How the success of Bradford scheme DFN Project SEARCH shows young people with autism and learning disabilities can make a huge contribution

The chief executive of a Bradford employment support programme for young people with autism and learning disabilities says the project’s success shows how they can make a huge contribution to society.

As part of the scheme, students in their final year of school or college benefit from work-related learning through supported internships and personalised support, building their skills and confidence to help them move into work.

The latest local figures show that 55 young people have completed the Bradford programme since it started in 2013, with 71 per cent moving into paid employment.

And this week Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson met with interns and graduates of the scheme, DFN Project SEARCH at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

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.”

DFN Project SEARCH is a partnership between Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford College and HfT, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities.

Among those to see the benefit is Samuel Aldridge, 22, from Thornton in Bradford. Since being involved in the programme he has been working at Bradford Royal Infirmary for three years and is currently employed as an administrative assistant.

Thanks to the support of the programme he has also just achieved a distinction in a level 3 NVQ in Business Administration.

He 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.”

Claire Cookson, CEO of DFN Project SEARCH said: “We are very proud of the success of our programme at Bradford Royal Infirmary in helping young people with autism and learning disabilities get great jobs which truly transform their lives.

“It is very pleasing to have the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson MP visit the site at Bradford Royal Infirmary, which has made incredible progress since it started in 2013 and this recognition will give it a well-deserved boost.

“There have been so many inspiring stories during the past eight years that challenge the social hierarchy and show how young people with autism and learning disabilities can make a huge contribution to society.”

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