Ged Mason, CEO of Morson Group, has called on businesses to employ more staff with disabilities.
Mr Mason is a long-term fundraiser for Seashell Trust, a charity which cares for and educates young people with profound disabilities.
He said: “But it was only after I attended the trust’s Valuing Employment showcase I realised we could be so much more and we are now delighted to be playing our part.”
He offered a role to Emma Davies, 27, a former student at the Seashell Trust-run Royal College Manchester in Cheadle Hulme.
She has CHARGE Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing heart and respiratory problems, restricted growth, and very limited vision and hearing. She does not speak but uses signing or gesture to communicate.
After graduation, she moved to House Martins supported accommodation in Salford and lives with four housemates and carers.
She works two hours a day, four days a week. Emma is paid at least the minimum wage by Morson Group and her support worker is paid as part of their employment by House Martins.
Her roles include collecting the post, admin tasks, and maintaining the kitchen and break areas.
Ged said: “I urge other companies to get involved. Emma’s presence encapsulates our ethos and sets the tone of inclusivity throughout the business.
“I first saw her at the showcase and it was important for me to support a person who was local to the business. Emma is an asset, a valued member of the team and brightens up everyone’s day.”
Many companies have extra tasks which become tacked onto other roles making it a struggle to get everything done. Very few jobseekers are prepared to take up a position which only offers two hours a day.
There are opportunities for most businesses to become more productive by employing people with profound disabilities who can only work for short periods.
Angela Thompson, facilities manager at Morson and Emma’s line manager, said: “I really rely on her now. Collecting the post is a time-consuming but vital job. With Emma here it, it frees team members up to do other things. She has fitted in so well, I wish we could have her full-time.”
Many people with disabilities struggle to get a foot in the door because they don’t have any experience. Through Seashell Trust’s work programme, Emma previously had placements at Hilton Hotels and a launderette, but it was her third placement at Deanprint in Stockport where her admin experience persuaded Angela she was the right person for the job.
She said: “When I saw her CV, I knew we had a role for her at Morson. There was some awkwardness from some of the staff when Emma first joined, with people being concerned about what she could and couldn’t do and the correct way to behave around her. Now she is a much-loved – and valued – member of the team, with colleagues appreciating what she does and missing her when she is not in.”
As Emma has no verbal abilities, she uses sign language and gestures to communicate. Although Angela cannot sign, she can understand Emma’s very emphatic gestures easily and her support worker translates her sign language.
Joanne Macintosh is one of the House Martins support workers who accompany Emma to work. She thinks it is the fear of the unknown that puts companies off employing people with profound disabilities.
She said: “I think companies should at least give it a go. What have they got to lose? Disabled people have feelings too, Emma really wants to work. She is just like any other worker though, sometimes she just wants to get off and go to her zumba class!”
Seashell Trust offers training for businesses before they take on one of its students and provides six months of support after the employment starts to make sure the situation works for everyone involved.
Ged Mason said: “The support has made it easy to create the right environment. And Emma is a good ambassador for the Seashell Trust.”