NHS Collaboration Creating Life-Changing Opportunity for Young People With Learning Disabilities in Wales. 

An innovative partnership with Engage to Change is helping to change the lives of young people with learning disabilities in North Wales with the support of the NHS.

DFN Project SEARCH and Engage to Change are working with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in North Wales to transform the employment prospects of young people with learning disabilities and autism.

The Engage to Change Project SEARCH programme in Bangor with the host employer Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board began in September 2017, providing interns with a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college.

The programme is part funded by the Engage to Change project and is a collaboration between supported employment organisation Agoriad Cyf, host employer Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, research partner Cardiff University, educational institution Coleg Llandrillo Menai, Engage to Change lead partner Learning Disability Wales, and DFN Project SEARCH.

The students are based full-time at the Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor and have three department rotations throughout the 12-months as they gain 800 hours of skills acquisition and study for an employability qualification.

The programme also includes an onsite teacher and full-time Job Coach employment specialist to support the students in making a successful transition from education into full-time employment.

Ten students have already graduated through the programme in Bangor, with 70 per cent going on to secure employment. The latest 2018/19 intake includes a further ten students.

Job roles span patient care, lab technicians, pharmaceutical, reception at a GP Practice and food service.

The recent graduation means that 1000 young people have now graduated and secured full-time employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK.

This successful partnership also runs programmes based at Cardiff University and Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board  Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

Further local DFN Project SEARCH programmes in Wales will also be announced in the fourth quarter of 2019.

DFN Project SEARCH aims to change lives for young people with learning disabilities by helping them get great jobs.

Its locally managed programmes are a proven way of helping young people with learning disabilities get long term careers as well as helping businesses and organisations get a more inclusive workforce.

There are now over 60 local partnerships across the UK, with over 1,000 young people with learning disabilities being given a pathway into work already. Another 12 schemes are planned by the end of 2019.


DFN Project SEARCH CEO Maura Lynch 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 Engage to Change based at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is meeting this objective, bringing students competitive and transferable job skills, and the ability to achieve meaningful employment.

“The Health Board is also experiencing the transformative benefits from engaging in our programme, gaining access to a new, diverse, talented workforce with skills that match labour needs.

“We will continue to work closely with our project partners to develop the programme, ensuring that young people in the area with learning disabilities are given the chance to get a good job and be seen as a fantastic talent pool for employers.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Chief Executive Gary Doherty said:

“As a Health Board we are committed to ensuring that we have an inclusive culture where leaders routinely demonstrate their commitment to promoting equality within BCUHB and beyond to enable a fair and inclusive workforce.

“We are delighted that one of our students is the 1000th intern to secure employment in the UK as a result of completing the internship, and as a Health Board we wish him and all DFN Project SEARCH graduates continued success.

“Staff in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board really enjoy supporting the interns in their placements, and seeing their personal growth, each intern that gains employment is a huge success and celebration for us.”

The Engage to Change project is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund in partnership with Welsh Government.

Angela Kenvyn, Engage to Change Project Manager from Learning Disability Wales, said:

“We’re delighted that the 1000th graduate in the UK is from the Engage to Change Project SEARCH site at- Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

“We are incredibly proud of all the interns who have graduated from the sites in Bangor, Bridgend, and Cardiff following a year of growing their confidence, independence, and skills in the workplace through this transformative programme.

“We are pleased that we as a partnership have been able to support these young people with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum conditions to fulfil their potential in the workplace.”


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