A GROUNDBREAKING project helping people with learning disabilities find jobs through work experience has won an award for its work in Bradford.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is “absolutely thrilled” with the recognition for its Project SEARCH.

The scheme scooped the award for Best Practice in Employment of Disabled People in new awards set up by Bradford and District Disabled People’s Forum, supported by Sovereign Healthcare and Easier Access.

Lorraine Cameron, head of equality and diversity, and Ruth Reid, HR manager, picked up the award at this year’s ‘Easier Access – people can make a difference’ event, which was held in Bradford’s City Park.

Ms Cameron said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that the Trust has won this award.

“One of the biggest barriers to employment is the recruitment process which disadvantages people with learning difficulties.

“If faced with an interview against other non-disabled candidates, people with learning difficulties are much less likely to get the job.

“We won this award because we have changed our recruitment practices to make it fairer for our interns to get paid employment with us when the programme finishes.

“That’s why Project SEARCH makes such a difference to these young people’s life chances as it supports them to move towards paid employment, and boosts their confidence so they realise they can do a job as well as anyone else.”

Over the course of an academic year, interns on the programme, now in its fifth year, complete more than 900 hours of work experience in conjunction with an Employability Skills qualification.

During the process, they are supported by job coaches and tutors.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals has, to date, employed eight Project SEARCH graduates.

This number is set to increase over the coming months, the Trust revealed.

The project is a partnership, run jointly by Southfield School, Hft - a national charity which supports adults with learning disabilities, the University of Bradford and Bradford Council.

Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to over 200 sites across the US and Canada, England, Scotland, and Australia.