WorkFit launch partnership with DEFRA in Yorkshire

WorkFit works with organisations of all sizes who want to employ a member of staff with Down’s syndrome.

With larger organisations we are happy to work in a partnership – where we work with an employer to place multiple candidates at more than one location across the country.

We are delighted to announce the launch of our latest partnership – with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

This exciting development has come about through our partnership with the Environment Agency (EA). The EA has provided permanent paid work opportunities to people with Down’s syndrome in all four National Laboratory Service laboratories, including their lab in Yorkshire. The EA have also supported WorkFit with fundraising, promotional appearances and conference speeches.

DEFRA works with the Environment Agency. DEFRA was so impressed by the results of the EA’s partnership with WorkFit that they decided to register with us in 2017.

Our candidate Emily is the first to get a job at a DEFRA location and has a paid, fixed term position their office in South Yorkshire. We are currently working with DEFRA at other sites, including Nottinghamshire and Bristol.

Emily is employed as a Facilities Assistant. She’s written us a blog about her job where you can read more about her role. Her responsibilities continue to increase as she becomes more confident. Emily’s job with DEFRA means real career progression for Emily who had previously done work experience at a Primary School and a Library.

Before any WorkFit candidate begins in a new role, one of our Employment Development Officers (EDOs) will deliver a free Down’s syndrome awareness training session to their team. Yorkshire and Humber EDO Cat Rolley, who has been working with Emily, found the DEFRA team keen to learn.

They have taken on board the key messages of the training to help Emily make her new job a success. These simple actions have included:

  • Giving Emily a timetable of her key tasks.
  • Labelling drawers around the office with pictures.
  • Giving Emily a 4 hour working day.

Emily has developed strong working relationships with her colleagues who enjoy working with her. One of Emily’s team mates, Louise, says:

“It is a real privilege to know and work with Emily. Emily has a very happy, positive attitude in life and this shines through in everything she does. Emily amazes me every time I see her at how quick she picks up tasks and does not need showing twice. Her willingness to succeed no matter what obstacles are sent her way is just inspiring. Myself and Emily can laugh and chat about almost anything and I can guarantee every week she has a funny story to tell me. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Emily and watching her succeed in her career”.

Emily enjoys her job and the chance to meet new people. She told us:

“I’ve been at DEFRA for 5 weeks now and I really enjoy it. I have my own desk and a walkie-talkie so I can ask for help. My favourite jobs are in the post room and working on reception doing train tickets and booking rooms. In my team there is Andy, Louise, Jamie, Frazier, Dave and Brenda. They make me laugh and make me feel welcome and when I need help I can ask all of them. I would like to carry on working here in my future”.

Emily’s manager Andy told us:

First of all I’d like to say what a privilege it is to work alongside Emily, she is a wonderfully enthusiastic young lady with an infectious love for life and an unquestionably positive attitude to everything she does. She has integrated into office life with ease, and relishes the opportunity to learn. She performs more and more tasks that are introduced to her. Emily is very adaptable, and can turn her hand to a multitude of tasks; such as postal services, room bookings, data recording, site communicational needs, and more. Her influence on the Defra Facilities Team here has been amazing. Through working with Emily, I and the rest of the team have naturally become closer, and the general team ethic has strengthened. Further to this her presence at the office has had a positive effect on the wider office population, and has also reinforced the Facilities Teams relationship with its customers. The team and I feel very lucky to have Emily on the team. We look forward to seeing her progress in her career here at Defra”.

WorkFit EDO Cat was instrumental in the partnership with DEFRA and in Emily securing her position. She told us:

“The whole Facilities Team has been an absolute delight to work with. They are friendly, approachable and professional. They are fantastic role models for Emily. Their approach to training Emily has been well thought through, creative and the whole team has contributed. Emily is thriving in her new role as a result of her new team’s training and guidance”

We are grateful to DEFRA for their ongoing support for WorkFit and are pleased to be extending our experience of working with the science sector. We hope other science sector organisations will be inspired by the Environment Agency and DEFRA and will consider working with us as well.

We would also welcome any new employers in the Yorkshire and Humber region who can see the benefit of employing a person with Down’s syndrome and would like WorkFit’s support.

WorkFit North is possible due to the Big Lottery Fund.

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

For more information visit the Work Fit website