A scheme helping people with learning difficulties into work is proving a success for pupils working at hospitals in Bradford.

Project SEARCH is an initiative which started in Connecticut in the mid-1990s and has spread across the world.

Employment rates for people with learning difficulties is 7.7 per cent, but Project SEARCH has a 70 per cent employment rate.

Thirteen interns started working at the Trust in September, doing jobs such as serving in the canteen, cleaning and packaging meals for patients, and 12 are still in place, learning news skills and developing positive attitudes to work.

The Trust is providing up to 37 placements and mentors and a training room for students in their final year at Southfield School in Little Horton, which obtained the franchise for the scheme.

Project SEARCH is also supported by national charity Hft, Bradford Travel Training and Bradford Council, which is funding a job coach for the first year.

“It’s a model that absolutely works,” said Lorraine Cameron, head of equality and diversity at the Trust, which was the first organisation in the north of England to join the scheme.

She said the students were helped to use public transport on their own, which was often a barrier to them finding employment, and had received high praise from staff working with them “I’m delighted that for seven of these interns it’s the first time they’ve travelled independently,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get them to think of themselves as employees, and reducing term-time holidays, to give them a better idea of what it would be like to be full-time employed.

“We absolutely have to make sure that the interns aren’t a drain on the hospital and add value. It’s absolutely critical that we do that because we want these people to get jobs.”

One of the interns has made such an impact that her supervisor said she was capable of doing the job full time and another had to be given extra responsibility because he had made such an impact.

The scheme will run for a second year.