DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said:

DFN Project SEARCH is calling for a new strategy to raise the profile of job coaches this Disability History Month to help more young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) get great jobs.

Job coaching is fundamental to the success of supported internships; however, in many areas it remains underfunded and undervalued.

In a year when we recognise the 25th Anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, the charity is also calling for more progress in its mission to bring more fairness and equality in society.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said:

“Every young person has a right to aspire to work, something that is often denied to people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

“This Disability History Month gives us the opportunity to look at just how much further we need to use and share evidence based best practice to promote and ensure long-term change and more fairness and equality in society.” 

DFN Project SEARCH, a leading supported employment charity for young people with learning disabilities and autism is calling for a strategy to raise the profile of job coaches this Disability History Month.

UK Disability History Month 2020 runs from 18th November until Friday 18th December, and this year’s theme is focused on understanding the importance of the struggles of Disabled People for Access.

DFN Project SEARCH is building a more inclusive society by helping young people with learning disabilities and autism to access high quality work-related learning through immersive supported internships and improved opportunities to access long-term paid employment.

In the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job. Of the 286 interns who secured a full-time job, 262 retained their role despite the impact of the Pandemic, which is well beyond the national statistic of just 5.9 per cent. The national average wage for its graduates is also £8.71 which is well above National Living Wage for 25+, despite the fact that the majority of interns are under 23.

Best practice job coaching is fundamental to the success of the supported internship programme, bringing more fairness by helping young people in the UK with learning disabilities and autism secure paid employment.

However, the role remains hugely underfunded and undervalued, mainly due to the lack of recognition of job coaching as a qualified and skilled role.

DFN Project SEARCH has been collaborating with organisations such as BASE, Lighthouse Futures Trust and NSEF to collectively engage with the Department for Work and Pensions (Access to Work) and the Department for Education (DfE), to drive change and raise awareness of the need to properly fund job coaching.

The charity has ambitions to get 15,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade.

Having a future job coaching strategy in place will be fundamental to the success of these ambitions and bringing more momentum to society change.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: “Every young person has a right to aspire to work, something that is often denied to young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

“We are now 25 years on from the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act and despite some progress, we need to see a joined-up strategy for delivering even greater change.

“This Disability History Month gives us the opportunity to look at just how much further we need to go to help promote long-term change and more fairness and equality in society.

“Job coaching is fundamental to the success of supported internships, providing young people with SEND access to learn the array of employability skills they need for the job market to secure great jobs and meaningful full-time paid employment, yet UK job coaching is massively underfunded and undervalued.

“Improved funding is crucial and it’s important we raise greater awareness of young people with learning disabilities going through supported internships who are skilled and ready to work and the value they can bring to society.”

DFN Project SEARCH offers its partners a high-performing evidenced-based programme, materials and support structure to effectively support young people with learning disabilities and autism to transition from education into full-time, integrated, competitive employment.

Today DFN Project SEARCH has 69 internationally recognised programmes across the UK, Ireland and Iberia, and has supported over 1500 interns into work, 1350 of which meet Project SEARCH’s success criteria. This criteria means that the work is over 16 hours per week, is non seasonal, is paid the prevailing wage for the role and that the work is in an integrated setting.

On average 60 per cent of graduates obtain full-time paid employment meeting these criteria, which is well beyond national statistics of 5.9 per cent. Yet an additional 10 per cent find some type of paid employment, meaning the lives of 70 per cent of graduates are changed for the better.

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