too often go unrecognised or overlooked by society and they face social and economic exclusion at a massive personal, social, and economic cost.

“While the UK has made welcome progress on the diversity agenda in recent years, disability feels like the final frontier.”

The benefits of a neurodiverse workforce

The #InclusionRevolution campaign highlights that employing people with SEND is not just a matter of doing what is morally and socially correct, but it can encourage businesses utilise a pool of untapped talent.

People with SEND can bring a unique set of skills to the table. Research shows:

  • People with a learning disability stay in their jobs 3.5 times longer than their non-disabled co-workers.
  • A high proportion of employees with a disability have their job performance rated as average or above and have been rated higher than those without a disability in terms of attendance and being on time.
  • Numerous organisations are known to dramatically improve performance and retention in some high-turnover or hard-to-fill posts by employing people with learning disabilities.

Claire Cookson, CEO of DFN Project SEARCH said: “We know that young people regularly say that getting a new job feels ‘impossible now’ because of the competition. For young people with learning disabilities or autism, getting a job is even harder. The impact of that means they are more likely to be socially isolated, live in poverty and poor housing, and have a shorter life expectancy.

“It doesn’t need to be like that. Our evidence-based model challenges misconceptions and enables young adults with a learning disability and autism spectrum conditions reach their full potential through employment. We work with so many brilliant young people who will make some of the best employees, but just need the opportunity.”

DFN Project SEARCH is now calling on all businesses to review their recruitment procedures and consider employing more young adults with a learning disability, autism spectrum condition, or both.

For more information about how to sign up to a DFN Project SEARCH programme visit dfnprojectsearch.org.

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