Linda Jordan reflects on her recent trip to Portugal to learn about how they approach pathways into employment for young people with learning disabilities.
On the 20th November a group of us travelled to Porto in Portugal for the third and final study visit of the Erasmus project that we are leading for England with partners from Portugal and France. Our group included me, Ellen Atkinson, the lead for Project Search at Barts NHS Trust, the head of SEND provision from a college of further education and a job coach from another college.
The purpose of the visit was to learn about pathways into employment for young people with learning disabilities. We visited schools, colleges, employers and support providers. The hosts for our visit were Miguel, Manuela, Silvia and Monica all based in the Department of Special Education and Inclusion at the Polytechnic of Porto.
Our fantastic interpreter was Carla Maia, and of course we spent the week with our French friends from Laval. We had a brilliant week. On the Wednesday it was Ben’s birthday and it had already been arranged that the whole group would have dinner together. A cake was ordered and everyone made it a special birthday for Ben. We had three free evenings which gave us the opportunity to spend time in the beautiful city of Porto. Ben has been working at Manchester airport. He loves the job but he really wants to work for the Fire Service. Miguel organised for Ben to visit a fire station in Porto. Ben was really happy to have had this experience and to be made so welcome.
It was good for the group to be exposed to a different system and it really made us reflect on our own situation and the practice In England. We spent a lot of time discussing how we can make more progress in supporting young people into employment. We recognised that in many ways we are privileged and that the pace of change could be so much greater. At that time, we didn’t know that the Department for Education would create a grant to support an increase in supported internships and that NDTi would be involved in supporting local areas to do this.
The PfA team will be attending a transnational meeting in Paris on the 15th and 16th February. The purpose of the meeting is for all of us to reflect on what we learned from the three study visits and what we can use to support the work of the three countries going forward. A report will be written, including an easy read version.
Each country has a committee including four young people, four family members, four employers and four education providers. The English committee will meet in the spring to decide how to disseminate the learning from the project. The Department for Education is now requiring each local area to set up a supported internship forum, bringing together local areas, employers and education providers. I hope that the work of the forums will benefit from what we have learned as part of this Erasmus project.
Linda Jordan is the Senior Development Advisor at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues
Linda Jordan's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.