Creating a WORLD of Difference


Empowering Abilities: Learning Disabilities and Autism in the Workplace

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Gabby Ellmers, CEO of Beresford Street Kitchen, discusses the value of inclusivity in business, particularly for individuals with learning disabilities and autistic people. and how the narrative is shifting from focusing on the barriers to employment for people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people, to recognising the unique abilities and perspectives they can bring to the workplace.

Untapped Potential

People with learning disabilities and/or autistic people bring substantial skills to the business environment, such as problem-solving abilities, customer service skills, attention to detail, and a strong focus on specific interests. When businesses learn to harness these abilities, they can achieve remarkable outcomes, enhancing creativity, productivity, and employee morale.

A Success Story: Embracing diversity in the Workplace

The pursuit of an inclusive society is an endeavour that many local employers are embracing.

People with learning disabilities and/or autistic people are motivated to work, can work in a wide variety of roles and in the right job, and with the right support, make extremely valued and valuable employees. They have been shown to have a lower absence rate than non-disabled employees and will stay in a job longer. Customers feel more favourable towards companies who employ people with disabilities, and there are also benefits to other staff members as it reduces misconceptions and boosts moral.

Beresford Street Kitchen (BSK), a charity providing education, training, and employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities and/or autistic people , is dedicated to promoting the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workforce, both for the individuals and the community.

BSK has built on its employer and community relationships over the last two years and grown a network of partners who provide work experience for BSK crew members who are nearing the end of their journey with BSK and preparing to move into open employment.

One such partner is Jersey Pearl, a local, family-run business, who for the last thirty-seven years, has been involved in island life, building local relationships, and supporting charities. The relationship between BSK and Jersey Pearl has grown stronger over the past year with one of the BSK crew joining the Jersey Pearl Café on work experience last summer, with support from the BSK team, before being offered and moving into a permanent role in September.

Jersey Pearl manager Paul Melia said: “Jen who joined the team last year is a perfect example of the great work BSK is doing to encourage diversity in our community and workplace, she’s been a real asset to our team.”

Director Julia Williams added: “Beresford Street Kitchen is a truly inspiring social enterprise whose work is invaluable to the Island. We are delighted to be a part of their campaign and helping make a real difference to Jersey’s community.”

Tailored Recruitment and Onboarding

To further broaden crew opportunities, BSK have also collaborated with Skills Jersey in a series of workshops about the different work sectors in Jersey, attending field trips to visit various workplaces across the island and running Jersey’s first ever Project Trident for adults with learning disabilities and/or autistic people which saw 24 BSK crew members undertake two-week work experience placements last year.

There are often misconceptions about working with people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people.

Mencap’s 2022 ‘Big Learning Disability Survey’ found that only 26.7% of working age adults with a learning disability known to adult social services in England were currently in paid work, whilst 86% of people with learning disabilities who are not in work would like a paid job. By not addressing these misconceptions, Jersey employers are missing out on an untapped workforce of talented people who will add value to their organisations.

Collaborations such as this empower individuals with diverse abilities to experience the world of work and allow employers to see first-hand their abilities and skills. It serves as a model for other businesses and organisations to embrace inclusive practices and create a more inclusive workforce.

It also demonstrates that empowering individuals with diverse abilities benefits not just the individuals themselves, but also the businesses and the community at large. By providing opportunities and nurturing the talents of all members of society, Jersey can harness the full potential of its diverse workforce and foster an environment of respect, understanding, and collaboration.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

Examples often extend beyond hiring, with significant emphasis on creating a supportive work environment.

Adjustments such as flexible work schedules, quiet spaces, and clear, structured communication protocols are implemented. These changes ensure that employees can work effectively, contributing their best to the team while feeling valued and understood, emphasising an organisation’s commitment to its employees’ success and wellbeing. Adjustments cost very little and often nothing but can have a massive impact.

The Impact of Inclusion

Inclusion also leads to a more innovative, resilient, and adaptable workforce. The unique perspectives and problem-solving abilities of a diverse workforce results in creative solutions and improvements to processes, driving a company’s success. Furthermore, an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion will bolster its reputation, attracting top talent and customers who value social responsibility.

Celebrating National Careers Week

National Careers Week serves as an ideal backdrop to highlight these success stories, encouraging more businesses to recognise the benefits of a diverse workforce.

It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of individuals with learning disabilities and/or autistic people and to acknowledge the companies that are leading the way in creating inclusive workplaces.

Embracing diversity not only enhances the lives of individuals who often face barriers to employment but also enriches the organisations that employ them. As businesses continue to recognise the value of every employee’s unique abilities, they build a more inclusive, innovative, and successful future. Everyone benefits.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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