Phoenix Community Housing Chief Executive Jim Ripley with Project Search interns

Phoenix welcomes new interns with learning disabilities

Updated: 20 September 2019 at 12:01pm

A group of six students have embarked on a nine-month work placement with Phoenix as part of a ground-breaking project designed to help young people with learning disabilities into full time employment.

We are the first housing association in London – and the first organisation in Lewisham – to become involved in the DFN Project SEARCH transition programme, a partnership between a host business, education and professional adult supported employment.

The programme originated in the USA and has been running in the UK for 11 years, in 2017 helping 61% of young adults to find work. That is compared to the current overall UK average of 6% of people with a learning disability in employment of any kind.

The young people at Phoenix will work in roles ranging from customer service to facilities, with the support of job coaches and instructors. All of them are in their final year of college and have a goal of finding competitive employment.

The project is being funded by Lewisham Council and includes a number of partner organisations, including Lewisham Southwark College and Toucan Employment.

Phoenix Community Housing Chief Executive Jim Ripley said: “We’re all very excited to welcome these fantastic young people to Phoenix and to help them develop the skills and confidence to progress into work.

“The number of young adults with learning disabilities in employment is shockingly low. I’m pleased that we will be able to make our own contribution to help address that, and I really hope that some of our first six interns will be able to find jobs at Phoenix.”

DFN Project SEARCH director and programme specialist Carmel McKeogh said “Our vision is to ensure that everyone with a learning disability or autism spectrum condition can attain high-quality employment in their local area.

“The partnership with Phoenix Community Housing, Lewisham Council, Lewisham College and Toucan Employment is meeting this objective, teaching students competitive and transferable job skills, and the ability to achieve meaningful employment.

“Phoenix Community Housing is also experiencing the transformative benefits from engaging in our programme, creating a new, diverse workforce with skills that match labour needs in the community creating a fantastic talent pool for employers.”

The internships will run from September to June, in line with the college year, with each of the 6 young people having up to three placements to gain new skills and experience.  

Find out more about Project SEARCH.