DFN Project SEARCH Chief Executive Maura Lynch (pictured) has urged businesses and local authorities to help transform the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism.
The leading learning disability charity is calling for increased backing in order to ‘lift the roadblock’ in front of young people willing to work.
Ahead of the employment charity’s flagship conference in Preston on October 4, the charity Chief Executive highlighted the impact that graduates, who have successfully completed the DFN Project SEARCH programme, have made across several differing industries, ranging from healthcare and hospitality, to logistics and tourism.
DFN Project SEARCH provides real-life work experience, combined with training in employability and independent-living skills, to help young people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions to enjoy a productive adult life and attain-high quality employment in their area.
The programme now has 67 local partnerships across the UK, with over 1,000 young people with learning disabilities being given a pathway from education and into work already. Another 12 schemes are planned by the end of 2019.
But despite the success stories, Maura insists even more young people should be able to benefit from a programme that already has a proven success rate.
DFN Project SEARCH’s goal over the next decade is to get 20,000 young adults into paid employment, which would be transformative for them, their families and the community.
And the charity believes that a collective approach between DFN Project SEARCH, the Department of Work and Pensions, colleges, and local authorities would provide the best platform to transform nationwide results and help DFN Project SEARCH achieve its 20,000 target.
Maura insists: “We are so proud of the success that we have been able to enjoy since introducing DFN Project SEARCH to the UK, having worked with some of the biggest businesses and industries in the country.
“The NHS, National Trust for Scotland, Marriott Hotels and Next Distribution have all bought into what we are striving to achieve and have enjoyed a resounding number of success stories among those that have graduated into full-time positions.
“They are among a number of organisations that are now realising first-hand the transformative benefits that employees with learning disabilities and autism can bring to their workforce.
“However, there are still too many young people with learning disabilities who don’t have the correct guidance and focus to help them get a job.
“This is, in part, due to no statutory funding being readily available for supported employment services in the UK.
“It is our belief that a unified effort across the board would be to the benefit to everyone involved, from graduates, to the DWP and local authorities.
“Furthering the success of DFN Project SEARCH would lessen the burden already put on stretched local authorities as the programme, which has a considerably higher success rate than national programmes.
“There would be a remarkably less strain on the DWP as more willing people would be getting into the employment they crave, which in turn would aid large and small business across the country.
“But at the heart of this joined-up approach is the graduates themselves. DFN Project SEARCH was conceived for the greater good and we are determined to continue to change the lives of the young people and their families. We aim to spread our message, implement our programme, and help as many people as we possibly can.
“But I call on local authorities and businesses to join with us, and together we can all be the driving force behind the bigger, better and more inclusive workforce of the future.”
Latest statistics show just six per cent of young people with a learning disability are currently in paid employment. But these figures fly in the face of the 75 per cent of those wanting to work.
However, DFN Project SEARCH’s pioneering approach to getting that workforce on their feet continues to buck the trend of the nationwide stats as over 60 per cent of those undertaking a DFN Project SEARCH programme graduate into the full-time employment.
DFN Project SEARCH is tailored for equipping young people with the correct tools and experiences to become a success in life. They will use and apply their learning every day, allowing them to grow in confidence and competence as the year goes on.
But Maura stressed, despite some businesses now valuing and utilising an untapped workforce of adults with learning difficulties and autism, ‘there is still a long road to go’ before every person with learning disabilities and autism has a clear pathway to securing high-quality employment.
The charity leader said: “Our vision is to ensure that every single person with a learning disability or autism has a clear pathway that will allow them the opportunity to attain high-quality employment in their area.
“There are tens of thousands of young people, the length and breadth of the UK, that are willing and able to work. They have all the tools necessary to offer businesses a wide array of skills and talents but are instead blocked in their path to a fruitful and fulfilling life.
“Despite our programme having a 60 per cent success rate of graduates gaining paid employment, a figure we are extremely proud of, we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Those living with learning disabilities and autism should be allowed the same opportunities as everyone else, but currently many are faced with no pathway towards bettering their lives despite pushing themselves as hard as they possibly can.
“DFN Project SEARCH has shown that with the right backing and support, the programme can be a force for good. Now we need more business, local authorities and colleges to get on board and make a real difference.”
The DFN Charitable Foundation, is a UK registered charity established in 2014 by David Forbes Nixon with the express aim of promoting programmes which significantly improve the employment prospects of young people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions. Having been assigned the franchise rights for all DFN Project SEARCH licenses and materials here in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal we intend to reach out and help many more young people to access this very successful programme.
With goodwill and support from local partners we will more than double the current number of Project SEARCH programmes within three years. Together we will create a major talent pool for employers by ensuring that skilled and talented individuals with learning disability and autism, wherever they live, get the opportunity to aspire and train for the jobs of their dreams.
For additional information please see: https://www.dfnprojectsearch.org/