• Mark Sandbach

Council celebrates success of supported internship scheme for young people with disabilities

Cheshire East Council has congratulated Springfield School in Crewe for being shortlisted in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) awards for their work supporting young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into work.

The school’s Springboard project – a new initiative which started in September 2019 – is funded by the council and the Department of Work and Pension’s Access to Work scheme. It is delivered in partnership with Safe Opportunities; whose aim is to prepare students with SEND to step into the workplace as productive and fulfilled employees. The Springboard project, part of a wider supported internship programme across the borough, aims to support young adults with learning difficulties into the world of work. It combines work experience in local businesses with taught sessions and independent learning activities at the school. Places on the scheme are not just for Springfield school students, but also for young people aged 16-24 across Cheshire East, who want to work, need support and have an education health and care plan. One young person who has been supported on his internship is Adam. Adam is 22 years-old, a hard worker and loves being busy. He learns visually and is happiest when part of a team. Adam is autistic, non-verbal and has minimal understanding of spoken language. He has worked hard with his job coach to develop his skills and confidence and has overcome many barriers to achieving his potential.

Adam has benefited from the scheme, starting work in January at Thermmark Ltd in Congleton where he has secured a permanent 25-hour contract with regular overtime. Adam’s mum Zoe said: “Since he was a young child we have concentrated on Adam’s strengths and through time he has developed into a well-mannered, capable, adaptable and intelligent young man. “Adam loves nothing better than to be productive and it’s amazing to see him busy at work. His main disability, the fact that he is non-verbal and doesn’t understand language, has not held him back and goes to show that not even language is a barrier to work. “He has just done amazingly well, and we are so very proud of him, it’s like he’s found the perfect job.”

Kathryn Flavell, chair of Cheshire East Council’s children and families committee, said: “Our drive in Cheshire East is for the best outcomes for children and young people with additional needs. “Young people have told us on many occasions during sessions planning for their preparation for adulthood, that their aspiration is for paid employment and to have the same life chances as every other young person. “This is why we have put every effort and resource into fulfilling the lifetime ambitions of our young people, by developing an excellent supported internship programme that has been recognised nationally. “Adam’s story is so heart-warming to hear and I sincerely congratulate him, Springfield school and our own supported internship team for their achievements and wish the school the very best of luck at the TES award ceremony at the end of June.” Lisa Hodgkison, headteacher at Springfield School, said: “We understand that due to the nature of our pupil’s disabilities they can take longer to acquire the skills that are needed for the world of work. “After extensive research and evidence, we know that by giving the pupils the additional time they need, we successfully see pupils going into the world of work from school from the age of 16 with this change in curriculum. “This is a huge dramatic shift and both pupils and parents have high expectations of what the future holds.”

Vicki Robson, a director at Thermmark Ltd, said: “Our willingness to take on an intern means that in Adam, we have got an incredible employee whose skillset matched the job role we were able to offer. Adam has been given the chance to do something that he loves whilst leading an independent life. “The Springboard project have supported us as a company, making sure we received all of the support that Adam needed so that he is able to continue succeeding in his future career. Hopefully, Adam and Thermmark’s story will encourage other employers to take on a supported intern as the benefits of this are incredible for both the individuals and businesses.” To watch a short film celebrating Adam's success visit the Springboard Facebook page. For more information on the Springboard project, please visit: www.thespringboardproject.co.uk







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