“It has enriched our business in the most profound way”- Izzy goes from strength to strength at Hope and Story

WorkFit is delighted to have been working with fashion brand & retailer Hope + Story for over a year.

John, our WorkFit Local Support Network (LSN) Lead in South Manchester, made the initial contact with Susanna who is the Managing Director at Hope + Story. He introduced Susanna to the Employment Development Officer (North) and we’re thrilled to report that the introduction and following discussions have certainly born fruit. This is just one of the WorkFit success stories that South Manchester WorkFit LSN has been a part of.

Susanna established Hope + Story with the aim of “fashion for good”. It uses fashion as a platform to showcase the incredible talents of young adults living with physical and learning disabilities, and she was keen to offer an employment opportunity to one of our candidates.

In June 2016, Hope + Story ran a fashion experience workshop for a small group of WorkFit candidates, including Izzy. The candidates were given the opportunity to have a go at styling, modelling and photography, and Susanna was so impressed by Izzy that she was keen to offer her a work experience placement.

Before Izzy’s placement began the team at Hope + Story were given Down’s syndrome awareness training. This gave them a greater understanding of the condition, including the facts and myths about Down’s syndrome, how to ensure good communication, supporting the learning profile of someone with Down’s syndrome and maximising the strengths of their new employee.

Feedback from the training was very positive, with comments such asthe training has had a profound impact. I was excited before and now I am very much looking forward to getting started”

Izzy started work as a Retail Assistant at Hope + Story in August 2016. She deals with new stock coming in (inspecting, labelling, ironing, photographing), dispatches purchased clothing (printing orders, wrapping and dispatching), talks to clients and suppliers and is involved in events.

After the initial 12 week work experience placement Izzy was offered permanent paid work, which she was delighted to accept.

Izzy has had fantastic support from her colleagues at Hope + Story, who have been enthusiastic and committed to supporting the WorkFit programme. The team have provided a wonderful opportunity for her to learn new skills and have varied workplace experiences.

Izzy’s role has grown and expanded over the last 12 months. She has successfully designed her own clothing line (Cruella 102, modelled by Izzy, right) and has taken part in a number of fashion events, including being part of the launch of the Manchester International Festival. This involved walking up and down a 100 metre catwalk across Piccadilly Gardens to an audience of thousands of people watching both there and via BBC live streaming. Izzy also took part in a photo shoot with a local photographer and the results were breathtaking. 

Izzy greatly enjoys working in the fashion industry and Susanna and the team value and respect her contribution and creativity.  Izzy tells us that: I love my job here. I like everything, especially wrapping clothes to send to customers.  I went to the Manchester International Festival – Susanna nominated me to be there and I was on the catwalk in front of lots of people so that I could tell my story.”

Izzy at her fashion shoot

Susanna is a big advocate of offering opportunities to young people with learning disabilities.  She told us that having Izzy in her organisation has made her keen to let other employers know what an enlightening and enriching experience they have enjoyed. She also believes that there are significant benefits to any organisation in tapping into this motivated and committed talent pool. She says that:

Susanna and Izzy

“We should be looking at amazing and talented people like Izzy, not past them. We should be an industry that embraces diversity and all levels of abilities. Assumptions and pre-conceived ideas should just be put to one side. I understand that some employers may have feelings of apprehension and fear, as I did, however, such passionate, loyal and committed individuals will contribute to your business and its culture in a way that you can’t imagine. People tell me how great it is, what we’re doing for Izzy. I disagree with them. I tell them how lucky we are that she chose us as her employer. It has enriched our business in the most profound way and created an impact with those who work with us.  My fears were born of ignorance, and clearly now I know different.” – Susanna Hancock 

Susanna has gone on to become a Disability Confident Leader and is a strong voice in the local community in support of adults with Down’s syndrome and other conditions.

In working together with Hope + Story we have been able to support WorkFit’s goals and objectives in securing meaningful work opportunities as part of our over-arching objective of helping people with Down’s syndrome to live full and rewarding lives. We thank Hope + Story for their support and hope that others will be inspired by Izzy and Susanna.

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