The closure of any business always has a profound effect on the workforce. But the impact on the hundreds of people with learning difficulties who worked at the recently closed Remploy factory units across the UK has created deeper concerns. Mencap, one of the charities that are delivering the Department of Works & Pensions’ Work Choice Programme to place previous Remploy workers into full and part time jobs, is appealing to companies in the region to follow the example of the Haskins Garden Centre at West End Southampton.
Michael White, 50 from Southampton, lost his job of 29 years when the Southampton Remploy factory closed in September 2012, but was fortunate to gain employment at the garden centre’s 500-seat restaurant with the catering team. Haskins general manager Matt Hill said that with the on-going support which is offered by Mencap, and thanks to lead co-ordinator Debbie Figg, employers should be positive about employing people with disabilities.
“Michael is on the same terms and conditions as the rest of our catering team and that includes the pay, working hours and our expectations. Debbie plays an important role as her frequent visits ensure that Michael has very specific and on-going support and encouragement. Considering Michael’s previous employment was never working with the public, he already offers great customer service which is appreciated by our regular restaurant customers.”
Debbie Figg said that in Hampshire there are many people with learning difficulties and other disabilities who would benefit from either gaining work experience or the opportunity to find full or part time employment like Michael: “Disabled people do not want special treatment, just the same opportunities as everyone else to work and contribute to society. As Matt and his team have shown, with just a few reasonable adjustments Michael is a confident and valued member of the team”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Work Choice Programme through Mencap can visit www.mencap.org.uk.