Minister visits learning difficulties projects

Cabinet Office minister Kevin Brennan will this week meet students working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in a pioneering multi-agency programme that is giving young people with learning difficulties the skills to work.

City College Norwich, Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services, Remploy, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Serco, are all working together on a scheme called Project Search. The project involves eight young people who are given coaching and support in a real work setting by tutors from City College and Employment Advisors from Remploy.

The eight students are benefiting from internships at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), working with both the NHS Foundation Trust and Serco. The job roles the interns are doing include: HR admin, reception admin; post room porter, restaurant assistant, assistant ward housekeeper, audio-visual technician and health records assistant.

On Wednesday Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector, will be meeting some of the interns taking part in Project Search and the staff from the agencies who are delivering the project.

A conference is also being held at NNUH today (Tuesday 17th) with delegates from around the country coming to learn from the project. Project Search is a model developed in the US, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and the Norfolk project is already being regarded as an exemplar nationally.

NNUH health records manager Sarah Egleton said: “Sam has been working with my health records team and it's been a brilliant experience. Sam has been a real asset, he's been 100% focused on following our processes to the letter, and it is real pleasure to have him working with us.”

Dick Palmer, Principal of City College Norwich, said: “City College Norwich has been involved in a wide range of initiatives to support people with learning difficulties into employment. Project Search and Wholefood Planet represent two of the most exciting, innovative and creative projects to date. Both ventures show what can be achieved when partners work together to provide valuable employment opportunities built around the needs of those with learning difficulties.”

After the Project Search meeting Mr Brennan will be opening Wholefood Planet, a social firm and Community Interest Company. The project is the result of a partnership between Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services, City College Norwich and Social Firms UK.

The aim is to provide paid employment for people with learning difficulties, a group who have traditionally found it more difficult to find work. The business sells and packs whole, organic, fair-trade, and locally produced foods as well as environmentally friendly household products. Profits from the business will be re-invested to expand and support other enterprises.

Chris Mowle, cabinet member for Adult Social Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Wholefood Planet is a hugely worthwhile project. In an economic climate where employment should be cherished, it’s encouraging to see initiatives such as this one being supported.

“The work going on at Wholefood Planet and within Project Search is first class and I’m delighted Mr Brennan has taken such an interest.”

Wholefood Planet can be found at Yarefield Park, Oldhall Road, (near the Vauxhall Garage) off Hall Road, Norwich. Opening hours are between 9am and 5.30pm Monday to Saturday.

Members of the media are welcome to attend a 11:20 photocall at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, with the Minister and should report to the East Atrium, Level 1 reception desk.

Tuesday 17th of March 2009 08:00:38 AM