West London has some of the most successful Supported Internship programmes in the country, with a track record of helping young people with learning disabilities or difficulties into employment.
Some 600 people attended the fifth annual Supported Internships Fair organised recently by the West London Alliance, the partnership of seven West London local authorities, working with West London College, hosting the event at its Hammersmith campus.
These ground-breaking programmes are set for major expansion in 2020 in West London and have been shortlisted for a prestigious Local Government Chronicle award in recognition of their impact in promoting diversity and inclusion.
Supported Internships give young people between 17 and 25 with conditions such as autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome the opportunity to acquire vocational skills and enter fully paid employment to fulfil their potential.
In contrast with the extremely low employment rate of 6% for adults with learning disabilities, over 65% of those going through West London’s Supported Internship programmes move into work, making a powerful change to these young people’s life chances. Some programmes help an even higher proportion of their interns into jobs: 90% of interns placed at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith & Fulham and 70% of those placed at the Hilton Hotel Heathrow Terminal 5 are now in employment.
Since 2012 fourteen Supported Internships programmes have been established in West London, helping over 140 young people every year towards work. Another six programmes will open in 2020.
A comprehensive directory of the details of 27 Supported Internships in London was also launched at the fair by the West London Alliance, detailing the types of work experience and skills training on offer.
The popularity of Supported Internships among the interns themselves and their parents and carers is evident. Interns regularly describe their experience of the intensive nine-month skills training and acquisition programme as ‘life-changing’, and the route through which they have gained self-confidence, independence and some of their life ambitions.
Alastair Nelson, for example, a recent graduate from the SI based at Kensington Town Hall and business locations in Kensington, commented: “The experience of a Supported Internship has changed my life. My own ideas of how I could contribute to and be employed within a thriving business have been listened to and supported, and my ambition of gaining worthwhile and motivating employment has been fulfilled through this. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was offered and the positive impact it has made on my life.”
A spokesman for Public Health England, which has hosted a Supported Internship programme since 2016 said: “Our supported interns bring incredible benefits to the organisation and we’re always telling other employers about how good Supported Internships are. It is one of the most important things we do as an organisation”.
Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council and Chair of the West London Alliance’s Skills and Employment Board said: “Supporting inclusion is at the heart of the West London boroughs’ shared Skills, Employment and Productivity Strategy. I am proud to say that this programme is a pioneering way of providing effective preparation for adulthood, independent living and good health for young people with learning disabilities”.
Karen Redhead OBE, Principal of West London College said: “The fifth Supported Internship Fair held at West London College has grown from strength to strength, attracting a record 596 attendees. The speeches from current and former supported interns were exceptional and provided role models that inspired many attendees to sign up for the new internships starting in September 2020.This is such an important event for inclusion and the future employment of young people with learning disabilities”.