Celebrating the Success of WorkFit Yorkshire and Humberside

On 12 October parents, candidates, employers and professionals gathered at Camphill Wakefield Community College for a showcase of WorkFit in Yorkshire and Humberside. This marked Employment Development Officer’s (EDO) Cat Rolley’s first year in her position.

Cat opened the event by sharing the background to the WorkFit programme and what makes it unique. She also outlined some of the challenges that candidates have to overcome, such as travelling to jobs and finding out what jobs are available.

Finally, she announced the launch of WorkFit’s new Employment Project Volunteer role, which will be piloted in the North of England. Employment Project Volunteers will raise the profile of WorkFit with their professional contacts and networks in order to source new employers for the project. The role is an ongoing one and we would welcome enquiries from anyone who is interested in finding out more. Please call 0333 12 12 300 to find out more.

The first guest presentation was delivered by The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) where WorkFit candidate Emily has worked as a Facilities Assistant since April 2018. She has a range of duties including re-stocking fridges, opening internal post, checking first aid supplies, room booking approvals, printing train tickets, franking outgoing mail and reception duties

Emily started with DEFRA on a work trial basis and, having made such a good impression, was then offered a paid, permanent position. Emily’s manager Andy was very honest about the nerves and low expectations he experienced before Emily joined his team. He went onto say that Emily has brought huge benefits to her team and that he was keen for Emily to have a role with real meaning and purpose, and not just be employed as an “act of charity”.

The second presentation was by XPO Logistics who operate a large distribution centre in Barnsley. WorkFit candidate Sam has worked for the company since July 2018 as a Distribution Operative on a paid, permanent basis.

General Manager Keith explained why he was keen to get involved – his daughter has Down’s syndrome. After having done a lot of fundraising for the DSA (including running the London Marathon) he decided to approach the HR department at XPO about taking on a WorkFit candidate. He believed a person with Down’s syndrome could add real value to the company. They said yes “without hesitation”.

Keith described how Sam is conscientious and hardworking and brings real benefits to the organisation and to his colleagues, who have benefitted from the free training provided by WorkFit. Tim, the XPO training manager, spoke next and talked about the reasonable adjustments that had been put in place to allow Sam to succeed.

Finally we heard from Sam and his parents, Tony and Elaine, through a video presentation they had made in advance.

We then heard from South Manchester WorkFit Liaison Officer John Henry. He outlined the work he does to support candidates and employers in the area, including a social bowling event. John emphasised how important the partnership work is that he does with Fran, the North West EDO. John and Cat went on to highlight the importance of the Employment Project volunteer role to WorkFit’s continued success in Yorkshire and Humberside.

John was followed Susan Handley who is co-chair of the Leeds Learning Disability Partnership Board, and Mandy from Café Leap who spoke about what has inspired her throughout her career.

The final presentation before lunch was delivered by Andrew Hedge from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). He gave a presentation about the Access to Work programme, explaining what support is available to both employees and employers from the scheme. There is up to £57,000 available through Access to Work for individuals wishing to access job coach support or transport to work.

Everyone who spoke at the conference was extremely inspiring and we want to offer our heartfelt thanks to all our guest speakers.

If any employers would like more information about working with WorkFit please phone – 0333 12 12 300 or Click here to register.

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 dsworkfit@downs-syndrome.org.uk

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