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Breaking barriers with West Lea’s Supported Internship Programme

Last year we partnered with West Lea to provide support and guidance to young individuals, with a Statement for Special Educational Needs or an Education and Health Care Plan, helping them gain confidence and valuable experience in professional environments. West Lea is committed to breaking down barriers for children and young adults with special educational needs, a mission we’re proud to support.

Through their Supported Internship Programme, West Lea provides individuals aged 16-24 with the opportunity to undertake an extended work placement with their partner organisations. These internships focus on enhancing participants’ work and life skills, as well as improving their proficiency in English and mathematics.

We take immense pride in our collaboration with West Lea, and it’s with great pleasure that we recently welcomed Mehrajul as an intern at our London office. In his role, Mehrajul provides invaluable administrative support to our team. Aged 21 and a native Bengali speaker, Mehrajul is also on the autism spectrum. Despite his capabilities, Mehrajul has struggled with low self-esteem, which has impacted his confidence levels. Expressing a keen interest in gaining experience in an office environment, he sought a placement that would help him feel more assured in meeting and interacting with colleagues, as well as navigating independent travel to work.

We recently caught up with Mehrajul to hear about his experience so far. He shared, “Churchill Group has been incredibly welcoming and accommodating. They have ensured the office environment suits me, and the team is always supportive.” Before Mehrajul joined us, we learned about his sensitivity to noisy environments. To ensure his comfort in our office, we adjusted the seating plan to minimise noise around him. Additionally, we made a point to introduce him to every team member so he could feel familiar with everyone, including any new faces.

Mehrajul is encouraged to take his lunch break away from his desk to promote inclusivity and improve his confidence in interacting with others—an aspect important to him. He mentioned, “Sometimes, I’m unsure how people will react when I approach them. I try to overcome this by engaging in conversations and making small talk.” He also shared how working alongside a particular colleague, Marvin, at the back of the office helped him overcome his difficulties with social interactions.

When asked about how his unique perspective contributes to his work and interactions, Mehrajul mentioned his efforts to use initiative but acknowledged times when he feels more uncomfortable seeking assistance. To support him, Mehrajul has two dedicated team members serving as his points of contact in the office for additional support or conversation. These individuals were also involved in his interview process, fostering a strong relationship from the outset.

Speaking with Mehrajul’s colleagues, they praised his growth since joining the office. “Initially, Mehrajul was reserved, and we didn’t know much about him. But over time, his confidence and initiative have flourished. He now asks about our weekends and interests outside of work, knowing us on a personal and professional level.”

Our partnership with West Lea underscores our commitment to fostering inclusivity and providing opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities. Through initiatives like the Supported Internship Programme, we can empower young adults like Mehrajul to overcome challenges, build confidence, and gain valuable skills that will benefit them in both their personal and professional lives. By working together with organisations like West Lea, we can create a more supportive and inclusive society where everyone has the chance to thrive and succeed.