Call for more support to help workers with special needs find jobs in South Tyneside

Town hall chiefs have called for more support to help “bridge the gap” for vulnerable adults moving from education into work.

Like other local authorities, South Tyneside Council is required to provide education for all young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) up to the age of 25.

But while a range of services are available in the borough, concerns have been raised about the level of support on offer once this provision ends.

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Cllr Lynne Proudlock, who represents the Simonside and Rekendyke ward, said she has a disabled family member who eventually found a volunteering opportunity – but only because of the support of parents.

South Tyneside Council has been urged to do more for workers with special needs.

“[Her college] said it’s your responsibility, you’re her parents, you find her something to do, it’s an absolute disgrace,” she told last week’s (October 5) meeting of the council’s Education and Skills Panel.

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“Her parents fought like mad to get her into a mainstream school […] but if they hadn’t been competent parents, she would have just sat in the house all day.

“It’s wrong, they need help to try and find something for these young adults to do.”

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Cllr Lynne Proudlock

Cllr Liz McHugh said work was needed to help “bridge the gap” for vulnerable adults.

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She told the committee: “I think we should have a council officer or a team that can actually help this transition into adulthood because they’re not supported enough”.

Council education bosses said provision for adults with SEND was linked to a “wider system response”.

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This includes careers guidance, helping learners understand routes to employment and employers actively helping adults find “meaningful employment”.

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Beverley Scanlon, the council’s head of learning and early help, said: “That area of transition [post-25] is one that we’re trying to address now through a 0-25 team and the work that children’s services and adult social care are doing together around those key transition ages.

“But the statutory responsibility around education and training provision does end at 25.

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“In terms of beyond that, there are some challenges around employment especially for employees with learning difficulties and disabilities and that we’re trying to address.”

Cllr Best suggested South Tyneside could follow in the footsteps of another local authority by working with employers to create job opportunities, as well as “wrap-around support”, such as work coaches to help adults to settle into work roles or find alternative opportunities.

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Cllr Best added: “I know that’s time, money and people intensive.

“But if it makes the difference between us not losing a person who is of value to our community and has something to contribute, then perhaps we could [look into it]”.

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Council officers insisted it was a priority ensure young people can access skills training and employment opportunities.

However, members of the Education and Skills Panel asked for the issue to be looked at in more depth and for a follow-up report to be prepared.

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Cllr Proudlock added: “A lot of people don’t know about this and think the young people will get something.

“But I don’t think many people realise that there’s nothing after they have left college - something definitely needs to be done”.