DFN Project SEARCH Reveals Interns’ Frontline Impact During Lockdown

Transition to employment charity, DFN Project SEARCH, supported this year’s Learning Disability Week by recognising the impact its interns and employees are making during the pandemic.

Since going into lockdown in March businesses across the UK have completely changed the way they work demonstrating that like DFN Project SEARCH, people and organisations have the ability to change and overcome barriers that were once thought impossible, to drive cultural change in the workforce.

Making a Difference

DFN Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and autism. Its pioneering programme provides training at its very best, facilitating total workplace immersion with a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training and acquisition.

When lockdown was implemented by the UK Government, DFN Project SEARCH worked swiftly with all partners to ensure that programme interns were not left at home losing the skills they worked so hard to gain.

DFN Project SEARCH interns were given support and training from partners and job coaches so they could continue to feel connected to the programme and job coaches and remain employment focused.

Together with colleagues at NSEF, DFN Project SEARCH also launched the Finding Your Future campaign, a YouTube content channel designed to keep supported interns inspired and focused on employment outcomes, helping interns feel more connected than ever before.

An impressive number of Project SEARCH interns have secured key worker roles during the crisis, rising to the challenge of frontline roles and doing amazing work in vital industries from healthcare to logistics.

Due to the high demand for key workers, 32 DFN Project SEARCH interns have found full-time paid employment with NHS partners during the Pandemic.

Two further interns have been employed by Public Health England, and another three interns have been offered roles in supermarkets and food service to meet the growing need for support at this time.

Reflection and Resilience

Claire Cookson, CEO of DFN Project SEARCH said, “It is important to reflect on what has been accomplished so far during lockdown and the progress being made to support young people with learning disabilities and autism across the country.”

“After being forced to work from home during lockdown, we’ve seen businesses overcome barriers we didn’t even think were possible.

“People say they have never felt more connected since we’ve worked from home, and this has helped our interns maintain momentum and stay on the pathway to employability”

Claire Cookson, DFN Project SEARCH

“It’s amazing to see how resilient our interns have been, and it just goes to show that as a country we are more than capable of changing how we work and making reasonable adjustments to become a more inclusive society,” Claire adds.

“I truly feel this represents a springboard for long-term change and more fairness and equality in society.”

“Society has been given this opportunity to better understand the skills that people with learning disabilities bring, the importance of community cohesion and the importance of shared social values” concludes Claire.

About DFN Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH was established at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1996 to help young people with learning disabilities get a job. Today the US programme is the biggest of its kind in the world.

DFN Project SEARCH programmes throughout the country are creating life changing opportunities, offering young people a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college to enable inclusion and empowerment.

Evidenced-based and outcome driven, 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 60 UK schemes and has supported more than 1000 young people into work.

Project SEARCH now has a target of getting 20,000 young people into work during the next decade, which will be transformative for them, their families, communities and business.

For more information please visit dfnprojectsearch.org.

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