Some of the young people with learning disabilities who are working at their local hospital have talked about their experiences – as part of an awareness week.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is celebrating National Supported Internship Day today.
The Trust works with Project Choice, a programme funded by Health Education England, to give young people with learning disabilities, difficulties and autism the opportunity to gain work placements.
The project then aims to get all of its placed students into full-time employment within a year.
It has been running for five years now – enjoying huge success with a number of graduates gaining full time employment at the Trust.
Matthew Poole is currently on placement in the pathology service at the University Hospital of North Tees, having started the role around six months ago.
He said: “I love it. It’s helped my confidence and helped me get into work. I like routine and this is the same routine a lot of the time which really works for me but there’s enough different as well to keep it interesting.
“Pathology was one of the first things that came up in a Project Choice presentation and it really interested me. It’s not something I’d ever thought about before.”
Dominic Cain was among the first group of students from the project to go on placement at North Tees.
Dom, who is now a mentor to other students and is a hospital porter, said: “Being offered an internship by Project Choice has changed my life.
“I was so lucky really – I remember at the time thinking about going back to college. And, if I am honest, it really wasn’t for me.
“When I heard about Project Choice, which was just starting up, I jumped at the chance.
“Without this chance, I don’t think I’d be as far forward in life. I have gained so much confidence, made friends. Outside of work, I have bought a house and things like that.
“The Trust should be proud of how inclusive it is, I love working here and found everyone so supportive.”
“Absolutely vital internships”
According to DFN, a charity which is running the campaign, nationally less than 5% of people with a learning disability and/or autism who are known to local authorities go on to secure paid employment, compared to 80% of their peers.
Supported internships for young people aged 16 to 24 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can help put them on the path to employment.
Lauren Hart, area manager for Stockton at Project Choice, said: “Internships are absolutely vital to help people like Matthew and Dom get the opportunities they need to get into the workplace.
“Everyone deserves the chance to aspire to be the very best they can be and we are delighted to be able to give young people this chance.
“Every intern involved in our project is an inspiration to every other young person with special educational needs, that there are so many opportunities out there for them.
“This new awareness day can only help to raise this awareness further.”