Cheshire East Council response to national story on supported internships and SEND funding
19 May 2021
Article Title: Councils in England facing funding gaps plan to cut special needs support. Guardian newspaper 15 May 2021
Content: “Cheshire East is planning to encourage older students with EHCPs to take up “supported internships”, which normally last a year and include unpaid work placements of at least six months, as an explicit way of reducing the council’s support costs and shortening the time for which it has to fund EHCPs .”
Cheshire East Council Response:
1.0 Government policy and the SEND code of practice
Government policy and SEND Code of Practice guides all councils to provide excellence in preparing for adulthood support to young people and utilise four key pathways. One of these key pathways is focussed on exploring different employment options, such as support for becoming self-employed and help from supported employment agencies.
For young people with an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) with complex needs, a well-managed supported internships programme is the most effective route to achieve successful paid work outcomes that are sustained. No other employment programme is as successful in this respect.
A supported internship provides six months in a supported work placement which provides positive transition into employment and therefore does result in their EHC plan being ceased as their outcomes have been achieved.
2.0 How supported internships have been developed in Cheshire East
Our drive in Cheshire East is for the best outcomes for children and young people with additional needs. Our children with SEND have told us on many occasions during person-centred planning for their preparation for adulthood, that their aspiration is for paid employment and to have the same life chances as every other young person. This is why we have put every effort and resource into fulfilling the lifetime ambitions of our young people, by developing an excellent supported internship programme that has been recognised nationally.
Our SEND Inspection in 2018 stated:
“Some parents told inspectors that they had been told that Cheshire East do not provide supported internships and to go elsewhere to access routes into employment”
Cheshire East Council has a dedicated Supported Internship Coordinator. This post moved from a temporary position when funded through one-off government grant to a permanent post funded by the council when the grant came to an end (not all councils invest in such a post). Our supported employment team and supported internship co-ordinator have worked tirelessly to establish new supported internship providers in order to enhance our local offer. New providers include the two maintained special schools in Cheshire East and two of the further education colleges. This has increased the number of supported internship places from nine to 37 over the last two years.
It is important to not lose sight that nine young people with complex needs have already progressed into paid employment and others are still progressing within our Supported Internship programmes, so we are expecting more successful outcomes to come.
3.0 The key to success and investment into the scheme
A lot of thought has been given to ensuring a successful support internship programme and the Cheshire East approach has some unique characteristics. Alongside the dedication and commitment of our Cheshire East team and the school and college settings, we have also invested in the quality of support provided. Each student has had a 1:1 in-work personal assistant (PA) supporting them. These PAs have all received the specialised 5-day systematic instruction course which ensures that the PAs are able to effectively support young people in the workplace to learn real job skills all within the six months. Systematic instruction is a specialised instructional technique for those with complex needs pioneered by Dr Marc Gold in the USA. Over 36 PAs are now fully trained in this way at total cost of £22,500.
The Department of Work & Pensions - Access to Work scheme pays for the necessary in-work support and transport training. Claims for this support over the last two years has been over £150,000.
4.0 Education Health and Care Plans
A supported internship is meant to be the final year of education and so it is best practice for the EHCP to be ceased when the supported internship finishes, there are however exceptions. If a young person progresses from a supported internship to an apprenticeship, then there may be a valid case to keep the EHCP open as it is a training “carry-on” from the internship. It is also worth noting that many supported internship placements have been adversely affected by the pandemic and for this reason many of the work placements and the EHCPs have been extended.
5.0 Good news stories
One of Cheshire East’s supported internship providers (Springboard at Springfield Special School in Crewe) has just been nominated for the TES Alternative Provision Award 2021
This evidences excellent best practice recognised at the national level.
6.0 Case Studies
The team have been supporting a young man call Adam. Adam is a hard worker and loves being busy, he learns visually (and almost instantly) and is happiest when part of a team.
It is also worth noting that Adam is Autistic, non-verbal and has minimal understanding of spoken language - but why should any of those things be a barrier to him achieving his potential? Adam has worked hard with his Job Coach to develop his skills and confidence and has overcome all the barriers mentioned above. Adam has shown what a fabulous employee he can be.
Adam started work on a 25-hour contract in January 2021- and is now picking up regular over time… with the view to increase his hours permanently!
A supported internship is not just about supporting young people into paid work, it is about helping employers create a diverse and effective workforce.
Watch Adam in action on the Springboard Facebook page and read our SENDing you the news article which celebrates the success of Adam's achievements.
Our outstanding supported internship programme is driven by the aspirations and life chances for our young people with SEND . It is a highly cost-effective route to real employment outcomes for young people and therefore consequently referenced in our plans to manage our resources effectively.