Learning disability service fair calls on Portsmouth businesses to be 'disability confident'

MORE than a hundred people have attended the council’s learning disability services fair, with participants highlighting the city’s ‘brilliant’ support network.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 12:24 pm
Cllr Matthew Winnington. Picture: Sarah Standing (240120-5799)

Portsmouth City Council held the event in Gunwharf Quays, hosting 31 service providers catering for people with a variety of learning disability conditions on Friday January 24 as part of its Aspirations Week.

Maria Tucker, whose 28-year-old son has a severe learning disability, praised the support found throughout the city.

She said: ‘We have been through hell and back to get support, but the system is much better now.

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From left, co-ordinator from Lily & Lime Anita Godson, Courtenay Richardson, 32, service user with learning difficulties who works for Lemon & Pine and Chris Hillman, training manager for Lily & Lime. Picture: Sarah Standing (240120-5810)

‘There is a brilliant support network in Portsmouth between the council and providers and the NHS.

‘There is stuff out there for people with learning disabilities – you just have to get out there to things like this.’

But Portsmouth businesses need to do more to be ‘disability confident’ to give people with learning disabilities more employment opportunities, according to Portsmouth City Councillor and Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, Matthew Winnington

He said: ‘ We want to make sure across the city we have more learning disability confident employers.

Aspirations Week

‘Where there is the aspiration, we want business to be able to help.

‘We are the only fully integrated service for people with learning disabilities in the county. That means we have a service made up of social workers and nurses from the NHS trusts and its all managed jointly and funded jointly.’

Often businesses have ‘myths that need dispelling’ about hiring people with a learning disability, according to Anita Godson, who trains people for employment at social enterprise Lily and Lime.

She said: ‘A lot of businesses think you need enhanced insurance. We dispel those myths.’

Maria Tucker and her husband Clive from Portsmouth, with their granddaughter Eliza Hillary (3). Picture: Sarah Standing (240120-5802)

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The social enterprise offers job training through cafes in Portsmouth Central Library, Southsea Library, and Technople, and enjoys ‘an 100 per cent success rate’ by supporting 16 young people with a learning disability in finding employment, according Anita.

She said: ‘Finding employment changes the young people’s lives.

‘We have worked with one young man who three years ago barely left his house. Now he is working at the Marriott hotel managing events.’

Among the services also represented at the event were Portsmouth City Council’s Shared Lives project, which helps families open their homes to individuals with long term conditions who do not want to live in staffed supported accommodation.

Also present was Gig Buddies, a scheme that partners people with a learning disability and fellow-music fans to attend live music events together.