BASE Conference 2017

On the 8 and 9 November, WorkFit attended the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE) Annual Conference at the Jury’s Inn Waterfront Hotel in Brighton. We delivered a presentation on employer collaboration and enjoyed valuable networking opportunities.

The WorkFit team with our stand

We hosted an exhibition stand in the Hotel Atrium on both days of the conference to showcase WorkFit and network with other delegates. Information packs were provided and we were able to offer advice about the availability of WorkFit across England and Wales. Thank you to everyone who visited the stand.

A highlight of the conference was the BASE Awards dinner. The Awards recognise the remarkable work that goes on across the country to help people with disabilities secure work and develop their careers. Brown’s Hairdressing Group, a WorkFit employer, triumphed in the Best Employer Practice category.

Brown’s with their award

Brown’s Hairdressing Group is a chain of six family run salons in the South East of England with a strong commitment to diversity. In 2012, they hired Prem in their Buckingham branch as a salon assistant for two days a week. Prem has very limited communication skills and required significant workplace support. Brown’s have given Prem the support he needs to flourish and have since recruited four other WorkFit candidates.

Brown’s have demonstrated strong values and practice and deserved their Award for Best Employer Practice. We congratulate them on their success and look forward to continuing our relationship in the future.

Our presentation on the second day of the conference focused on the central role that collaborating with employers has played in the success of WorkFit since 2011. We discussed how employers are keen to hire people with Down’s syndrome but can face barriers in doing so. WorkFit provides employers the necessary support to take the next step, collaborating with them so they feel confident about employing someone with Down’s syndrome.

We were delighted that three representatives from the Environment Agency were able to join us to give a candidate and employer perspective on WorkFit. Hamza is a permanent, paid employee at the Environment Agency’s National Laboratory Service. He told the audience about his role and the valuable experience he has gained. He also spoke of the pride he and his family felt about being respected and valued for the job he does.

Wendy, Hamza’s designated work buddy, discussed the importance of the buddy system in integrating Hamza into the team. She explained that once Hamza was trained, he was able to become a full and productive staff member who adds value to the organisation. She said that employing Hamza has had a positive influence on everyone at the NLS.

Hamza, Frances and Wendy

Frances, Hamza’s team leader, spoke about the short and long term goals for Hamza and concurred with Wendy on the importance of the buddy system. She also spoke of the pride that the Environment Agency has in Hamza for being the first person with Down’s syndrome to be registered as an affiliated Member of the Institute of Science & Technology. He is also undertaking a bespoke Laboratory Assistant qualification.

Throughout the conference, we had the chance to hear a range of interesting speeches and workshops. A highlight was: ‘The business case for employers for employing people with a learning disability’ by Dr Steve Beyer from Cardiff University. Dr Beyer has supported our work in Wales and his key messages were that people with learning disabilities have a high level of commitment to their jobs and stay in jobs longer than those without learning disabilities.

All the WorkFit team who attended enjoyed the conference. Our profile was raised significantly and we were able to share our best practice in how we work with employers to support them in being confident and prepared to recruit someone with Down’s syndrome. All of the presentations were inspirational and thought-provoking. The networking opportunities the conference offered were also incredibly valuable. Our thanks go to BASE for organising the event and to the Jury’s Inn Waterfront for hosting.

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

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