Mark Tami, MP for Alun and Deeside, visited two supported employment initiatives and a day centre, run by national learning disability charity Hft, last Friday to learn about the varied work the charity carries out to support people with a learning disability within his constituency in Flintshire, Wales.
A thriving café in Deeside Enterprise Centre, Shotton, Caffi Dai is already familiar to the MP and his team as his office is in the same building. It was a great opportunity for him to chat with the employees at the café over lunch and to hear from Jordan Smith, Hft’s Head of Care and Support for the North, Victoria Hemmingway, Head of Public Affairs and Policy, and Erin O’Donnell, Supported Employment Advocate about Hft’s work in the constituency and further afield.
Erin is a graduate of Hft’s Project SEARCH programme which provides training, internships and finds employment for those with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Erin now works for Hft to highlight the benefits of providing supported employment to Project SEARCH participants to local businesses. She and her team provide ongoing support to employees and help employers in making reasonable adjustments for them.
Mark also visited Growing Places, an oasis of calm where adults with mental health conditions are able to learn new skills including growing vegetables and flowers, ground maintenance, woodwork and joinery. Mark then attended Hwb Cyfle in Queensferry, a busy day centre, and was joined by the current cohort of Project SEARCH interns, who had lots of questions for him about his role in the constituency and in Westminster. They asked him how he would suggest getting more companies employing adults with a learning disability and whether any employers in the area have the disability confident accreditation.
“I’ve had a fantastic afternoon learning more about the excellent work Hft is doing in our community,” said Mark. “Those with learning disabilities and mental health conditions make up a large proportion of the population and Hft is helping to ensure that they can take an active and fulfilling role in society just as everyone deserves. “The café employees and Project SEARCH interns were very impressive and had some excellent questions for me.”
People with a learning disability make up 2% of the population of North Wales – that’s 13,000 people. 65% have said that they would like to work with the right support, yet only 4.8% nationally are in paid employment.
Jordan Smith said: “With the right support, those with learning disabilities can make a really positive contribution to an organisation and I would urge local employers to contact us to discover more about working with us, or to check out our toolkit or video.”
Victoria Hemmingway, Head of Public Affairs and Policy at Hft added: “It was brilliant to meet with Mark on Friday and introduce all the work we do in his constituency to support adults with a learning disability. We are also grateful that he has become our latest ‘Voices for Our Future’ parliamentary champion and we’re looking forward to working with him moving forward to create positive and lasting change.”