From education to employment

National Inclusion Week – Parents praise Council’s Supported Internship scheme

Parents praise Westminster City Council’s Supported Internship scheme for instilling belief in SEND community

This week is National Inclusion Week (NIW), a week dedicated to celebrating inclusion and taking action to create inclusive workplaces.

Westminster City Council’s Supported Internship is a year-long work and education-based initiative which enables young people with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) to complete professional work placements at both the Council and in the private sector, whilst also studying.

It was formed through a close partnership between Westminster City Council, City of Westminster College and the private sector and has seen young people with SEND grow their confidence and excel in opportunities at companies including the Langham Hotel, Natural History Museum and Planet Organic.

Each intern spends four days a week in the workplace and one day as classroom based in Westminster City Hall studying Employability, Life Skills, English and Maths.

In its third year, so far the programme has supported 24 young people. It has delivered various positive outcomes including achieving an 88% paid success rate for work-ready graduates.

Sam Cook recently completed the scheme. He undertook a number of work placements within the catering industry and is now starting a role within the hospitality team at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Jelani graduated alongside Sam after accomplishing a variety of different placements from hotels to libraries. He will now be staying on with The Langham Hotel, the employer of his last placement, whilst also starting a Warehouse traineeship.

Sam’s and Jelani’s mothers praised the scheme for the positive outcomes on their sons’ lives.

Judith, Sam’s mother said: 

“I’ve got one key thing to take away from this scheme which is belief. Self-belief that the scheme gives to each one of the young adults. Without this self-belief, they wouldn’t be able to go out and achieve all that they are achieving today. The belief is also for parents, because sometimes, it’s a little hard to believe in the current world and the barriers that it puts out for our people that have differences. When Sam speaks to people now, he says that he is going to be doing a job, earning money and that for me is a belief and barrier that I thought we wouldn’t be able to overcome. My other belief is larger – the belief that the wider world needs to have in these young people. Unfortunately, that can be an ongoing challenge but I take away from this scheme that this can change because as we can see, all these young people have talents and abilities and they just need to be given a chance”.

Claudette, Jelina’s mother said:

“This programme was absolutely amazing. I can’t take my hat off enough to say thank you. Jelina is a man of few words, he’s not an outgoing type of person but if you show him what to do, he can do it just like that. He will take on the challenge if you give him the opportunity. Without this programme, I don’t know where my son would be. I am so grateful for the opportunities he’s been given and that he’s now got a job is fantastic”.

Terrence McKnight heads up Westminster’s Employment SEND Team.

He himself has a physical disability, Moebius Syndrome, that affects only 50 people in the UK.

He said:

“My mum and dad in the 80s faced a lot of challenges to get me to where I am today. A lot of people didn’t believe in me. I was always top of my class, top of my university class. But still, it took me to the age of 35 to get a job I really wanted. I really do believe in our Supported Internship scheme. We get results and we don’t just get results that tick boxes. We get results that change lives. If you look at the young people that have got jobs, most of those people are in the same job that they left with or they have had multiple jobs and they keep on progressing. I’m really proud of what we do”.

Councillor Tim Roca, Cabinet Member for Young People and Learning said:

“At Westminster City Council, we believe in inclusion, we believe in equality and we believe in employment for all. The Supported Internship is a brilliant scheme which provides tangible opportunities for people with SEND and our wider community. As lead employer of the scheme, we have seen the benefits of having participants embedded within services in our own organisation and I really encourage more employers in Westminster to get involved as you won’t regret it”.

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