Young people with special educational needs begin journey in to world of work

People with special educational needs aged between 16 and 24 have been given extra help to embark on their journey in to the world of work thanks to Oxfordshire County Council’s employment service, Mencap and local colleges.

Oxfordshire Supported Internships is an annual programme in which the county council commissions local colleges to recruit interns and provide a day release college enrolment and study opportunity. The council assesses interns for placements, place them and then support them in those placements.

Success in interns getting jobs after their placements is well above the national average and has a strong track record in allowing the beneficiaries to become more independent and play a more active part in their community.

Matthew Phillips, 22 from Didcot, is a young man with autism who has been in education until recently and was placed at The Jam Factory. He said: 'It was nerve-racking at first but I soon started to feel at home in my placement. My supporters were super friendly and really helped me to settle in. The Supported Internship programme has helped me learn new skills. To other students who want to enter the Internship programme, I’d say go for it because it will really help you to gain confidence and knowledge and help you to realise what the work life is about, and how it will benefit you in a job'.

Oxfordshire Supported Internships are delivered as a partnership between Abingdon and Witney College, and Activate Learning whose students are supported in the workplace by Oxfordshire Employment and Mencap. Henley College will join the programme for the 2017 academic year.

In September 2016 33 students began the internship and 31 students remained with the programme until summer 2017.

· 52% of those completing the programme (16 of 31 people) achieved employment.

· Everyone completing the programme who has chosen to, has on-going support toward employment.

· Over 50% (16 of 31 people) of those joining the programme had achieved entry level 3 in English and maths or a higher qualification.

· Half 50% (8 of 16 people) of those achieving work are working 16 hours or more per week.

· Over two thirds (67%) of people entering the programme had additional disability support needs.

· 48% of those (10 out of 21 people) completing the programme who had additional support needs achieved employment.

· 60% of those (6 out of 10 people) completing the programme who had no identified additional support needs achieved employment.

· 65% percent of people (20 of 31 people) completing the programme gained independent travel skills.

· 94% (31 of 33 starters) completed their internship.

· Oxfordshire Supported Internships was 69% more successful in delivering employment outcomes than the national picture (Cooper Gibson Research 2013)

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “We’re very proud of our employment service and its internships scheme. It is a real success story and genuinely allows young people who may not otherwise be able to live independently to branch out and develop and play an active part in their community

“At the same time, employers benefit and speak very well of the project. I thank all of the organisations who have helped ake the 2016 scheme such a success and look forward to more young people benefiting from this scheme in 2017.”

Mike Foster, Lead Co-Ordinator from Mencap said: “We at the Royal Mencap Society, have been delighted to participate in The Oxfordshire Supported Internship and feel it is an excellent addition to the county’s provision, enabling young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan to see the achievement of paid work as a realistic and attainable goal.

“Learning to travel independently and develop skills that are valued by employers in commercial workplace locations has really delivered results for our interns. It has been wonderful to see so many make the transition from tentative teenager to confident young adult as a result of this innovative partnership model.”