Careers development for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Positive and Possible - SEND employment support

Hundreds of young adults are overlooked for jobs because of a disability or autism despite being skilled and ready to work. We're raising awareness of the issue and helping teachers, parents and employers work together to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities to achieve their career goals.

Positive and Possible

Our aim

Our aim

We want every young person to feel inspired and prepared for the world of work. For children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) finding a job can pose unique demands and challenges. Research shows that the majority of young people with SEND are capable of getting paid employment, with the right preparation and support.

Despite the UK having record high levels of employment only 48 per cent of disabled people are in work and for people with a learning disability this drops to 6 per cent.

Work is underway nationally to make sure the Government’s career strategy meets the needs of SEND young people and how schools can be supported to design and deliver appropriate careers support.

We want young people with SEND to be excited about fulfilling their dreams of finding a job and employers to be aware of the rich pool of talent and skills available.
Chef with student

How to get involved

We've created and collated guidance and information for Students, Teachers, Employers, Parents and Carers. Go to the relevant section above to find the right information for you.

If you have ideas, can offer resources or share good practice please get in touch.




We believe that every student should have the opportunity to gain employment if they have the desire and drive to do so regardless of disability.

There is evidence that paid work is good for you and it will help you to have an independent a life as possible.

Your teachers, families and carers have an important role to play in helping you make informed choices about your future, offering support and guidance along the way.

Whilst you are still at school you should have the opportunity to go out into the community on work experience placements. Vocational profiling may help you find suitable work placements.

Here is a film from Oak Grove College in Worthing with students talking about their work experience.

From Year 7 onwards you should be thinking about what career you would like to look into and what skills and experience you might need.

Here are two case studies of students who are now working:

Michael, a student at Post-16 Unit has been doing his work experience placement at a clothes shop in Worthing. This has led to a part-time job for him working at weekends. Michael’s work experience included a range of tasks including working on the shop floor, stock room and bag packing. Michael says:

I really enjoyed my work especially meeting and interacting with customers. The new skills I have gained have increased my confidence and given me more independence, and inspired my friends to seek work. I love it!

An electrical engineering company in Worthing supports Joshua on work placement in their Assembly Department. Graham Smith, Parts Supervisor, said:            

“Having Joshua with us for his work experience placement has been good for us all. Joshua is a keen and motivated young man, his spirit is contagious and he has been a welcome addition to our team. He is happy to undertake any task that is given to him and keen to learn and perfect new skills. His positive attitude and friendly approach makes him a pleasure to have around. We all wish him the very best of luck in his bright future”.

Manor Green is a secondary school for pupils between the ages of 11 and 19 who experience a wide range of learning difficulties.

A top priority for the school is to make sure the students that are able to work are prepared for the job market.

Here are a few things to encourage you:

When choosing a school or college find out what help it will offer with your career:

  • Does the curriculum give you the knowledge and skills to help you to plan and manage your career?
  • Is there good careers information including options, skills, occupations, labour market information, pathway and progression routes.
  • Is there any impartial and expert careers advice and guidance offered?
  • Is there work related learning including experiences at school and outside of school to help you learn about the benefits of working and careers and enterprises?

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you have special educational needs and disabilities. You are able to ask for reasonable adjustments at all stages of recruitment and once in work.

There is funding called ‘Access to Work’ which helps you in work and training.

Make the most of the connections you already have, it’s often ‘Who you know’ who can help. Is there someone you know, maybe in the family or neighbours, who is connected to the career you are interested in? Can they offer you work experience; let you know when opportunities come up; check your CV; look through your Personal Statement; or talk to you about what the work is like?

Apprenticeships and Supported Internships are ways to work and train at the same time.

Go to ‘Your Space’ for further information.

Go to the Easy Read Access to Work information.



Teacher with a student at a computer

The Gatsby Foundation, The Careers & Enterprise Company and Disability Rights UK, along with other partners in the sector, are working together to develop further best practice and interpretation of the Gatsby Benchmarks to build on The Careers & Enterprise Company SEND toolkit.

We would like to highlight some areas of good practice in West Sussex and opportunities to support career’s development. Can you help celebrate the achievements of young people who are starting their working lives to help to inspire their peers?

How can you support the Campaign?

Inspiring Young People

  • We would like to collect stories about work experience of ex-students who are now in employment. This can inspire young people and their families to start thinking about the world of work as early as possible. This also helps to showcase the skills of young people to employers.

Sharing areas of good practice

We would like to share and celebrate the good practice with careers development in special schools. Please send us any good practice you would like to share.              

Our myth-busting quiz can help to raise awareness and look at some of the misconceptions. Use the quiz with staff teams and with families.

Where to go if you want more information:

Watch the film on Gatsby Benchmark SEND YouTube


Parents and Carers

Parents and Carers

We know that the greatest influence on young people when nurturing aspirations will always be from the people they are closest to. Having early conversations about careers is important and having good information at the right time is key.

Paid work is good for us all, it can give us financial independence, new friends and it’s good for our physical and mental health. We also know that sometimes myths can grow which are not helpful.

Child and woman

How can you support our campaign?

  • Can you do the Myth buster quiz and tell others about it?
  • What connections do you have? Think about your family, neighbours or employer and whether they could help. Do they want to get involved in the campaign?
  • Start the conversation about the world of work as early as possible both at home and at school. Beyond Words books might be helpful to start conversations.
  • Consider creative ways to help young people to overcome the barriers they may face to find work. Get in touch if you want to find out some of the things that are working well.
  • If your child has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) make sure this includes what type of work they want to do, an idea of where they would like to work and the steps to get there.

A good starting place is:

The Routes into Work Guide which provides information for SEND young people to help them to move into paid employment.

The West Sussex Local Offer which has local information and employment pathways.

Where to go if you want more information:

  • Wiki’s are simple, accessible, secure and easy to build personal websites. Could this help support a job application?
  • Is self-employment a more flexible option? If you are self-employed then you can still apply to Access to Work fund. Advisers are available at the Job Centre and also organisations including The Princes Trust.
  • National Citizen Service (NCS) Programmes take place outside of school/college hours and have been designed to develop skills that employer’s value. Young people with special educational needs and disabilities can take part up to the age of 25.
  • The West Sussex SEND Information, Advice and Support Service offers impartial information, advice and support to parents and carers of children who have special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Find it Out Centres – in your local area provide employment and training advice and support, including help with CVs, interview skills, employment /apprentice search.



The Challenge                

In the UK the current employment rate for disabled people is shockingly low and for people with a learning disability only 6 per cent are in employment with 60 per cent wishing to find work. This means that many employers in West Sussex are missing out on a rich pool of talent and skills of people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Solution

In West Sussex there is support for young people with special needs and disabilities through careers development in schools, supported employment provision when they leave education, college courses and community incentives. We all want to work in partnerships with employers to get the best results for young people and their employers.

Please get in touch so we can tell you more and explore how we can work with you. Let us know if you have any questions or ways you think we can help.

As a first step consider becoming a disability confident employer   

Why is this good for your business?

  • Evidence of reduced staff turnover and increased staff morale.
  • Evidence of reduced staff absence.
  • Accessibility helps everyone including paying customers.
  • There is an untapped pool of labour of local people.
  • It can improve your organisations reputation and image internally and externally.
  • Helps meet your corporate social responsibility objectives.
  • Helps attract the ‘purple pound’ £212 billion spending power of disabled people and their families.

What do employers who are getting involved say? 

Here are two case studies for West Sussex employers:

Lisa employed by Sainsbury’s.

Sam employed by MacDonald’s, Greenaway Residential Services and Crawley Rugby Club.

Where to go if you want more information:

The Government has written guidance for employers employing disabled people and people with health conditions.



Myth-busting quiz

Take our quiz and uncover the truth about supporting people with SEND reach their career goals.

Videos - real stories

Watch YouTube videos of people telling us their real stories.

Jordan's first paid job

Former Oak Grove College student Jordan talks to Davina McCall on ITV's This Time Next Year. Learn how his autism didn't hold him back from getting a paid job at a local leisure centre.

Students' work experiences

Several Oak Grove College students tell us what they learnt during their work experiences.

Work experience at a Sainsbury's Local

Lisa tells us about what it's like working in Sainsbury's Local in Haywards Heath.

Work experience at the Catering Academy

Samuel tells us about his WorkAid experience as a kitchen porter for the Catering Academy at Thomas Beckett Community College in Crawley.

Contact us

For more information and guidance get in touch with us.
And if you have inspiring stories about your own experiences please let us know - we'd love to hear from you.

Share this