News story

Helping young people with special needs into work through new supported internships

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Supported internships are being trialled at 14 colleges around England for young people who have learning difficulties or disabilities.

Thousands of young people with special educational needs are to get intensive support into long term paid work, thanks to a new government programme.

From this autumn supported internships are being trialled at 14 colleges around England for young people aged between 16 and 25 who have complex learning difficulties or disabilities. The trials will test a study programme for supported internships that could be adopted by all further education colleges from September 2013.

The supported internships trial, backed by £3 million from the Department for Education, will provide a structured learning programme at an employer, like a restaurant, library or clothes retailer, that is tailored to the individual needs of the young person. It will equip them with the skills they need for the job, backed by expert job coaches to support interns and employers, and give them a chance to study for relevant qualifications. The programme gives them the platform to break down negative attitudes and show employers what they can do.

Giving these young people experience of work allows the young adults to boost their confidence and empowers them to become more independent.

Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families, said:

This is about helping young people with complex needs learn the skills they need for the workplace within a real job situation.

We have to be more ambitious and tap into huge potential in people with learning needs. We can’t leave the most vulnerable on the scrapheap, without a way of getting a job and being able to live as independently as they can.

With appropriate mentoring, even young people with complex needs can shine in a successful business.

The Minister saw how this works in practice at the Rose Project at Havering College of Further & Higher Education in east London, which has operated a supported employment programme for young adults with special educational needs for several years.

Jenny Carr, Programme Manager for the Realistic Opportunities for Supported Employment Project, said:

We are passionate about the work that we do because we see how life changing this is for our clients who want the same opportunity as others to have jobs and develop their own independence. The benefits to businesses are also immense as the employers we already work with will happily testify.

Brian Mott, Facilities Manager, said:

An unexpected benefit of employing people with learning disabilities has been the attitude they bring to the workplace. Most of us can be a bit jaded with work but they’re a breath of fresh air and it impacts on others.

Every person you employ has their own idiosyncrasies and if you don’t prejudge people with learning disabilities then I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The supported internships trial is part of the biggest reform of special education needs policy in 30 years. The special educational needs green paper Next Steps details how the government supports young people who lose support when they leave school.

Special educational needs statements and learning difficulty assessments will, from 2014, be replaced with a single assessment which cuts red tape and helps to provide a continuous plan to support teenagers with special educational needs prepare for adulthood.

SEND green paper Information on the special educational needs and disability (SEND) green paper ‘Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’.

Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability Green Paper published 9 March 2011.

Notes to editors

  1. The 14 colleges taking part in the supported internships trial from September 2012 are:
    • Hull College (Kingston upon Hull City Council);
    • Blackburn College (Lancashire);
    • Mid-Cheshire College Of Further Education (Cheshire west and Chester Council);
    • Shipley College (Bradford Metropolitan District Council);
    • Stephenson College (North West Leicestershire District Council);
    • Otley College Of Agriculture And Horticulture (Suffolk County Council);
    • North Warwickshire and Hinckley College (Warwickshire);
    • Plumpton College, special college - Agriculture and horticulture (East Sussex);
    • Thanet College (Kent);
    • Bexley College (London Borough of Bexley);
    • Sir George Monoux College, sixth-form college (London Borough of Waltham Forest);
    • Somerset College Of Arts And Technology (Somerset);
    • Worcester College Of Technology, general FE College (Worcester City Council);
    • Queen Alexandra College, independent specialist provider (Birmingham City Council).
  2. The special educational needs green paper next steps document is available online.

  3. Supported Internships are a programme of study within further education. They will provide a structured study programme, based at an employer, that is tailored to the individual needs of the young person and will equip them with the skills they need for the workplace. This will include on-the-job training, backed by expert ‘job coaches’ to support interns and employers, and the chance to study for relevant qualifications where appropriate.

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