Routes Into Work

This page provides information about options for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to help them move into paid employment.

If  your young person has SEND, is it realistic to think about paid work? Absolutely. With the right opportunities, preparation and support, nearly all young people with SEND can move into employment. It can give financial independence, friends, and it’s good for physical and mental health. That means that all young people with SEND, and the adults who support them – including parents, teachers and tutors – need to know what choices are available. They should be thinking about the best way to prepare for paid work, based on young people’s career hopes and qualifications.

What does the law say about staying in education? The law says that all young people must be in education or training until at least their 18th birthday. This might be:

  • full time education in a study programme for young people over 16 (including a supported internship)
  • volunteering or a paid job, with part-time study
  • a traineeship
  • an apprenticeship

How do I find out what’s available in my local area? Every local authority must

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publish a ‘Local Offer’ – Click here. Local Offers should contain information about supporting young people to move into work.

What things mean on this page.

Job Coach The role of a job coach is to support young people to enable them to find and learn from work placements and to make a positive progression into paid employment, even if they need high levels of support. Effective job coaching means being creative and flexible so that the person being supported gets just the right amount of support to learn the job well. Job coaches are able to recognise when and how to provide support, and when to increase, decrease or remove it.

Functional Skills Functional Skills English and maths qualifications are an alternative to English and maths GCSE. They provide the essential knowledge, skills and understanding for individuals to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and work. An example might be: understanding how to tell the time (maths) or understanding how to read and follow a recipe or instructions for cooking (maths and English).

Training Provider These include further education colleges and independent training providers and can be in the private or voluntary sector. Some training organisations will subcontract with other organisations to provide some (or all) of their training.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Identifying the right apprenticeship and recruiting an apprentice
  • Developing a training plan that reflects the apprentice’s needs
  • Reviewing and providing feedback on the progress of an apprentice
  • Provide training to support the apprentice with off-the-job learning and the knowledge elements of the programme

Reasonable Adjustments If your young person has a disability, employers have a duty to change their procedures and remove the barriers faced because of their disability so they can work and apply for jobs in the same way as someone who is not disabled.

The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Employer responsibilities can include:

  • changing the way things are done in the workplace
  • making physical changes to the office premises
  • providing extra aids or support

An example might be: somewhere for someone to stretch and rest if they have physical difficulties, or a work plan in sign or pictorial form for someone who struggles with reading.

Access to Work From 1st September 2013 young people who start a work placement with an employer as part of a supported internship or traineeship will be eligible to apply for Access to Work support for the work placement only.

Access to Work will fund:

  • extra travel
  • job coach
  • costs of equipment, if appropriate
  • extra support to help the smooth transition into paid employment

Study Programmes

All education for 16-19-year olds is delivered as a ‘study programme’, which brings together the help that young people need to get a job and live independently. Study programmes include qualifications, work experience, and life skills. Having good English and maths skills is really important to employers, so young people who haven’t achieved a GCSE grade C or 4 in these subjects continue to study English and maths as part of their study programme – either as a GCSE, Functional Skills or in another way that is suitable and stretching for the young person. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing a qualification in English or maths.

Young people can generally access free full-time education from ages 16 to 18 (finishing by age 19), or up to age 25 if they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

All study programmes must have a ‘core aim’, or focus, which should reflect what the young person wants to do when they leave school or college. This can be:

  • a vocational qualification such as a BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council qualification) or NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) to prepare for work
  • work experience, which can be used to gain vocational qualifications by demonstrating work-based skills
  • an academic qualification like A levels

Supported internships and traineeships are types of study programme that have work experience as their core aim. An apprenticeship is a job that includes training.


Supported internships

Supported internships are a type of study programme that helps young people aged between 16 and 24 to get a job. What makes them different is that young people do most of their learning at work, ‘on the job’. A supported internship could be the right choice if you know you learn best by ‘doing’ (known as a ‘place and train’ approach) and where they need more time or support than would be available through a traineeship or apprenticeship. Previous work experience outside of school or college is also really important.

Young people and their employers will get the help they need to learn from a job coach, who will support them until they both feel confident that the young person can do the job by themselves. The supported internship will last at least six months and young people won’t get paid, but they should be ready to move into a paid job at the end because of the skills and experience they have gained. All supported internships should be personalised to the needs of the young person, and flexible so that they meet the needs of the young person and the employer.

The most important requirement for a supported internship is that the young person wants to work.

What qualifications do I need to do a supported internship? None. Commitment, motivation and enthusiasm to work are the most important things. If young people don’t have a grade C or 4 at GCSE or a Level 2 Functional Skills in English and / or maths, they will continue studying English and maths at a suitable and stretching level while they do their supported internship. They may also study for other qualifications that will help them move into work (see page 3 for information on studying for qualifications that are important to employers)

Do they need a statement of SEN or EHC plan to do a supported internship? Yes. Please speak to their tutor or SEN contact at their local authority if they think this is an option for them.

Where do I find out more about supported internships?:

Follow this link: uk/downloads/supported-internships/fact-sheet-supportedinternships.htm 


Traineeships are for young people who want to work, but who need extra help and support. They offer young people training and work experience to give them the skills and confidence to get a job or apprenticeship, alongside support to improve their maths and English. They last between six weeks and six months.

The three main parts of a traineeships are:

  • a work placement
  • work preparation training
  • English and maths where the student is still to achieve GCSEs at grade C or 4, or the Functional Skills equivalent

Colleges, training providers and employers can bring these three things together in the best way to support each young person.

What qualifications do they need to do a traineeship? Young people need to be aged between 16 and 24, qualified below Level 3 (in other words, below A level) and with limited experience of work. A traineeship could be for they if they are motivated to work, and likely to be ready to start paid work within six months, or need extra support before they move onto an apprenticeship.

Do they need a statement of SEN or EHC plan to do a traineeship? No. As long as they meet the requirements above, they can take part, including if they have a statement of SEN or EHC plan. Young people with SEND can access additional support if they need it, including support from a job coach.

Where do I find out more about Traineeships?: As well as looking at your Local Offer, you can follow this weblink:

You can also contact your local college or training provider to see if they are offering traineeship opportunities


Apprenticeships combine training in a job with study. Depending on the level, Apprenticeships take 1 to 5 years to complete. Apprentices will:

  • work alongside experienced staff
  • gain job-specific skills
  • earn a wage and get holiday pay
  • get time for study related to their role (usually one day a week)

Apprenticeships are available at different levels, from level 2 to level 7. As the levels get higher, the apprenticeships become more advanced. For example, a level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeship is equivalent to GCSE level, and levels 6 and 7 are equivalent to a degree.

Young people can apply for apprenticeships while they are still in school, or when they are in college. To start one they will need to be:

  • 16 or over by the end of the summer holidays
  • Living in England
  • Not in full-time education

What qualifications does a young person need to do an apprenticeship? Applying for an apprenticeship is a competitive process. Apprenticeships are jobs, so employers decide who they are going to employ, and what the entry requirements should be.  For example, some employers may ask that the young person has GCSEs including English and maths at certain grades. But as a general rule, apprenticeships should be open to everyone over the age of 16.

There are, however, English and maths ‘exit requirements’ for apprenticeships set by the Government (qualifications they must achieve to complete your apprenticeship). These vary according to the level of apprenticeship but as a minimum they will be:

  • Level 2 – an English and maths qualification of at least level 1 (Functional Skills Level 1 or GCSE grade E or 2) they must also study for a level 2 qualification in English and maths and take the tests, before taking the end-point assessment or achieving an apprenticeship framework
  • Level 3 or above – level 2 Functional Skills or GCSE qualifications grade A* to C (or 9 to 4) in English and maths before taking the end-point assessment or achieving an apprenticeship framework

If a young person has an EHC plan or statement, or had one in the past, there may be flexibility around the English and maths qualifications they would need to complete their apprenticeship. Please speak to their employer or training provider for more information.

As with any other job, an applicant can request extra support known as ‘reasonable adjustments’ for help with the application process and for support on the apprenticeship itself (both at work and while studying).  Young people should speak to their tutors or careers advisers at school or college if they have SEND, and think they should have reasonable adjustments.

Does a young person need a statement of SEN or EHC plan to do an Apprenticeship? No – apprenticeships are open to everyone aged over 16 living in England not in full-time education.

What support is available for apprentices with additional needs? The Government provides extra funding to support apprentices with SEND. Payments of £1000 each are available for training providers and employers with apprentices aged 16-18, or 19-24 who have an EHC plan or were previously in care.

Training providers can also claim learning support of up to £150 per month (up to £1,800 per year) from the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) to support reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act for an apprentice’s additional costs, and excess learning support up to £19,000.

Access to Work funding is also available to support apprentices in the workplace (see below).

And as mentioned above, if a young person has, or previously had, an EHC plan or statement, there may be flexibility around the English and maths qualifications they would need to complete their apprenticeship.

Where do I find out more about Apprenticeships?: You can find out more about apprenticeships on

This includes a link to the Find an Apprenticeship Service, where apprenticeship vacancies are listed and can be applied for. Where an employer is Disability Confident, the logo will display on their vacancies in the service:

Support for individuals and employers

Access to Work is a fund provided by the Department for Work and Pensions for help at work that isn’t covered by an employer making reasonable adjustments. The support offered is based on a person’s needs.  An Access to Work grant can pay for:

  • special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help do things like answer the phone or go to meetings
  • help getting to and from work

The money doesn’t have to be paid back and won’t affect other benefits.