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According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, during the first part of 2018 less than a quarter of people with learning difficulties, a speech impediment or a mental health condition were in employment. It’s an issue the government has shown itself keen to address, setting a target of a 20 per cent increase in the proportion of apprenticeship starts by people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities by 2020.

In Bath, Project SEARCH is already helping more young people with a learning disability secure employment. This one year course, run during the final year of education, helps students aged 18-24 find employment. The initiative originated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the US, and the Bath incarnation was the first pilot on this side of the Atlantic.

Royal United Hospitals Bath FT serves as the host site, providing placements, workplace mentoring and HR support and facilities. It partners with Fosse Way School – a specialist school for young people with learning disabilities – and with Virgin Care, which provides job development and job coaching both during the course and after graduation.

The stated target of Project SEARCH is to enable 60 per cent of participating students to gain at least 16 hours’ employment a week. In Bath, the rate has been 62 per cent. And take into account the number of students working for less than 16 hours a week so they can manage their health, the rate is nearer 100 per cent. The success is such that the scheme is now being spread across the UK.

Read a detailed case study about this project at HSJ Solutions


  • University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust – Staffordshire whole population health programme – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Aneurin Bevan University Health Board – Recruitment of overseas trained nurses who are living in the UK
  • Barts Health Trust – East London Health Careers Project
  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals FT – Learning inspiration for future employment
  • Livewell Southwest CIC – Paid work placements
  • Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group in partnership with CSH Surrey and selected Surrey care homes – Quality in care homes

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