HRH The Princess Royal has helped to mark the success of an employment project in Bradford designed to empower young people with learning disabilities to find work.
Project SEARCH is a joint supported employment programme which is run in partnership by national learning disabilities charity, Hft, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Southfield School and Bradford Metropolitan District Council.
The initiative launched in September 2013 offering students a nine month internship undertaking tasks in three different departments within Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital. The course currently has nine interns, aged from 18 to 26, who spend five hours a day gaining work experience. A further two hours is spent teaching, supported by a job coach and teacher, to address any training needs required.
In the programme’s first year interns gained more than 900 hours of on the job work experience. Eleven students have graduated and six have since gone on to secure employment in a range of areas such as catering, cleaning and maintenance.
Last week, on 22 January, Hft Patron, The Princess Royal, attended a special reception at the Bradford Royal Infirmary to celebrate the success of Project SEARCH. During the visit the Princess had the opportunity to meet the interns and talk to those involved with running the course.
There were also presentations about the history of project SEARCH and a first-hand account by a graduate about the impact of the scheme on her life. The Princess also gave an address emphasising the importance of supported employment as a way of helping people with learning disabilities to improve their self-esteem, learn new skills and realise their potential, while earning a wage.
Hft’s Regional Manager, Andrew Horner, said: “We are delighted that the Princess, who is a dedicated Hft Patron with a longstanding interest in improving the lives of people with learning disabilities, was able to join our celebratory reception. This is an important project that provides people with learning disabilities the opportunity to develop new skills, widen their social circle, and for many, it helps to realise their ambition of finding a job. [This] was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the success of initiative so far as we look to the future and identify more opportunities to further increase the impact of Project SEARCH.”
The reception was attended by more than 150 invited guests and celebrated the achievements of the employment project to date. Attendees included representatives from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Tutor Organisation, Southfield School.
Chairman of Bradford Teaching Hospitals, Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel OBE, who introduced Her Royal Highness to the interns, said: “We were very proud to welcome the Princess Royal to Bradford Royal Infirmary and show her the wonderful work of Project SEARCH.
“We are totally committed to providing our interns with the right skills, knowledge and experience so that they are able to compete in the local job market, supported by key Bradford businesses who form part of our Business Advisory Committee.
“The national employment rate for people with learning difficulties averages 7.7 per cent. In contrast, Project Search has a 70 per cent employment rate and I was delighted to be able to share this with Her Royal Highness and show her the real benefits that this scheme offers our interns.”
Dominic Wall, Headteacher at Southfield School said: “Project SEARCH is an incredibly positive initiative for our school to be involved in. It gives us a pathway for our students to follow as they get ready for life after school. Working with partners like Hft and the Bradford Teaching Hospitals, who bring their own specialist skills and resources to the project, creates opportunities for our students that we could not have achieved on our own. There is no better outcome for young people than to start out in their adult life with support to get into and be successful in, their first job.”
Project SEARCH was initially developed in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in America to provide employer-based work experience to young people with learning disabilities.
Hft is a national charity providing local support for people with learning disabilities and their families. For more information on Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk