Council facilitates workplace opportunities for young people with special educational needs and autism

Five neurodiverse young people will take their first step onto the career ladder through an HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) supported internship programme in Liverpool.

Students from The City of Liverpool College will gain work experience as Administrative Officers at HMRC’s Liverpool regional centre, India Buildings, where they will perform tasks including monitoring inboxes and spreadsheets.

Liverpool City Council is funding the project, which provides the students with a structured path out of college and into the world of work. A college tutor, and a job coach from the charity Hft, will join them onsite, to help them understand their roles and refine their workplace skills to give them the best chance of competing in the job market.

HMRC is the first Government department to partner with the charity DFN Project Search and offer supported internships to students who have special educational needs or autism (SEND).

The charity estimates that less than 5% of people in the UK with SEND are in work and is working to improve this figure by bringing together employers, colleges and local authorities to deliver their supported internship programme and transform the lives of youngsters who may otherwise be excluded from the job market.

Supported intern Harry Heavyside, aged 19, – pictured above with job coach Abbie Wade – said: “I have become a lot more confident in myself and a lot more optimistic about the future and I now take pride in what I am doing and in myself.

“I would recommend this to anyone who will listen as they will not be on their own. It sounds like a big step, but it is life changing and I would tell them to get involved and you will find a place that fits you.”

Councillor Lila Bennett, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “This scheme is about working closely with young people, schools and employers to provide tailor made support into the world of work and give them the opportunity to compete for jobs and fulfil their potential.

“Having a diverse workforce with people of all backgrounds and disabilities enriches the culture of an organisation and can be life changing for all involved. I hope HMRC will inspire other public and private sector organisations to take part. The scheme is a key part of our ambition to tackle inequality and maximise the life chances for residents in our city.”

Andy Leggett, HMRC’s Director of Risk and Intelligence Services and Senior Sponsor for Liverpool, said: ”It’s a sad fact that many young people with special educational needs are overlooked by employers. I am delighted that HMRC is taking such a prominent role in helping address that, by offering a first step on the career ladder and the chance to do meaningful work that allows them to demonstrate their skills and abilities in a supportive environment.

“This has the potential to be genuinely life-changing for individuals and I am very proud and grateful to those partners who are helping make this happen.”

Claire Cookson, Chief Executive Officer of DFN Project SEARCH, said: “I am thrilled that HMRC has taken the lead in hosting high-quality supported internship programmes for young adults with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions.

“As the first government department to embrace our programme, HMRC has acknowledged the incredible talent and contributions young adults with learning disabilities possess.

“I am confident that this excellent display of leadership from HMRC will be rewarded with a uniquely talented workforce.”

Elaine Bowker, Principal and Chief Executive at The City of Liverpool College, said: “We are absolutely committed to providing our students with the best possible opportunities and targeted support to progress, and innovative partnerships like this one allow us to do just that.

“We are proud to be part of such a transformative programme that will truly open doors for the city’s young people.”

Jordan Smith, Head of Day and Work Opportunities at learning disability charity Hft, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting partnership. Commitment to diverse and accessible recruitment is invaluable, and this partnership will make an incredible difference to the lives of the interns who participate.”

The internships will last for up to a year. On completion, students will be able to apply for vacancies in HMRC or seek opportunities elsewhere using the skills they have developed.

Liverpool Waterfront