Guest blog: Jonathan Grew, WorkFit Swindon Liaison Officer
WorkFit is the Down's Syndrome Association's employment programme (supported in the Swindon area by the Swindon Down's Syndrome Group) supporting adults with Down's syndrome into work related activities (paid jobs, volunteering roles, work experience and traineeships).
A fundamental part of the success of the programme is the support provided to employers to help them to offer a range of opportunities that meet their business needs.
To date through this programme Wiltshire Police currently have three volunteers who volunteer in Swindon and Wiltshire; Lane, at Gablecross in Swindon; Jeremy in Police HQ, Devizes; and Edward in Salisbury. They also employ Luke in the Devizes Communication Centre.
More than twenty staff and officers in Wiltshire Police have undergone the Employer WorkFit training to give guidance and best practice information about how to support colleagues with Down's syndrome in the work place. The feedback has been very positive and has increased the confidence of existing staff in being ready to welcome people with Down's syndrome into the work place. Anecdotes and strategies have been especially helpful.
The Force has also given huge support to the Down's Syndrome Association's Lots of Socks fundraising campaign which is run by DSA in March every year as part of World Downs Syndrome day (21 March 2018).
Edward started in Bourne Hill Police Station in Salisbury in April assisting on the enquiry desk and other office duties. As a result of the temporary closure of Bourne Hill, Edward has had a temporary role helping with the lunches for the Police on the security cordon in Salisbury. He has also been helping in the canteen with setting up for the many visiting police teams supporting Wiltshire Police. A big thank you to Insp. Pete Sparrow and his colleagues who sold nearly £400 of odd socks #lots of socks this year.
Since October 2017 Jeremy has been volunteering in Driver Support and recently has been working with the Video team based in HQ Devizes and is enjoying his volunteering under the supervision of Grace.
Since September 2017 Lane has been volunteering at Gablecross and has been helping with office work and also has been helping with cleaning Police Cars under the guidance of Sharon Innes.
It is no surprise that Wiltshire Police have recently received the accolade of being the first Force in the country to achieve the recognition of being a top disability employer. The culture of inclusion permeates through the Force from the Chief Constable downwards. There are some outstanding champions who have been more than generous with their time and support, in particular John Flynn and Roy Perrett who have gone the extra mile by speaking at local conferences about WorkFit. In particular Roy talks about his experience mentoring Luke and the positive effect that Luke has on the whole Force. We also must not forget the enormous effort that he personally makes to galvanise everybody he meets to get their "odd socks" (nearly £4,000 of "odd socks" sales in 2018).
The value to the WorkFit candidates goes well beyond the office as in addition to the skills they learn being in the police environment they are also gaining other valuable life skills such as travelling independently to help them to fulfil their future career ambitions.
The support of Wiltshire Police has been fantastic and WorkFit hopes to continue to strengthen its partnership during the coming months and years.
WorkFit supports people with Down's syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives.