17th Oct, 2014

The minimum wage…

We fully believe that all employees are worth the minimum wage, and that all people who wish to work should be supported to do so. A disability, impairment or health condition should never be a reason for not giving a person the same rights as someone who is not disabled. Every day we see staff providing value to businesses with their wide range of personal experiences, skills, personalities and ambitions. Suggestions that disabled people are worth less than the minimum wage are destructive to the movement to improve the presumption of employability of disabled people that so many people and organisations tackle throughout the world. ~J

Mark Appleton, a 25 year old Stock and Administration Supervisor, is a trusted and motivated employee working for Vision Office in Garforth, Leeds.

However, a year ago it was a completely different story. Mark had been unemployed for over a year, and was struggling with anxiety and depression.

Friday 10th October is World Mental Health day. One in four people in the UK every year will experience a mental health issue which can include conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Mark is telling his story to raise awareness of the vital role work had to play in his recovery to mental wellbeing.

“I had anxiety and depression; I found it particularly hard to deal with certain social situations and felt uncomfortable in crowded public places. This also made it difficult for me to travel on public transport. As a result I had been unemployed for more than a year.”

Mark was then referred to Pluss, a local Social Enterprise who has helped over 200 disabled people into work across Leeds.

“I received one-to-one support from Pluss who helped me identify where my skills were put to best use. Through one of their employer contacts, it was agreed that I would do a two week work trial. I was slightly worried about having to travel on public transport but Pluss supported me to use the train for the first couple of times. I felt good that people believed in me and that I could get support if needed. This helped me to grow in confidence and eventually be able to begin using public transport on my own.

“After the work trial, I was taken on to a paid Traineeship at Vision Office and initially started in the warehouse organising stock and helping with deliveries. Again this slowly helped me decrease my anxiety as I had to go to new and different locations, and interact with customers all over the West Yorkshire area.

“Now I have been taken on permanently by Vision Office, which is a very supportive and understanding employer. They have helped me through my NVQ in Customer Service and have also utilised my IT skills. I am now helping Richard to streamline his business and make the invoicing and delivery procedures more efficient.

“It is good to be working again. My job has helped me become a lot more social and get into a routine which helps with my mental health. It is great to feel part of a team, and it has helped me overcome a lot of my personal issues and get on with life again.”

“I feel that I am a valued part of Vision Office and it’s good to know that Richard has faith that my CRM skills can help his company to increase productivity and improve customer satisfaction.

“I would now like to broaden my experience with Vision Office so I can hopefully manage the warehouse and delivery section all by myself.

Richard Lucas, Owner / Director at Vision Office, is just as delighted with his new employee.

“When I was looking to expand my business I got in touch with Pluss who helped me work out what I needed from a staff member. Gary brought Mark for a meeting and I could tell he had a lot of potential, so I agreed to start him on a Traineeship.

“Mark is now a trusted member of the team and I have seen a huge improvement since our first meeting, both professionally and socially.

“He is now a key holder of the business and can be trusted to understand and run just about all aspects of customer service. He can deal with a customer from first point of contact right through to the final sale and invoice for payment.

“I am also beginning to see the reward of Mark’s other abilities such as his IT skills. He is currently helping me to streamline the process for payments which frees me up to go out and gain additional business for the company.”

Being in work is proven to be beneficial for mental wellbeing as it improves activity, social interaction and offers a sense of identity. Yet in Leeds only 11.2% of people with enduring mental health conditions are in work.

Robin Boness, 60, lives in Torquay and works as a Security Officer for Frontline Total Security Ltd.

Robin is diabetic and was referred to Pluss to help him through a very difficult period of depression due to long-term unemployment.

Robin is an unassuming and down to earth gentleman who talks with great honesty about his journey into work.

Robin’s Words

“I do building security, along with client and customer safety. At the moment I am guarding an empty grade 2 listed building. I patrol the building, secure windows and doors, check security of the building and make sure no one can get in. Every hour we do a patrol.

“I love every second of my job and I am so happy to be working. I get treated with respect by Lee and John; treated like a human being. I even got a phone call on Christmas day to say thank you. I have never had that before. I get on really well with all the night-workers too. They’re great, all really nice people. I try my best and it’s nice to hear that I’m hitting the mark.

“I was unemployed for five years and I was an electrician for 30 years previously. Because of my age I could no longer work at the same speed and I got made redundant.

“I felt so low when I was unemployed. I couldn’t see a future. By the time I got this job I had applied for 547 jobs which resulted in only one interview. At the time every advert said you must have a car. It got the point where I thought this is how it’s going to be – I’ll go stir crazy. I think I became introverted and snappy. I hated the world and myself. This is why I was referred to Pluss, because I was so low.

“Pluss were a tremendous help and gave top dollar support. I did an employability course with Debbie, and she lights up a room. They helped me get my refresher Security Industry Authority (SIA) badge. They helped fund my suit, shirt and tie for interview.

“Pluss drove me to interview and I was terrified. I was so close to getting a job I could taste it. I thought if I don’t get the job where do I go now? I couldn’t believe it when I actually got the job. Pluss then helped me with a hire car until I had a couple of months’ wages and could buy my own car.

“I still feel over the moon now. Your image of yourself improves once you are working, though I still suffer from unemployment lag. I have got so many things to replace like my oven and hob which don’t work properly – I am trying to get back to where I was five years ago.

“Now I’ve completely turned my life around. I love doing the job. It’s a responsible job where you use your head and there are prospects too. It’s not just the money, although that’s great as we all need money, but I’ve actually got someone to talk to. For five years, apart from signing on, I didn’t speak to people. Now I have got the balance just right.”

Lee Williams, Operations Director, Frontline Total Security Ltd

“It is 100% important in our line of work to get the right person. We have just been awarded the prestigious SIA ‘Approved Contractor’ status and this means we have to have top dollar employees. Our reputation is so important. We need people who are trustworthy with great customer service, well-presented and good time-keeping. Robin is all of these things.

“Robin is extremely smart, well mannered and has a good sense of humour. He is calm, respectful and has good judgement. He always turns up on time and is good with customers. Robin knows how to speak to people with respect.

“The job has very long hours mainly during evenings and weekends. You have to be self-motivated to do patrol and not fall asleep. This is not a problem for Robin as he is ex-military which gives him an excellent grounding.

“We now have 11 employees through Pluss across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. Pluss know the sort of people we are looking for and only give us people that will suit. They pre-screen them for us and only put people forward who actually want to work in the industry. They listen to us as an employer and do whatever it takes. The aftercare is really good too. If we have any issues we phone and get them involved. Having that third party just makes dealing with any issues easier. All I want is for my staff to feel happy in their work.

“We are very busy so ultimately if we have people, like Robin, who really want to work that makes such a difference to us as a business. It saves us time and effort. Pluss knows what we are looking for and this means we don’t waste our or their time. We have an excellent relationship. We do and have recommended Pluss to other employers.”

Debbie is a Semi-Skilled Sewing Machinist working at Pluss’ upholstery Factory at Marsh Barton in Exeter. We are currently looking for two more Semi-Skilled Operatives for 21 hours a week to join Debbie.
Here is what Debbie has to say about her job:
“I most enjoy the difference, the diversity here; nothing is the same every day.
“You have to be creative, use your brain, your hands and you have to think. It’s not one of those 9-5 jobs where you just pop in and sit there and go home.
“You need to be good at hand sewing, have patience and always ask if you don’t know anything.
“It’s like an extended family at Pluss. They are caring; very caring. My colleagues are very pleasant – anything I don’t know; I always ask.
“If you’re are thinking of working here, I would say go for it.”

Do you have experience with using a sewing machine? Perhaps you’re a dedicated hobby-crafter, or maybe you’ve made clothes for yourself?

Debbie is a Sewing Machinist at a Pluss factory in ExeterHave you considered using your skills to take you to the next level?

Pluss is a vibrant social enterprise that is looking to recruit some more semi-skilled sewing machinists to join one of our teams in Exeter which specialises in re-upholstery and manufacturing products for the NHS.

The job will entail carrying out a wide variety of sewing machinist tasks, with some bespoke work for customers, and working from drawings to produce quality finished products.

We’re looking for people who have some experience but are also willing to learn new skills if needed, we can give training and offer our new starters a buddy to help them.

Pluss’ is an equal opportunities employer that is committed to supporting people with disadvantages to achieve a career through the use of reasonable adjustments, including job shares.

If you can meet the physical requirements of being a machinist (with adjustments if necessary) we would love to hear from you.

Visit www.latestvacancies.com/pluss to apply online.

If you experience any problems please contact the Pluss HR team on 01392 224441, or email hr@pluss.org.uk

Job Title:                    Semi – Skilled Operative x2

Hours:                        21 hours per week (per post)

Salary:                        Spot Salary £14,182 pro rata for part time

Location:                    Exeter

Start date:                  ASAP

This post is subject to a Basic Disclosure Check.

Find out more by visiting www.latestvacancies.com/pluss
17th Sep, 2014

Paul’s story

Paul Witcombe, 46, is a Kitchen Porter at The Olive Mill near Bridgwater. Paul is a friendly, hard-working man with a brilliant sense of humour. The atmosphere in the kitchen is fantastic and Paul obviously has a great relationship with his colleagues. Paul has a physical disability and short-term memory loss due to a car accident.

Paul’s Words

“My job is washing up, cleaning pots and pans. I like being back at work. They are nice people, very friendly and I get on well with everyone. We went ten-pin bowling recently and it’s the first time I’ve been out on a work do.

“I had a car crash in November 1988, exactly a month before Christmas. I was serving as a chef in the army at the time. I had been into town and was on my way back to camp in Kent to pick up my clothes to go home for the weekend.

“It was life changing. I was 20 at the time and I thought I’d be set for a career in the army but I spent my 21st birthday in hospital. I spent the next couple of years in a special unit for people who were too sick to go home and I was medically discharged from the army.

“I have a very bad tremor down my left hand side and this means I struggle holding things with two hands. I have to do things one-handed. I also have short-term memory problems. I have to keep to a set routine and I can get lost if I am in strange places. When I was on holiday in Tenerife, I was mugged and I got completely lost. I went missing for a day as I didn’t know how to find my way back.

“I worked previously at a canteen within a cellophane factory but when it closed I lost my job. Then I worked for motorway services but was made redundant. After this I was out of work for quite a while and it was very boring, especially in winter.

“I started here originally on a Pluss Traineeship in July. After the traineeship, they decided to keep me on and I had two coffees to celebrate! I was glad to be getting some holiday vouchers [Paul’s term for wages]!

“It’s really nice, just being back in work. I feel I am getting out and doing something; not stuck in the house all of the time. Going to work gives me a goal, something to look forward to. It has made me a lot more comfortable financially. I am saving my holiday vouchers to go to Florida in September. Now I can have a 99 flake on holiday and not just the ice cream!

“Pluss have been very good. I would never have found the job without them. They have helped with everything. All my qualifications were out of date as I did them in the army in the late 1980’s. Pluss helped me to do basic food hygiene, they helped me prepare for applications and interviews, and to meet with employers.

“I am very happy to hear Mark, my boss, say I am doing well.”

Mark Rodosthenous’ words, Owner, The Olive Mill

“Paul’s role as Kitchen Porter is the backbone of the operation. It’s very important and it’s got to be to a good standard. He has been with us for eight months and is punctual and reliable. He has got a good relationship with the other team members and always has something to say. He gives respect and vice versa. Basically, he works very hard, is positive and puts in a really good effort – that’s why he’s here.

“Pluss contacted me and explained about Paul. To be honest, we were a little unsure at first but they had real confidence in him and I thought everyone deserves a chance. They introduced me and we had a trial to see if he could do the job. We moved the kitchen around a bit to make it easier for him to remember where things go, so he could do it all himself.

“After the first month he became more confident but Pluss would still visit to check everything was ok. Now it’s the summer season and we are a lot busier but Paul keeps up, no worries. I say to the others in the kitchen, if they have just an ounce of what Paul has got, then we’ll be ok! He gives 100% and we couldn’t do without him – It just shows, we all need a chance, all of us!

“It can be hard to get staff, especially people who want to work and Paul wants to work! It makes him feel he is worth something. If he works extra hours one of the boys will give him a lift home. My team have seen how hard he works and how busy we are and that’s why he has rightfully gained their respect.”

Seven month contract – Self employed
Up to £20,000

Applications are invited from qualified teachers/trainers with an understanding of the needs of disabled people.

In addition to running structured training programmes to groups throughout the county of Gloucestershire, applicants will need to develop relationships with local employers and organisations such as Jobcentre Plus and Gloucestershire County Council. Will need to be very well organised with problem solving skills plus the ability to innovate and meet targets.

A DBS check will be required.

Timescale:
Deadline for submission: 18th August 2014 (Meeting 20th August tbc)
Decision: 25th August 2014
Contract to start: 1st September 2014

For details on how to apply please request this via email to Rachael Lathbury; Pluss Area Manager in Gloucestershire rachael.lathbury@pluss.org.uk

Or for an in informal discussion email your mobile number and best contact times to call you back on to rachael.lathbury@pluss.org.uk

Round 3 provision for the National Offender Management Service European Social Fund 2014-2020 programme – to help offenders move towards mainstream provision or into employment by addressing their barriers to work through facilitating access to comprehensive support mechanisms appropriate to their individual circumstance and assessed need.

NOMS has recently announced that they will tender to procure providers to deliver Round 3 provision for the National Offender Management Service European Social Fund 2014-2020 programme.

Pluss and our consortium partners, Prison Advice & Care Trust (PACT) and Alliance Living, will be tendering as a prime for the NOMS ESF contract in the South West of England. The consortium has wide ranging and proven experience of delivering all the activities and outcomes required to move offenders and ex-offenders towards and into employment.

The consortium would like to hear from a range of providers who are interested in working with us as part of our supply chain to deliver this programme:

We would particularly like to hear from providers who can demonstrate
• Proven record in supporting ex-offenders from specific disadvantaged groups (BAME, Young Offenders, Female Offenders etc) including end to end and/or specialist intervention provision
• Established infrastructure and presence within Gloucester, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Somerset
• Demonstrable and proven specialist experience in supporting offenders in overcoming barriers towards employment (Accommodation, Substance Misuse, Behavioural issues, Families, self Employment, Finance etc)
• Proven experience in innovative solutions that move those from disadvantaged groups into employment including Social Enterprise activities.

Please e-mail businessdevelopment@pluss.org.uk for an E.o.I. Form. Please head your e-mail ‘ESF NOMS r3 E.o.I’.

A group of people with disabilities have graduated from a brand new initiative designed to help jobseekers with a disability prepare for and find work.

CORMAC have been working with local Social Enterprise, Pluss, on the Skills for Work programme which offers individuals with a range of barriers to finding work the opportunity to gain skills from different areas of the CORMAC Company.

The project is named ‘CORMAC 6’ and offered selected individuals, a ten week placement to develop new skills, to increase their confidence and gain an accredited qualification along with an up-to-date work reference. CORMAC recognise that some people find it difficult to engage in work for a variety of reasons and there are extensive opportunities that CORMAC can offer to help support people back into work through this type of project.

On graduation day, the graduates were presented with their APT certificate in ‘Skills Towards Progression’ by Councillor Bert Biscoe, who said “It is great to see this fledgling partnership develop between CORMAC and Pluss, which gives people the opportunity to up-skill, build satisfying lives and ultimately makes them happy.”

Also at the graduation was Richard Taylor, Technical Services Manager and project lead at CORMAC. Richard said “Social responsibility is really important to CORMAC and it is great that we can work in partnership with Pluss to give opportunities to people who are finding it hard to get back into work. We hope that their time spent with us proves to be valuable in getting experience of new skills, working as part of a team, building confidence and developing communication skills.

It has been great for CORMAC to show how we can effectively break down some of the barriers found in the work place. We have placements from engineering to gardening and cleaning, so we can offer a diverse range of jobs”.

Adam Wills (pictured), 22, from Falmouth, has a learning disability and is one of the graduates. He told us “I had a couple of jobs previously but basically I fell out of work and had been unemployed since last November. I have been looking for jobs but you don’t get much response. You fill in forms but no-one comes back to you and it doesn’t feel good to be honest. Then Pluss helped me get this placement.

“Now I have worked as a gardener at CORMAC and it feels good. I travelled across Cornwall doing business and council gardens. I liked travelling around and am back in contact with several friends from school who also work here.

“It felt really good – just being back in work. I really hope that I will find employment now and I think it has been really helpful.”

CORMAC have an excellent quality workforce, delivering important front line services to keep the county of Cornwall safe, clean and green. There is inherent value in having a diverse workforce but it is sometimes difficult to create entry level operational roles for people to gain opportunities of work experience and gaining further skills. This project seeks to address these barriers. Out of the five successful individuals who completed the programme one has already secured work, one has continued to work with the CORMAC Parks and Gardens Team on a voluntary basis and another is gaining additional skills within CORMAC.

CORMAC are a wholly owned Company of Cornwall Council, and provide highway and environmental design and maintenance services, construction of major highway schemes, and facilities management services including property maintenance, cleaning and caretaking services. CORMAC also provides fleet management and maintenance, quarried stone and aggregates and laboratory services.

Cornish business, Frontline Total Security Ltd, were delighted to win a prestigious ‘Employer of the Year’ award at a Disability Confident event held last week at the Health and Wellbeing Centre in Treliske.

Hosted by local social enterprise Pluss, Disability Confident is a national campaign, launched by David Cameron in London a year ago. Disability Confident encourages employers to be positive about the skills that disabled people bring to business. Pluss is a national partner in the campaign and is working closely with the Minister for Disabled People to bring the campaign to local areas.

The event was opened by Sarah Newton MP, who presented Frontline with their trophy and a bottle of champagne.

Over 60 Cornish businesses also attended the event with speakers including CORMAC and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. The employers spoke about how employing a disabled person is one of the best decisions they have ever made; how it has helped transform their culture, their customer relations, their performance – and their bottom line!

On winning the ‘Employer of the Year’, Lee Williams, Operations Director at Frontline said “We are absolutely over the moon to be given this award. I do strongly believe that it is all about ability and not disability. At the end of the day, we just want good people who are keen to come into work.

“We now have 11 employees through Pluss as they know the sort of people we are looking for. We are a very busy company so they pre-screen all candidates and put people forward who actually want to work in the industry. This makes such a difference. If I need new staff, I pick up the phone to Pluss.”

Sarah Newton MP added “I was delighted to join today’s Disability Confident event and particularly to present Frontline with their award. It is businesses like this that are the backbone of our local community.

“It’s also fantastic to see so many other local businesses on board and hear the clear financial and social benefits to employers. In reality disabled people can be incredibly productive and loyal employees, who statistically take less time off sick and have fewer accidents at work than their non-disabled colleagues.”

Nearly 7 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition, yet there has historically been a large gap between the numbers of disabled people employed compared with non disabled people. Over 72% of the working age population are currently in work yet for someone with a learning disability living in Cornwall it is only 0.6%.

Many employers find that by encouraging applications from disabled people they are able to extend the pool of high quality applicants available to them. For an average business 20% of their customers are disabled people. A workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers it serves, and the community in which it is based, is good for business. On top of this, disabled people spend £80bn a year in the UK.

Frontline Total Security Ltd is one of the main security providers in Cornwall and across the South West. Their main area of operation is the supply of security guard services to large organisations and blue chip companies.

They have a flexible approach to their recruitment process; offering pre-application chats about working in the security industry, offering working interviews and work experience, providing a buddy to help with tasks such as completing time-sheets, and identifying suitable security jobs.

Pluss is a Social Enterprise that supports disabled people into work. They work with more than 500 employers across Cornwall, helping them to recruit and retain staff with a disability.

Businesses looking for free disability recruitment support can find out more at www.pluss.org.uk, www.facebook.com/plussinspires or on twitter @PlussInspires.

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 www.pluss.org.uk

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 www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/learning-disability-week

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