WorkFit and Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group prove how important it is to be heard and included

#MyVoiceMyCommunity

On Tuesday 28 February WorkFit, in partnership with the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group, held its first South West Regional conference. The event took place at the Village Hotel Swindon (a registered and trained employer of WorkFit). The day showcased the amazing successes that WorkFit candidates have achieved throughout the South West. The Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group have developed their own WorkFit Local Support Network which is helping local people to have their voices heard when making decisions about their lives.

Candidates were joined by employers, school representatives, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) representatives and other professionals from a range of providers.

Over the last 12 months, the Swindon WorkFit Liaison Officer and the South West WorkFit Employment Development Officer have  built up a network with local schools and colleges, engaged with local employers and gained valuable links with organisations that can provide further support for individuals entering work. Opportunities developed include paid jobs, volunteering roles, work experience, supported internships and traineeships.

Swindon WorkFit Liaison Officer says “It was such a pleasure to be part of the team who made the first South West Regional Conference happen. I was inspired by the guest speakers who gave their stories of how they were supported into work and the positive impact it has had on their lives.”

Stephanie, who works at the Village Hotel, gave the first candidate presentation. Supported by her mother, Stephanie gave an excellent talk about her personal journey into paid work as a Kitchen Assistant. Stephanie was proudly wearing her chef’s whites and was also part of the conference team helping the guests throughout the day.

Lorni presented about her paid job at Whitehall Garden Centre and what it means to her. Working in the restaurant she takes food to customers, completes the daily cleaning down routine and serves on the ice cream counter. Watch Lorni in action here https://youtu.be/lnz9TQf4fuA

Wiltshire Police Force

Superintendent Charlie Armstrong from Swindon Police Force attended the conference to demonstrate their full commitment to WorkFit.

Roy Perrett the Service Improvement & Development Manager and his colleague John Flynn, Head of Contact Management, spoke about the support they have received from the WorkFit team; the process, the bespoke training and how pleased they are with the outcome. They also spoke about further opportunities within the Wiltshire region and encouraged others to register.

Luke, who now has a paid job with Wiltshire Police, joined Roy on stage.  Luke explained how he completed his 6 month probation and was ultimately successful at the formal interview. Luke had also prepared a speech and thanked everyone for giving him the opportunity. Luke said I am really glad that I have got a paid job now because it means that I have my own money to spend which makes me more independent!”

Support from the National Laboratory Service (Environment Agency, EA)

James Trout, South West Laboratory manager, attended with team members Toby (a team leader), Kevin (a candidate buddy) and Tom (Laboratory Assistant). They all shared their individual experiences from their apprehension on the first day, their improved confidence after the work trial and their celebration after Tom gained his paid employment in the team.

James Trout gave a presentation on how the EA has fully embraced the WorkFit ethos. He has personally organised other placements across the country in Devon, Leeds, Nottingham and Reading. James is also working with the Institute of Science and Technology, working towards a bespoke laboratories qualification for people with Down’s syndrome. Tom was very pleased to be given the opportunity to speak on stage to a large audience and confidently told everyone how pleased he is to be paid for working (and he thanked his team several times over!)

Cailey Whitcher spoke on behalf of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group about their WorkFit opportunities.

 “That’s why we as a local Group are championing WorkFit. We want to see all our young people with Down’s syndrome be given the same opportunities as everyone else. And who better to share their experiences than Stephanie and Lorni, giving great talks about what they do in their jobs supported by WorkFit. We saw many of our members and their families in attendance at the event and we can’t wait to see where they will end up in their future careers.”

Danni Tomkins, Sixth Form Work Ready Lead, Crowdys Hill School Swindon said:

As we have three students who are currently being supported into work experience placements by WORKFIT, it was a pleasure to come together and see how well the service has worked for others. I came away with some new ideas about supporting our young people with the interview process in the form of an ‘all about me’ video, which I am hoping to use to engage with employers for some of my other students who have different needs. It was also a great opportunity for networking and putting faces to the names I have conversed with other the phone or by email.”

Kim West the Chair of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group said:

“It was amazing to see so many people attended the WorkFit Conference in Swindon. To see our young people stand up and present and feel so proud is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye.  Thank you so much to the regional team for supporting our young people into work and making their dreams come true.”

Many thanks to the Village Hotel Swindon for their hospitality and to the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group for organising such a great event.

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WorkFit supports people with Down’s syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives. For more information about WorkFit please contact the team on 0333 12 12 300 or email us on dsworkfit@downs-syndrome.org.uk

For more information visit the WorkFit website: www.dsworkfit.org.uk