From education to employment


DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson

DFN Project SEARCH (@dfnsearch), a leading supported employment charity for young people with learning disabilities and autism, has received high praise in a recent independent stakeholder survey.

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.

Between August and September 2020 an external research company reached out to its partners to find out their views about DFN Project SEARCH.

Key findings and highlights of the survey include:

  • 96 per cent agree that the programme is high aiming
  • 95 per cent said that the programme achieves great results
  • 94 per cent believe that the programme is committed to continued improvement

The charity also achieved a Net Promotor Score of 66.5 per cent which according to Bain & Co. an NPS of 50+ is regarded as Excellent and 70+ is World Class.

Further positive feedback for DFN Project SEARCH included how it responded effectively to COVID-19 and the Pandemic, provided positive online support and that it had clear objectives and a vision for the future.

The charity has ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade and 20,000 in the next 15 years.

Latest data from DFN Project SEARCH shows that 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.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: “The past 12 months have been transformational as we have responded to the challenges of the Pandemic whilst smashing stereotypes through our young graduates working in frontline roles with NHS and Local Authority partners.

“We couldn’t have achieved such incredible results without the dedication and collaboration from our partners in education, business, local government and healthcare.

“From this perspective it is fantastic to receive such strong feedback from our partners and stakeholders as we forge ahead with our vision to help young people with learning disabilities and autism get great jobs.

“Their commitment and ingenuity is fundamental to the success of our programme and is at the heart of our vision to provide a more equal and fair society for young people with learning disabilities and autism.”

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.

You can learn more about DFN Project SEARCH at 

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