Hard work by Community has helped turn around a disability employment enterprise in Devon by setting up a new business with a learning agreement, an apprenticeship programme and now plans for a new learning centre.
The Devon Disability Collective (DDC) was set up nearly three years ago, when social enterprise Pluss announced redundancy plans for the 37 staff at the site, most of whom are disabled.
With support from Community and financial help from Exeter City Council, the staff set up the new enterprise, in which the staff now own and manage the business and three long-serving workers have seats on the board, alongside a city and a county councillor plus a local businessman. Local MP Ben Bradshaw is the company patron.
DDC provides a mobility showroom, mobility and healthcare services, wheelchair upholstery products and re-upholstery services that include automotive, marine, traditional and commercial uses. It also has a light engineering and assembly operation and staff carry out contract sewing, assembly and packing.
“We are hoping that some staff will take the opportunity of signing up to an apprenticeship scheme, and I’m presently discussing options with local education providers,” says Community rep Steve Gallin.
“The problem for some staff is that their disability means they can struggle with the English and maths elements of any apprenticeship scheme. We hope that an onsite learning centre will allow people to access extra learning support in the areas that they need help.”
It was hard work to get to this point, Steve says. “It’s been a challenge and will no doubt remain so for some time but it’s working and we are not only fulfilling our customers’ orders, but we are growing our business and continuing to provide skilled and sustainable jobs for people with disabilities,” he explains.
This article first appeared in the Spring edition of Learning Rep.
To find out more about what the Devon Disability Collective do and their range of products, just visit their website.