Shaun Hobbs, Team Leader for Pluss’ mobility showrooms, has written this response after seeing the BBC1 programme ‘The Trouble with Mobility Scooters’.

“I have been in the mobility business for nine years now and some of my colleagues a lot longer; I was astonished on how some of the people were using the scooters on the programme.

“My name is Shaun Hobbs; I am the Team Leader for the Pluss’ mobility showrooms, who sell and hire scooters, power-chairs and all other types of aids to daily living. Pluss is a large Social Enterprise which supports people with disabilities into work and also employs people with disabilities in our factories, showrooms and services.

“The programme did make it look like just anyone can walk into a mobility showroom, purchase a scooter with no questions asked and ride off on it. We, as a company, are not like that.

“Pluss showrooms have fully trained assessors that follow a procedure even before the customer sits on the scooter. The first being if they have any medical problems that may restrict them from purchasing a scooter from us. If they tell us they suffer from any of the following, visual impairment, epilepsy or black outs, we advise them we can not sell them a scooter unless they can get a letter from their GP, saying they are ok to have one. We, as a company, put the customer’s Health & Safety, before anything else, even if it means we lose out on a sale.

“If a customer comes in and does not have any medical problems that would stop them purchasing a scooter, we explain to them about the vehicle and how it works, explaining fully how to use the controls, even down to the lights. The other things we advise them about is when they are out on the scooter, is that pedestrians have the right of way over scooter riders, also the importance of having insurance, even though it is not a current legal requirement.

“When we have explained all the above to the customer we then allow them to get on the scooter, where we let them switch it on and have a ride around the demonstration area explaining the controls. If they feel happy with the scooter and still wish to purchase we then advise that we like to arrange a home assessment so that we know it is going to be suitable for where they are going to be using it.

“When we do the home assessment we check where it is going to be stored and charged. Once all the storage and charging is ok we then take them out on the scooter, with our assessor walking alongside, completing an assessment form, making sure the user is ok with handling and manoeuvring it across roads and in and out of shops. If at the end of the assessment our assessor is not happy with something that may put the client at risk, they will be told. Our policy is that we will never sell a scooter to anybody unless we are fully satisfied that they can operate it safely.

“The thing I feel is giving high street mobility showrooms, and a lot of the users, a bad name is the companies on the internet that sell directly to the public at a very cheap price without even asking a single question. This should be looked into because as time goes on there will be a lot more people buying without proper assessment and advice, causing more injuries and possible deaths.

“I feel that everyone that purchases a mobility scooter, should be given a full assessment before they can purchase. Remember: you can’t drive a car until you have passed a test.”

Shaun Hobbs

Pluss Mobility Showrooms Team Leader

A group of young people with learning disabilities have graduated from a ground-breaking internship scheme based at Torbay Hospital.

Project SEARCH has had success all over the world and is being delivered in Torbay by South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, South Devon College and local social enterprise Pluss which provides specialist employment support services across South Devon for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

The programme runs over an academic year, during which time the students work towards a City and Guilds Diploma in Employability and Personal Development. The aim is to remove the significant barriers faced by people with a learning disability and to help the students find paid employment within the hospital or elsewhere in the community.

This year’s cohort of ten students, aged between 18 and 24, have worked in three placement rotations in different areas within the Trust including catering, postal services, portering, medical records and the Patient Access Centre.

During the past year, the interns have carried out tasks relevant to their placement, returning to the base room at the end of each day to assess how their day has gone as well as learning other communication, problem-solving and job-specific skills.

Already one of the graduates, Paul Mitchell, 22, has secured a position at the hospital as a Transfusion Practitioner Administration Assistant. Paul explains

I am responsible for safe practice of blood transfusions in the hospital – it’s a very technical and complicated role. This is my first ever permanent job. When I got offered the post I was a bit shocked and surprised. It’s good to pay my parents towards my housekeeping and mobile. 

“It has been a good experience to do Project SEARCH. It has helped me get paid work; it’s also been fun, I have gained new skills and made new friends. I really gave it all I could!

“I have a learning disability and this makes reading and writing hard, but since I have had this job I am getting much better. I am a very different person now; much more confident and I feel proud.”

The graduation ceremony was opened by Chairman of South Devon Healthcare Trust, Sir Richard Ibbotson, who said:  “I feel honoured to be here today to join in the students’ celebration.  This is the second year that Torbay Hospital has hosted Project SEARCH and I am proud to be part of something that is helping to get our local young people with a learning disability into paid employment.  Long may this fantastic scheme continue.”

Torbay Mayor, Gordon Oliver, presented the interns with their Certificates and said “I would like to congratulate all the interns and staff of the partner organisations who made the project such a success. The ten interns can all feel very proud of their achievements.”

Stephen Criddle, Principal at South Devon College, is delighted with the intern’s success, “The college is pleased to be part of the Project SEARCH model and how it is supporting our learners within their work placements and into paid work opportunities. This project has made a real difference to those engaged; their attitudes to work, how to be a good employee, and how to be a real asset within a working team environment”.

Plymouth Disability Confident Invite

This week is Learning Disability Week and Dan Panter is a shining example of how people with learning disabilities can make the kind of employee every business would want.

Dan, 33, from Plymouth, has a learning disability and is a gardener for Pixieland nurseries at their three sites in Stoke, Mannamead and Saltash. He is supported by local Social Enterprise, Pluss, who have helped over 500 people with disabilities and health conditions into work across Plymouth. This is his first ever job.

Dan’s manager, Leanne James, explains “Dan is really good at everything. It is really important to us as a business to have our grounds looking clean and tidy as it is the first thing you see when you visit. Our gardens have never looked so good; he is the best gardener we have ever had!

“He is lovely, yet he was really shy when he first came here. Each week he has become more confident and is now really coming out of his shell. He gets on brilliantly with his colleagues.

“He is also reliable with good time-keeping; in fact it can be difficult to get him to leave on time as he always wants to do the next job!”

Yet, Dan’s journey into paid work has not been an easy one. He has always loved being outside and had taken on many gardening placements in the hope of being given a break. However, despite his hard work and commitment, none of these openings resulted in paid work.

This is a common picture throughout the UK for people with a learning disability. Over 72% of the working age population are currently in work yet for someone with a learning disability living in Plymouth it is only 4.3%. This isn’t because they can’t or don’t want to work, but because the impact of their disabilities, and society’s attitudes towards those disabilities mean they must frequently overcome complex challenges if they are to achieve a career.

However, Dan was not to be defeated and continued to look for work, embracing new opportunities with enthusiasm and a smile on his face. When an opportunity arose at Pixieland, he completed a one day work trial and they immediately offered him the job.

Dan is now extremely happy and takes great pride in his job. “I clean the car park, tidy leaves, weed, brush up the sand from the sandpit when the children have been playing – sand, sand and more sand! I always have a look around and see what needs doing.

“This is my first paid job ever and I feel I have achieved. Having money is good. They have said that I am the best gardener they have ever had and I feel very happy when they say that to me.

“I always wanted to do gardening and am much happier now I am doing what I want to do. When I got my first wage slip I wanted to show everyone.”

Pluss helped Dan approach Pixieland and undergo the initial application and interview process. They now provide on-going support to Dan at Pixieland and have helped access funding towards a long term job-coach who helps him learn new tasks, and manage his workload and time effectively. The aim is to help Dan build up his confidence and initiative so he can take full ownership of the role.

Businesses looking for free disability recruitment support can find out more at

Learning Disability Week is a national campaign designed to raise awareness of learning disability across the UK. It’s important that people with a learning disability have the same opportunities as anyone else throughout every stage of their lives. This Learning Disability Week (June 16-22), celebrates people overcoming adversity (and people’s prejudice and ignorance) to experience their incredible firsts. To find out more visit

This week is Learning Disability Week and Barry Savill is a shining example of the real benefits that people with learning disabilities can bring to business.

Quiet, hard-working and diligent, Barry, from Exmouth, has a learning disability and is a Workshop Brake Liner at Devon Fleet Components in Exeter. He is supported by local Social Enterprise, Pluss, who have helped over 300 people with disabilities and health conditions into work across East Devon.

Barry’s manager, Bob Gamlin, explains “Barry looks after relining and his role is very specialist and important. We know his quality of work is always the best and that he’ll just get on with his job. He’s always been the first one here in the morning and he’s never been ill. Barry’s difference to the business is immeasurable.

“We’ve learned how to work with Barry and what processes work for him and, therefore, us. For instance it would really stress Barry to tell him there’s a rush, so we have certain ways of communicating with him for priorities.

“We’ve got a very good relationship with Pluss and they are always there to liaise with for support and handling things together.”

Barry is also extremely happy with his role, “I do enjoy my job, I like knowing I’m the best at it. I like having a set routine for the day and knowing what I’ve got to do.

“I’ve had a job for a long time. Having a job is important to me. I’m proud and happy to tell people I’ve got a job, my parents are happy for me too. I settled straight in here and learned the job easily.

“My job is to strip the lorry brake shoes, clean them and then paint them. I use the sand blaster first, and greasy ones have to be washed by hand. Once they’ve been painted I reline them and then they’re refitted onto lorries.

“I sometimes find it hard talking to people and getting used to new people. I don’t like surprises but I do like to try and help out everyone when I can. It didn’t take me long to settle in with the people here, they’re all really supportive.”

Businesses looking for free disability recruitment support can find out more at

Learning Disability Week is a national campaign designed to raise awareness of learning disability across the UK. It’s important that people with a learning disability have the same opportunities as anyone else throughout every stage of their lives. This Learning Disability Week (June 16-22), celebrates people overcoming adversity (and people’s prejudice and ignorance) to experience their incredible firsts. To find out more visit

Over 72% of the working age population are currently in work yet for someone with a learning disability living in Devon it is only 8.6%. This isn’t because they can’t or don’t want to work, but because the impact of their disabilities, and society’s attitudes towards those disabilities mean they must frequently overcome complex challenges if they are to achieve their ambition of a career.

The Pluss team with Esther McVey, Minister for EmploymentRepresentatives from Pluss went to London recently for the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) awards, sponsored by Shaw Trust.

Pluss was shortlisted for two awards: Disability Employment and Innovation. The photo on the left shows Pluss staff members with Esther McVey, the Minister for Employment.

The ERSA Employability Awards aim to celebrate and champion best practice from across the employment related services sector, highlighting the day to day hard work and dedication of individuals and organisations in the industry that are supporting jobseekers to find employment and often making a genuine difference in people’s lives.

Pluss won The Innovation Award, sponsored by PublicCo, for the development of the social franchise Future Clean; an innovative, social franchised, micro-enterprise providing training and employment in very public areas for people with complex disabilities who are traditionally seen as furthest from the labour market. Its expansion across the country, within 13 local authority areas to date, is the result of the unlikely public/private/third sector partnership between Pluss and other major welfare to work providers. Its eco-credentials and commercial effectiveness has won the approval of councils and the BPA.

Pluss also sponsored the award for Large Employer of the year, which was won by Greggs PLC. Gregg’s work inclusion programme compromises of three initiatives, developed in partnership with specific organisations to help promote the employability of people from very specific disadvantaged groups:
1. Ready to Work: Developed in conjunction with the prisons and probation trusts, this particular programme provides both offenders and ex-offenders with assessment and interview experience.
2. A Taste of Greggs: Developed in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, this programme offers both work experience placement and employment to young people.
3. Work Programme: Shaped for Greggs by various employment support providers, this programme helps to support the longer term unemployed through the provision of work experience and paid employment when possible.

Social Enterprise City LogoYesterday I was elected as a board member for the Plymouth Social Enterprise Network. This is a great opportunity for Pluss to really support the social enterprise movement in the city – one of the UK’s first Social Enterprise Cities.

Plymouth is a hot-spot for social enterprise activity in the UK and is developing as a global ‘social enterprise city’. We have one of the most active social enterprise networks in the country and Plymouth University is the world’s first officially certified ‘social enterprise’ university.

There are around 150 social enterprises in the city working in a wide range of sectors including in education, health, arts, environment, food, finance, housing, business support, sport, social care and many more.

Collectively these businesses employ around 7,000 people and bring in an income of over £500 million.

So, thanks to all the members for voting me in, and I look forward to learning more about the network and its members. ~Jayne

Bubbly, dedicated and a great sense of humour; these are just a few reasons that Napha Beer, a Room Attendant at the Future Inn in Plymouth, has recently been nominated as their ‘Employee of the Month’. Yet this is Napha’s first paid job in over seven years.

Napha has a learning disability and is profoundly deaf. She is supported by local Social Enterprise, Pluss, who have helped over 500 people with disabilities and health conditions into work across Plymouth.

Napha is unable to use the spoken word and communicates using gestures and pictures. She is from Thailand and doesn’t speak English; she uses an interpreter who communicates using both British and Thai Sign Language.

Yet despite these barriers, the determined Napha is a highly valued member of the team. She is hard-working and her rooms are immaculate.

Through her interpreter, Napha told us “I have not had paid work for years. I did do work experience in a Thai restaurant before but I wasn’t happy. The communication was very difficult. It was hard work and there was no pay.

“Then I had really good help from Pluss. It feels so good to be paid and I really like being sociable with the staff here.

“The bit I most enjoy about my job is making the beds; my beds are perfect. I really didn’t expect to be made ‘Employee of the Month’ but I was very happy when it happened.”

But it’s not only Napha who is pleased. Housekeeping Manager, Janet Chiswell, couldn’t be happier, “Napha came for a six week trial initially. Even in those early days on work experience, her work was to an excellent standard.

“As her six weeks were due to finish, we were looking to employ someone and Napha was the best and obvious choice. She had done so well and had really proved herself during her placement. We thought she would do even better as an employee – she was absolutely thrilled.

“I can’t stress how important it is for a hotel like Future Inn to get the presentation of the bedrooms right. It can take most people a very long time to get it right – Napha just has the ‘knack’. She is very proud of her work and extremely organised as well.

“As a person, Napha is great. She is always happy, smiling and continually making us laugh. It’s a hard job and Napha really helps keep team morale up. All colleagues and customers feel the same; even the guests tell me they think it is great that she is working here. As a result, Napha was recently awarded the ‘Employee of the Month’. I nominated Napha because of the standard of her work but people from other departments also nominated her.

“It has made a real difference to the business. She’s fun to be around and it’s great for other staff to see that we employ people from all backgrounds. Napha is actually really good at getting things across…although she does tease me about my attempts at sign language! It just wouldn’t be the same here without Napha around.”

Pluss team Plymouth Herald Social Enterprise of the Year winnersAt an awards ceremony in Plymouth last night Pluss was given the award for Social Enterprise of the Year. The awards, run by Plymouth Herald, recognised businesses from the city in 15 categories.

The Social Enterprise of the Year award was sponsored by Plymouth University, the other finalists for the award were Iridescent Ideas CIC and Stiltskin Arts and Theatre CIC.

Representatives from Plymouth Social Enterprise Network and Social Enterprise Mark were present at the evening and it was lovely to see other social enterprises nominated for categories other than that specially for the sector, refirming Plymouth’s status as a social enterprise city.

Congratulations to all at Pluss, especially to those staff working in and with the Plymouth teams, it’s great for Pluss to have been recognised for the work we’re doing and changes we’re making in the city and surrounding area.

Bradley Cox, 20 from Leeds in West Yorkshire is a Trainee Sports Coach at Aim Education in Leeds.

Aim Education is a new organisation that offers children of high school age an alternative path into education by providing active, individualised sessions for those who struggle with mainstream education.

Bradley has dyslexia.

Bradley’s words
“Working with children who can’t deal with mainstream education; everyday is different. We will try and put as much structure into each day as possible by planning sessions for each age group (11-16). The sessions can be doing things like written exercises where the kids are working towards a BTEC, or projects and also sports sessions where the kids are working on their fitness. The sports sessions are always fun, the kids love it. My duties are to coach the sessions that we run and also mentor the kids in the practical sessions so this could be helping with the written work or reading. It can be tough at times though but having a good team around me helps. It’s only a small team but we all get on really well. We will look out for each other and are always sharing ideas on how to make the sessions even better.

What I like the most about being here is that I really can relate to the kids. Being 20 I’m fresh out of education myself but mainly because I struggled in school due to my dyslexia so I understand what they’re going through. As the kids have got to know me they respect me more and I love knowing that I’ve helped them to not take the wrong path in life.

My dyslexia does affect me a lot. Especially with reading and writing, and it affects my concentration. It certainly did in school; I struggled with all the written side of things. I think the biggest thing it affects is my confidence though. As I’ve got older I’ve learned to accept it more, and try to ask for help when I need it. I still struggle with forms though, and even in the practical sessions with the kids; If there’s reading or writing that I have to do I do get nervous.

I’ve always been really sporty, especially rugby, which is why when I left school I went onto Leeds City College to do a Sport and Recreation Course; which I passed but rugby was my passion. I then went onto play rugby as an academy player with Leeds Rhinos and from there started as professional Rugby League player for Featherstone Rugby Club. I then got an injury which meant I couldn’t play professionally anymore and it was really hard but seemed a natural process to go into coaching kids. I started coaching with Leeds Rhino’s and Rugby Football league where I coached local primary school children. When this finished I did some work with a local market stall and tried to find something I wanted to do, but again it was hard because of the application forms and my dyslexia.

I was referred to Pluss by my local Jobcentre Plus and received support and courses to help me; confidence building, CV writing and one-to-one support from my advisor Michelle, who was great. It was good to have someone believe in me like Michelle and Pluss and so I started volunteering at Aim Education. My advisor contacted them and spoke to Carl about me starting there as a paid member of the team, and soon after I started on a Pluss Traineeship®. Being in work has changed things a lot for me. Getting paid is great of course, but I’ve become a lot more social and I like having a routine again.

I’m also doing a NVQ Level 3 in Personal Training that Aim Education are paying for and I’ve started taking my own coaching session which has all helped my confidence grow. I could never have done all this before the support from Pluss and Aim Education.

What next? Well, I want to keep going as I am. My Traineeship® with Pluss ends this month and I’ll be starting permanent employment with Aim Education. I plan to complete my Personal Training course and then hopefully go on to do an NVQ Learner Mentor course. I hope to stay with Aim Education, and I’d definitely recommend Pluss to others looking for work!

Carl Harrison; Head of Programme

Brad started with us by volunteering in the summer. I knew pretty much straight away that Brad was someone I wanted to invest my time and money in, but as we were a new business there just didn’t seem to be a way for us at Aim Education to take him on an employed basis. Then Brad’s advisor from Pluss got in touch with me about a Pluss Traineeship® and soon after he started.

Brad was initially going to do sports coaching, but it was evident straight away that the kids really looked up to him and Brad just had a way of getting the kids on board who weren’t really engaging with us.  Part of Brad’s job now is a learner mentor, where he supports the kids with both the practical and fitness designed training programmes too.

Brad’s a great role model for the kids, and that’s exactly the kind of person we wanted regardless of academic ability. Brad’s really sporty and that’s the kind of role model we wanted because the kids aren’t going to respect a degree. The fact that Brad had played a good standard of rugby, and is really into his sport and fitness I knew he’d be well respected and that’s exactly what we needed because of the kind of kids we work with. He’s really calm and relaxed and obviously, working with children and teenagers, they can be quite colourful with their choice of words as well as misbehaving but Brad remains calm throughout and can deal with difficult situations really well; its definitely a major strength of Brad’s. It’s the biggest reason I knew I wanted to invest time in developing him.

Brad gets on well with everyone here; the staff and the kids. We all have a shared goal and have a lot in common. We’re all doing this job for the same reasons; which is to help young adults with an alternative path into education, because school isn’t for everyone.

We’re almost to the end of the Pluss Traineeship® now. Pluss have been paying Brad’s wages whilst we train and develop Brad and show him all aspects of Aim Education. It’s really helped us to get off the ground too and because we were a new business I honestly don’t think we would be here today if it hadn’t have been for the support of Pluss. Pluss have been a great support to us and they keep in touch with us and support Brad with any problems he might be having and help to keep him motivated. We all work together to make sure Brad is getting the most out of the job.

I never really had any negative thoughts on people with disabilities. I’m happy to give anyone a go as long as they can do the job and there are a lot of people out there who couldn’t do it regardless of disability.

I don’t really notice Brad’s Dyslexia now but at first he avoided the practical sessions because he didn’t want to mess up. As time has gone on he’s become more confident and can understand that, actually, he’s a role model because of his dyslexia. We have kids who have the same issues that Brad had at school and, again, this is why he’s a role model to them.

I’d certainly recommend Pluss because they work with employers and offer opportunities to people who may not have the skills or confidence to do it themselves. The fact that Pluss approached me about Brad and his skills was great because I probably wouldn’t have looked past his CV before; he just doesn’t sell himself well enough, and it was a good eye opener to me. I’ll now look to meeting people face to face and not go off a piece of paper because I could have missed out on someone who is amazing.

We’re now looking into how we employ Brad with a possibility of an apprenticeship. Brad will be finishing his NVQ Level 3 Personal Trainer course and then onto the Learner Mentor Level 3 NVQ. Brad’s got a bright future ahead, and we couldn’t have done it all with out the help and support of Pluss!

The Grand Hotel in Torquay has taken part in a brand new initiative designed to help jobseekers with a disability prepare for and find work.

The ‘Skills for Work’ programme is run by local Social Enterprise, Pluss, and offers disabled people an eight week placement in a range of departments within the hotel. The aim is to help jobseekers develop new skills, increase their confidence and gain an accredited ‘Skills for Work’ qualification along with an up-to-date work reference.

Pluss, who have helped over 200 people with disabilities and health conditions into work in Torquay and South Devon, developed the scheme and approached the Grand Hotel to help run the first pilot. Six candidates were given an initial interview, with five being offered a placement and one securing paid work.

Sandra Morris, Regional Executive Head Housekeeper at The Grand, said “We were delighted when Pluss approached us to take part as we are great believers in helping people back into work and watching them develop. I think it’s superb that we have been able to give people this opportunity – you can see how it changes lives and that’s been the biggest kick for me.

“Everyone has worked phenomenally. They have been dedicated, hard working and it has been a great pleasure to see them become valued members of the team. All the trainees really wanted to be here and have given us so much back.

“It has also been great for us as a business to have people from different backgrounds, learning abilities and languages. Having a diverse workforce has really helped us to promote the team spirit and break down communication barriers.”

Sarah-Jane Hill is deaf and uses a British Sign Language interpreter to help her communicate. Sarah’s placement was as a Room Attendant in the Housekeeping team. Her placement was so successful that she has now been offered a paid job at the hotel. Sarah-Jane said “The first day I came here, I was a bit nervous. Kate, my mentor, helped show me how to make the beds and do the bathroom. I had to learn to do it quickly and to a very high standard. I was a little panicky about it at first but after two weeks I knew how to do it. It has been fantastic and I have really enjoyed working here.

“It has taught me different skills. I like to work hard and this has made me realise I can do it. I think this kind of work training is so important for deaf people – I have learnt now that I can do this for myself. Now I have helped myself to find paid work, and I feel very happy and good about myself.”

Sandra added “It’s extremely important that a hotel like this keeps its rooms to a very high standard and Sarah-Jane has done a brilliant job.”

The Grand Hotel also offered four other jobseekers placements in car valeting, housekeeping and in the kitchen. All the jobseekers undertook a final mock interview to measure their progress, and were presented with their qualifications and references at the end of their eight week placement.

Pictured in the photo (L – R) Sandra Morris (Grand Hotel), Debbie Cox (Pluss) and Sarah-Jane Hill (New Grand Hotel employee).


A multi-award winning project that supports young adults with Learning Disabilities to find and keep paid employment is looking to recruit further people to benefit from its services starting in September.

Project SEARCH is a partnership that provides real work experience based in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, where interns learn the skills that all employers need together with specific skills for individual jobs.

The scheme supports young adults, between 18 and 24, living in Plymouth with Learning Disabilities by providing a Level 1 academic course running alongside three internships within Derriford Hospital.

In its first three years, over 60% of the interns have gone on to achieve competitive paid employment. Project SEARCH graduate interns acknowledge that the project has boosted their work skills, personal confidence and given them greater independence.

Graduate Intern, Mathew Eady, who gained paid employment with SERCO as a refuse porter within the hospital said “My job means a lot to me as I am helping to keep the hospital clean and that is very important. I am earning my own wage, before I was on benefits and that makes me proud.”

Matthew talks about the longer term benefits that employment has to offer “I would like to get my own flat and I am more likely to get a mortgage now I have a paid job. Project SEARCH is definitely worth doing but it’s not always easy and there is a lot of work to do. I would say to anyone thinking of coming on Project SEARCH, do it as you are more likely to get a paid job.”

Serco Contract Manager, Nick Pugh said “We are proud to be part of Project SEARCH and have employed seven graduate interns and they are amongst our best employees, proving that people with learning disabilities make excellent workers when given the right support. We are looking forward to working with the new Project SEARCH cohort starting in September.”

It’s not only the Interns that gain from this innovative scheme as employers acquire trained staff who are fully committed to work. Derriford Hospital’s Human Resources Director, Hein Scheffer, says Projects SEARCH touches the lives of young people in a very positive way. He said “Derriford Hospital is proud to be an employer with a diverse workforce that reflects the surrounding population and being a partner in this project has reinforced our view that employers should focus on people’s abilities and not their limitations.

“We continually reappraise our recruitment processes to ensure the trust can consider and employ the right people, irrespective of their background, to continue providing excellent services to our patients. There are now ten Project SEARCH graduates working within the hospital and have all proven to be an asset to their departments with an outstanding commitment to work. Unfortunately we cannot provide employment to all the graduates and would recommend any business to consider employing a Project SEARCH intern.”

Project SEARCH is a partnership between Derriford Hospital NHS Trust, Pluss, Serco and City College Plymouth who work together to create employment opportunities for young adults living in Plymouth who have Learning Disabilities.
There is a wide range of opportunities to experience work in the hospital for the Interns who work Monday to Friday on an honorary contract.

City College Plymouth provides a Level one Diploma in Progression course using the workplace to provide situations to evidence their learning. Course tutor, Zenta Zuka-Hill is enthusiastic about the course saying “It’s fantastic to have an individualised opportunity that could lead to paid work and a whole new outlook on life. It is hard work but past interns and their families come back to say it was the best thing that has ever happened to them.”

Jackie Humphries, a parent of an intern who has just gained employment in the hospital pharmacy said: “Project SEARCH has been instrumental in him becoming so independent. Friends and family have really noticed a big change in him for the good. The confidence it has given him has benefited him so many ways.”

Project SEARCH are now recruiting for their fifth year and are holding a series of information events to enable potential interns to see if the project is right for them. The events will take place at 10.30 am and 1pm on Tuesday 22nd April at the Project SEARCH Base Room and 6pm on Wednesday 23rd April at City College Goschen Centre.

For further information or to book a place contact Pip Critten on 07771 967804 or 01752 439008


Up to 50 businesses from across North Devon met at Barnstaple Rugby Club last week to find out more about the business benefits and support available when it comes to employing disabled people.

Disability Confident is a national Government campaign, launched by David Cameron in London last year, which encourages employers to be positive about the skills that disabled people bring to business. The local event was organised by Pluss, a social enterprise that helps people with disabilities to find work and provides free support to businesses looking to gain a more diverse workforce.

North Devon MP, Nick Harvey, spoke at the event to show his support for the campaign locally. He said “As a nation we can’t afford to write off the talent of the millions of disabled people of working age in the UK who want to work. We need a durable solution to finding ways of supporting disabled people into mainstream employment. It’s clear from businesses we’ve heard speak tonight that organisations like Pluss and the Disability Confident campaign are key to this process.”

The event also heard from several Senior Managers from local businesses that are already making great progress in employing disabled people.

Sami Caglar, Managing Director at SFL Chimneys said “It is important to us as a business to be positive about people of all abilities because including these people in our selection pool helps us to find high calibre individuals that are committed. In our experience our employees have been very flexible, keen to learn more and want to work. They have been reliable and shown real potential for the future.

“We are delighted to be involved in this event as it helps to remove preconceived ideas and promote the abilities that so many disabled people have to offer; in turn we hope this will open up more opportunities.”

Graham Campbell, Operations Director at Atlas Packaging said “Everyone deserves a chance. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they have nothing to offer; on the contrary, in our experience, they have a determination and commitment that can make a massive difference in the workplace.

“We feel that events such as these will highlight the benefits and give potential employers the confidence that a disability doesn’t discount the individual.”

Martin Mogford, Operations Director at SWM Metals said “It is important to SWM to be positive about employing disabled people because there are millions of disabled people in the UK, which provides a rich pool of talented people, it therefore makes solid financial and business sense to actively recruit from this pool.

“It has also improved our corporate image since we are seen as ethical team builders who care about reputation, corporate social responsibility and the image we portray to the wider community.”

Attendees were able to explore effective strategies for recruitment and retention of disabled employees, share good practice and learn what works. To find out more about how your business can become disability confident, please contact Richard Morgan in the Barnstaple team on 01271 375402 or visit

1.   Pictured (L to R) Nick Harvey MP, Steve Hawkins (Pluss), Martin Mogford (SWM), Graham Campbell (Atlas Packaging) and Sami Caglar (SFL chimneys).

Edward Rawcliffe, 27, from Ashburton is a Horticultural Assistant at Dame Hannah Rogers Trust (Seal Hayne).

Edward is a hard working and incredibly likeable man. When you first meet Edward his personality shines through despite being a man of few words.

Edward has dyslexia and is on the autistic spectrum.

Edward Rawcliffe at flower bed

Edward’s words

“I came here on a traineeship and started to be paid by Hannah’s in December 2013. This is my first job with a proper working wage. Before that I had been a volunteer. My job involves planting seeds, sowing and watching the plants grow. I do label writing, weighing, picking and harvesting. We do salads and herbs to sell in our shop and restaurant. I also do construction work like the propagation bench and fences.

“I work with Emma and I also work with a volunteer. I get on well with them. Now I help the volunteer and that has made me feel more confident. My reading is better too. I learn about vegetables and write about them in my book. It feels good to be learning. I am more confident around other people now, less shy. I see people and go to clubs.

“Pluss gave me a lot of help to find this job. I always knew I wanted to do horticulture but it was difficult to find work. We went through different things like job club and looked for jobs online, and we found the job here.

“It feels great to be earning my wage and I have bought another motorbike.”

Emma Tame, Horticulture Facilitator, Dame Hannah Rogers Trust

“Ed is responsible for keeping plants healthy. He is really good at digging and sowing, and his weeding and tidying are spotless. He has very professional standards and his work always looks beautiful. He is incredibly conscientious and always willing to get on with whatever you ask him. He always gives the impression that he loves working. He is punctual and has never had a day off – he doesn’t ‘do’ illness! I can honestly say his garden wouldn’t be anything like the standard it is without Ed. He puts in a huge amount of quality work that I just couldn’t have done alone.

“Ed is a really lovely member of the team. It is a small team and he is core to it. He is very well liked on site and is also lovely with guests; polite and friendly. People genuinely like being around Ed – he has a really nice vibe about him. People also comment on what a great worker he is. If I am doing a session for guests with disabilities he now supports me in a practical way.

“Ed is also starting to direct our volunteer who has less experience. He wasn’t sure about doing this to begin with but his confidence has really grown. His progress has been excellent. His reading and writing have really improved too. It’s been wonderful to witness the progress he has made; to watch him grow in confidence and independence.

“Ed originally started with us as a volunteer. Following this Ed undertook the Pluss Traineeship® which meant Pluss funded the first six months. This made Ed’s post viable. Once he became a trainee, we formalised goals and targets; we continue with that now. It was good for Ed to prove that he was capable of fulfilling the role and I now have a very reliable, increasingly experienced Horticultural Assistant.

“It’s also been great to have Wendy from Pluss visit us regularly. It’s good to know that Ed has the support of Pluss behind him by proxy so that if any issues were to arise we could call them in – not that we need to because he is blooming brilliant!”

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