Community Integration, Participation and the Right to Self-Fulfilment

by Dawn M. Sanders

My Job Centre Plus worker told me about this place and because of the type of job I wanted, she thought it would be a good steppingstone to help me in between my jobs and career path.” Said Tamara.

Tamara at workPhoto by Chris Rathbone

Far too often, people living with additional needs and those who are considered to have limited capacity to contribute to today’s unrealistic expectations within both the job market and volunteer sectors, are left behind to fester in a world of stagnancy or isolation. The upshot results in those with existing skills or potential to grow and explore new, challenging horizons, losing previously acquired skills which may have taken years to develop within specialist education.

In a conversation with Chris Rathbone, Head of Supported Employment at Dawlish Gardens Trust she stressed how common it was for people to spend years in specialist education – only for their skills to be unravelled within supported living situations, because it is simply easier for support staff to ‘do for them’ rather than enabling. For example, showing a visually impaired person the intricate details of raised markings on a cooker to enable them to set the temperature for themselves, might be seen as ‘too much hassle. It is common knowledge, how support workers within the care sector are under-valued – often barely scraping minimum wage. However, there is no need for this state of affairs for people with limited capacities when there are varied local opportunities.        

Dawlish, a small Devon seaside town approximately twelve miles from Exeter, is home to the Dawlish Gardens Trust – a thriving 7-acre piece of land cultivated by people with differing needs, from learning difficulties to brain injuries. 

Poly tunnel with plants growingPhoto by Chris Rathbone

The unique thing about the trust, is trained staff work with clients to enable them to not just volunteer in the gardens, wood workshop and in the kitchen – but their employability skills are either assessed or built upon.  Clients are given the confidence they need to go onto other things, with a 2-day-a-week, 8-week placement. During the placement, clients can work one to one, if necessary, with their own external support, as some need more help than others. Rathbone explained how staff at the trust engage on a bespoke programme with clients and even train them in practical skills, such as mobility and travel to enable independence. There are other opportunities on site, such as animal care or car washing – with a view to providing varied vocational outlets for clients. The place is its own buzzing micro-community and credit to the town.

Pigs in a styPhoto by Chris Rathbone

Lucy Peat, A recently hired support worker, working mostly one-to-one with clients, said: “Whether I knew or not, I probably had some biases or stigma against people with additional needs.” Yet, she stressed how the position has given her confidence in something she thought she couldn’t do: “I was just really nervous to start with, I never really hung out with anyone with a learning disability before and I really didn’t know what that would mean, but it’s just not important – it’s important, but has built a bridge.”

Tamara, going through the Kickstart Programme, a 6-month placement for work experience for 16-24-year-olds, via the job centre, is building upon her opportunities and aspirations. “My job centre Plus worker told me about this place and because of the type of job I wanted, she thought it would be a good steppingstone to help me in between my jobs and career path.” Tamara explained how she is learning spreadsheets and the internet, but wants to work as a foster carer, while Marie, another woman with learning difficulties, enjoys helping with the cleaning as a long-term client.

Down the road in Newton Abbot, Derek Beaufoy is General Operations Manager at the Safe Breaks Holiday Day Centre. He describes how some years ago; it was realised there wasn’t anything after specialist college for people with additional needs to access. Starting as a family-run business, helping a young lad with autism, they now run four supported-living homes. The day centre runs from Tuesdays to Saturdays.  Every day is a different theme – ranging from sensory experiences, such as swimming to days out in the community, with ample choice for where clients want to go. The last Sunday of the month they have a disco, frequent pub meals or other get togethers for games. Beaufoy says: “what I like to see are outcomes – making sure people are actually achieving something when they attend our service – not just sitting at a play station.

Newton Abbot is also home to the No Limits Café – a community café run by people with additional needs. Director Amanda Pugh says: “We recognise the skill set that people with additional needs bring to the workplace and with the right support people with varying needs can offer so much to a business! Our Work Experience participants join us for a minimum of 8-week programmes learning hospitality and barista skills supported by a 1-1 Job Coach. we never underestimate our team, upon realising what they can accomplish- from making a latte from scratch or taking food to tables, Their confidence and feelings of value shine through. We love what we do and believe our cafes are breaking down barriers within the town and showcase just what our team are capable of, and other employers should follow our lead!”   

Two happy looking people, a man and a woman, in the kitchen of the cafe, both wearing aprons and hats, standing in front of chopping boards ready to prepare sandwiches. There is great, utensils and salad on the counter in front of them, and instructions (with photos) for making the sandwiches on the wall in front of them.

Photo by No Limits Cafe

A happy looking lady using the till in the cafe, the till has photos of each item on the menu, for example a photo of a cup of coffee, or cold milk etc. There is also instructions in large type on the screen in front of her with prompts on to ask the customers, for example, “Hot Chocolate? Would you like cream and toppings?” next to an image of a chocolate bar that is steaming, “Are you ordering any food today” next to an image of a sandwich. In the background you can see customers sitting in the cafe.

Photo by No Limits Cafe

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) people with additional needs faired less in employment at working age  at 53.5% compared to 81.6% of people with no additional needs. Adults with additional needs are disproportionately lonelier and experience higher levels of anxiety. 

Of course, people have varying degrees of additional needs, but for those with limited capacities, still have the right to contribute to their basic psychological need for fulfilment – fulfilment which comes from contributing to the community. To deny someone integration into their community is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Editor’s note: Most regions towns or cities the length of the country will have some form of opportunity for those with limited work/intellectual capacity – whether a working farm, a community café or just a day centre for socialising. If you, a friend or family member would like to checkout or support the above outlets featured, visit:

Dawlish Gardens Trust

Safe Break Holidays LTD

No Limits Café

© 2022

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