Charity awarded cash with help from Big Lottery Fund
A £10 million grant has been awarded to a Welsh charity to boost the employment prospects of young people in Wales with a learning disability and / or learning difficulty, including Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
As part of the Getting Ahead 2 programme, Learning Disability Wales will use £9,999,289 over five years to transform the lives of 1,000 young people aged 16 to 25 who have a learning disability and / or learning difficulty into undertaking a paid work placement lasting between 6-12 months to enhance their chances of progressing into sustainable employment by increasing their employability skills.
Learning Disability Wales will work with a range of different organisations across Wales to deliver the project, including: Agoriad, Elite, All Wales People First, Project SEARCH, and Cardiff University.
Getting Ahead 2 is a non-Lottery funding programme which is funded by money that has been dormant in bank and building society accounts across the UK for 15 years or more. How the money is being spent in Wales has been determined by Policy Directions issued to the Big Lottery Fund by the Welsh Government.
Ashford Richards is a 19 year-old with Down's Syndrome from Merthyr Tydfil and has previously undertaken work placements with Elite, one of Learning Disabilities Wales' partners for the Getting Ahead 2 programme. The placements have helped him to become more informed of what he wants to do when he finishes education, and now wants to become and actor once he leaves school.
There have been previously initiatives to support young people into the labour market but for young people with a learning disability and/or learning difficulty it has been challenging to access these. Learning Disability Wales will provide tailored support specifically for these young people to ensure that they have improved employability opportunities.
Welcoming the funding, Zoe Richards, Young Person and Carer's Manager at Learning Disability Wales said: "Learning Disability Wales are delighted to be leading a project that will change the way young people with a learning disability / difficulty including Autistic Spectrum Disorder contribute to the workforce in Wales.
"This programme will enable us to evidence that a person centred, tailored employment support programme produces long lasting employment results for the young people we represent. We want to ensure these young people are visible in the workforce of Wales, and will act as role models for our next generation of young people."
Highlighting the importance of the funding, Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member, Sian Callaghan, said: "Young people with a learning disability and/or learning difficulty face multiple barriers. Additionally, there may be a lack of awareness on behalf of some employers and employees as to the positive contribution the young people can make and the type of support they require. As a result only a small percentage are in paid work and many are NEET.
"That's why it's important to have programmes like Getting Ahead 2 which offers them tailored and essential advice and support to motivate them and help them to achieve their full potential."
Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James, said: "We have made significant progress in recent years in bringing down the number of young people in Wales who are not in education, employment or training. However, people with a learning disability and/or learning difficulties can face particular challenges that make it more difficult for them to progress into employment.
"This £10million grant will enable Learning Disability Wales to help young people overcome challenges and boost their self-confidence by providing them with valuable experience of the workplace that they might not otherwise have been able to access.
"This is good news for young people with a learning disability and/or learning difficulties, including autism, and it comes on the same day as my colleague, the Minister for Health and Social Services launches a new national integrated autism service for Wales, which will support children and adults from assessment through to ongoing lifetime support.
"As a Government we are fully committed to catering for the needs of people with learning difficulties, ensuring their needs are understood and information, support and opportunities are available to enable them to lead fulfilling lives".