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Minister for Disabled People visits DFN Project SEARCH site at Bradford Royal Infirmary

The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson recently visited the DFN Project SEARCH site at Bradford Royal Infirmary and met with some of the programme's current interns and recent graduates. After the visit, the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

“It was fantastic to hear about the life-changing impact this project has had on young people’s lives here in Bradford and how it is helping them unlock their full potential.

“From speaking to young people with disabilities and health conditions, they want the same opportunities as everyone else. This project gives them just that.”

In Bradford, DFN Project SEARCH is a partnership between Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford College and HfT, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities.

Among those to see the benefit of DFN Project SEARCH is Samuel Aldridge, 22, from Thornton. Since being involved in the programme he has been working at Bradford Royal Infirmary for three years and is currently employed as an administrative assistant.

Thanks to the support of the programme he has also just achieved a distinction in a level 3 NVQ in Business Administration. Samuel said:

“DFN Project SEARCH was incredibly useful because it gave me a really valuable jumping off point. It gave me the chance to try various different roles and positions in my workplace.

“It gave me practical experience to know how the environment works and that makes it much easier to know how to perform more effectively in a hospital setting.

“I’ve been employed at the hospital for about three years now. Getting the job itself meant a lot, a great chance to stand on my own two feet and feel independent in my own way.”

The latest local figures show that 55 young people have completed the Bradford programme since it started in 2013, with 71% moving into paid employment.

Claire Cookson, CEO of DFN Project SEARCH said:

“We are very proud of the success of our programme at Bradford Royal Infirmary in helping young people with autism and learning disabilities get great jobs which truly transform their lives.

“It is very pleasing to have the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson MP visit the site at Bradford Royal Infirmary, which has made incredible progress since it started in 2013 and this recognition will give it a well-deserved boost.

“There have been so many inspiring stories during the past eight years that challenge the social hierarchy and show how young people with autism and learning disabilities can make a huge contribution to society.”

Professor Mel Pickup, Chief Executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Getting a job is difficult at the best of times, but when you have learning difficulties it makes it even harder.

“That’s why DFN Project SEARCH is such a game-changer - it bridges the gap between school and employment for these fabulous young people and equips them with real-life skills that can help them get a permanent job after they have graduated from the project.

“Here at Bradford Teaching Hospitals we’re very proud to be part of the programme and have seen first-hand the difference it makes to the lives of our interns and their families. The young people’s confidence grows day by day and that inspires both them and everyone they work alongside.”

Bryony Dolby, National Programme Coordinator at HfT said:

“Our dedicated team of employability coaches work here in Bradford, and across the country, to support people at all stages of their employment journey – from building up a great CV and providing interview advice, to offering hands-on support as people settle into their internships.

“During our time supporting people to find and sustain work at Bradford Teaching Hospitals, it’s been truly rewarding to see so many people thrive with the new-found confidence that can come with developing their skills, and gain employment after graduating from the scheme.”

Additional quotes:

Bradley Erby, 20, from Cottingley - Currently employed as an apprentice in I.T.

"Being offered a place on DFN Project SEARCH was a great moment, and it has certainly not been a waste. During my placements, I've grown in confidence and gained a wide range of new skills and experiences, which has given me the opportunity of an apprenticeship at the IT service desk."

Mohammed Aqeel Maqsood, 23, from Heaton – intern on the programme

"It's a good experience. I am learning independence skills. I’m doing my first rotation at Bradford College as a Library Assistant and I am really enjoying it."

Haroon Qabeer, 19, from Allerton– intern on the programme

"DFN Project SEARCH is an opportunity to get paid employment. My work experience has been in catering at Bradford College and I am enjoying it."