The Dignity and Freedom Network’s (DFN) SEARCH project is an international transition to work programme committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism.

The programme offers young people with learning disabilities or autism a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college to enable inclusion and empowerment.

The programme is a proven way of helping people with learning disabilities get long term careers as well as helping businesses get a more inclusive workforce. Today it is running over 70 UK schemes and has supported more than 1,350 young people into work.

In Bradford, 55 young people have completed the programme since it started in 2013, with 71% moving into paid employment.

People with disabilities want the same opportunities as everyone else

The Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, recently visited a SEARCH site at Bradford Royal Infirmary, meeting with some of the programme’s current interns and recent graduates.

He said: “It was fantastic to hear about the life-changing impact this project has had on young people’s lives here in Bradford and how it is helping them unlock their full potential.

“From speaking to young people with disabilities and health conditions, they want the same opportunities as everyone else. This project gives them just that.”

The Bradford SEARCH project is in partnership with Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford College, and Hft, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities.

“A great chance to stand on my own two feet and feel independent in my own way”

Twenty-two-year-old Samuel Aldridge, from Thornton, has personally benefitted from the SEARCH programme and has been working at Bradford Royal Infirmary for three years as an administrative assistant. He has just achieved a distinction in a level 3 NVQ in Business Administration.

Samuel said: “DFN Project SEARCH was incredibly useful because it gave me a really valuable jumping off point. It gave me the chance to try various different roles and positions in my workplace.

“It gave me practical experience to know how the environment works and that makes it much easier to know how to perform more effectively in a hospital setting.

“I’ve been employed at the hospital for about three years now. Getting the job itself meant a lot, a great chance to stand on my own two feet and feel independent in my own way.”