Dundee and Angus College Empowers Inclusion on Supported Internship Day at Parliament Reception

A lecturer and two students from Dundee and Angus College have taken part in celebrations in Westminster to spotlight the transformative impact of supported internship for young adults with learning disabilities.

Lecturer, Leanne Macdonald, alongside two previous interns, Amy Brown and Claire Haliday, attended an important Parliamentary Reception to showcase the significant impact of DFN Project SEARCH.

The celebrations were part of National Supported Internship Day which acts to highlight the barriers and challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities in accessing meaningful employment opportunities. Only 4.1% of people in Scotland with learning disabilities secure paid employment, compared to a striking 80% of their peers.

Leanne Macdonald, Lecturer Supported Education, said: “The partnership has had a transformative impact on individuals with learning disabilities and autism. As result of robust collaboration, we are attempting to dismantle the barriers and stereotypes that impede access to the workplace. Through the Parliamentary reception we hope to highlight the significance of internships and employment opportunities and individuals with learning disabilities and autism have access to opportunities that will enable them to realise their full potential in the workforce.” 

Elaine Watson, Director of Workforce NHS Tayside, said: “NHS Tayside is delighted in partnering with Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and Dundee & Angus College to support the DFN Project Search initiative. We are proud to help and be involved in creating potential life changing experiences and opportunities for young people with challenges in their lives. We have been hugely impressed by the effort and commitment the participants have shown during their work placements across services, both clinical and non-clinical areas.”

Amy and Claire both joined DFN Project SEARCH after facing barriers into employment and their journeys showcase the transformative power of supported internships.

Amy struggled with mental health challenges before enrolling on the Prepare for DFN Project SEARCH course where she found her confidence through resilience and determination.  Although her journey was not seamless and despite some setbacks Amy was able to overcome social anxiety to develop her essential skills and is now employed as a Support Worker at Dundee and Angus College.  Her story of overcoming adversity continues to inspire others to find their pathway into the workplace.

Amy said: “Before Project SEARCH I was doing absolutely nothing, I was house bound.  The project has benefited me in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. It actually gets me out of bed and on the bus to work every day. My proudest moment was coming to work at Dundee and Angus College, and I cannot imagine not being here doing this.”

Claire had faced challenges due to her autism and learning difficulties in securing permanent employment but through the programme she was able to prove her attributes in the workplace at Dundee and Angus College.  Through perseverance and determination, she continues to showcase her talent and determination in the face of adversity.

Claire said: “I was looking for work through other agencies before I signed up for Project SEARCH, I had done a lot of work experience, a lot of volunteering, and gone to a lot of agencies but nothing ever worked.  Project SEARCH has helped me move forward and be more hopeful for the future as I now work for the Learning and Digital Resources Department at D&A in the library, and I am growing in confidence talking to students and staff.”

Dundee and Angus College and DFN Project SEARCH continue to provide pivotal pathways into employment for young adults with learning disabilities or autism spectrum conditions through the Supported Internship programme. The course continues to inspire and showcase the talents and contributions of individuals with learning disabilities in the workforce.

Arlene Mitchell, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership Locality Manager, said: "DFN Project Search has a proven track record of being an inclusive programme which benefits from a strong partnership working model.  It is enlightening to see people with significant barriers to employment getting real employment opportunities within NHS Tayside and watching them flourish as they start on their career path.”