Celebrating the key workers who happen to have learning disabilities


Claire Cookson, CEO of employment facilitator DFN Project SEARCH, describes how young people with learning disabilities have stepped into key worker roles during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the legacy it may leave.

The pandemic has certainly pushed us out of our comfort zones and changed the way we live our lives.

"Society has been forced to re-assess what we consider key and essential roles to be and communities have started to value and celebrate people as individuals."

Change can be difficult, challenging and disruptive, we all recognise this.

However, the past few months has taught us that we can adapt very quickly and bring ideas and ingenuity that ultimately improve performance and the way we work.

As one of the country’s leading transition-to-work programmes for students with learning disabilities and autism, we operate 69 internationally recognised programmes across the UK, Ireland and Iberia.

When lockdown was implemented by the UK Government our interns had to work from home too. The move brought uncertainty to many interns well on their pathway to employability and our programme partners throughout the country.

Despite the disruption, we responded quickly, positively and in so many ways we have never felt more connected as a movement and organisation.

Our interns have had great support from our partners and job coaches, everyone has worked so hard to ensure that our interns don’t lose the skills they have worked so hard to gain.  We have also collaborated on the Funding Your Future campaign, a YouTube content channel designed to keep supported interns inspired and focused on employment outcomes.

We have swiftly taken our partner communication and collaboration online, helping to strengthen two-way engagement and inclusion through network meetings, training programmes and virtual webinars.

Our responsive approach has had a huge impact on our culture, bringing our stakeholder community together and driving collaboration to ensure that young people on DFN Project SEARCH supported internships stay on their journey to full time, integrated, competitive employment.

One of the things that I am particularly proud of during this time is the number of DFN Project SEARCH graduates who have been working in and securing key worker roles during the crisis.

Read the full article here.