Project Search pilots ready for lift-off


The government has announced the 14 pilot projects that will test a new internship scheme for people with learning difficulties.

Project Search provides a group of people with “moderate or severe” learning difficulties with a year-long series of supported, unpaid work placements with a single employer – and classroom tuition – while they remain on benefits.

Project Search is modelled on an idea first trialled in the US, and aims to provide work and social skills that will help the interns into real jobs.

The scheme is part of the Valuing Employment Now cross-government strategy, which aims to “radically” increase the number of people with moderate and severe learning difficulties in work by 2025.

The pilots, which will start across England next September, include projects in councils, hospitals, a social services department, a further education college and the pensions, disability and carers service run by the Department for Work and Pensions in Newcastle.

The government says Project Search has been successful in the US, with four in five interns who completed the programme in 2006-07 now in full-time employment.

And it said between 25 and 40 per cent of US interns are hired by the host organisations.

Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, said: “We realise that only a small number of people with learning disabilities who receive adult social services are in work and we know that many more want real jobs.

“It’s our duty to give them all the help and support they need to get into and stay in work.”

Phil Hope, minister for care services, added: “We are committed to removing the barriers individuals with learning disabilities face getting into paid work and promoting good practice.

“Project Search has a proven track record in the USA in helping employers tap into the talent and skills those with learning disabilities have to offer.”

2 November 2009