Disabled youngsters begin award-winning internship

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The nine interns have begun working across different departments at Homerton Hospital. Image: Homerton Hospital

Nine disabled young people have begun working at Homerton Hospital as part of an award-winning international internship programme that hopes to give them full-time jobs.

Aged between 17 and 23, the nine interns are working across the hospital’s departments, from the café to the maternity ward depending on their individual strengths and interests. The internships will last for one academic year.

Summai Lerner-Edgell, 17, from Clapton, joined the project after hearing about it from a family member. “I tried mainstream jobs and they just weren’t right for me, I didn’t receive the support I needed and so this is a really important opportunity.

“I already feel like my confidence has been boosted and I hope that I can learn good skills that will help me find a job at the end of the project.”

In Hackney, young people with disabilities are significantly more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, with just 27% of working-age disabled adults in employment compared with 78% of non-disabled residents, according to the ONS Census 2011.

The Project SEARCH programme began at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in America in 1996 and is now running in five countries. Homerton Hospital has become the latest of 400 centres.

3,000 young people in America have gained employment since completing the Project SEARCH programme in 2016/17. Project SEARCH says that around a third of student interns are hired by the host business at the end of their programme.  

Councillor Carole Williams said: “In keeping with the Mayor’s manifesto commitment, our aim with Project SEARCH is to help residents with disabilities to develop the skills and confidence that will help them gain permanent and full-time jobs.”