Students and staff from LifeBridge ASEND
Sarah Morrison

Member Article

Bolton SEND Charity and Business Community Bridge Gap to Employment

LifeBridge ASEND has praised a Bolton business community for creating a unique ‘real world’ environment for its young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to prosper.

The specialist provision, established by Rumworth Special School, has helped more than 30 young people, between the ages of 19 to 25, gain enriched independence, education, vocational opportunities and employment.

The success has been attributed to LifeBridge’s individual curriculum for students and strategic location. Uniquely based in a thriving business community within St George’s House in central Bolton instead of a traditional educational institute, the young people have prospered from everyday challenges and gained essential life skills.

The average employment rate for individuals with a moderate to severe learning disability is 7%, in comparison to the overall employment rate of 75%.

Dee Luczka, head of post 19 provision at LifeBridge, said: “In a professional working environment with more than 20 commercial enterprises the young people have been introduced to new challenges; lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom.”

“We are strategically breaking down the barriers to independence for our students by bridging the gap from education to employment and social care.”

“It’s not just a traditional school, it is a workplace environment - the real world. We are surrounded by a range of employers in a professional setting so the students are learning how to adapt their behaviour to different situations, gain essential life skills and interact with people. Other tenants within the building and especially the cafe, gallery and reception staff have been incredible.”

“Being in a business community we are also raising awareness and educating employers about SEND and the benefits our young people could make to their organisations. Our employment engagement team is continually creating new relationships with businesses and coordinating with our job coaches, which work hand-in-hand with the students and parents to explore vocational opportunities.”

The small institute, which is a charity and business, had 21 students enrolled in its first year and now has 37. It provides each student with an individual curriculum to focus on their special requirements with tutors plus a job coach to explore work placements and employment.

St George’s House, on St George’s Road, was built in 1908 and reopened in 2012 following a major restoration scheme.

The beautiful, restored historic building, which is owned by North-West commercial property firm Python Properties, is very popular and normally operates at near full capacity. In addition to original features like the grand staircase and ornate plasterwork, it benefits from an art gallery, bistro, conference facilities, business centre and custom-built office space ranging in size.

Partner of the commercial property firm, Peter Broome, said: “We are incredibly proud of the work LifeBridge does and also the support they receive from the business community within the building. It really is an example of best practice, a community assisting those less fortunate than themselves. The provision’s unique vision to empower its students is ground-breaking and should be celebrated and we think rolled out as a model.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sarah Morrison .

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