NRS Healthcare is delighted to have welcomed its first employee with Down’s syndrome and is working with the Down’s Syndrome Association’s (DSA) Workfit program in Norfolk as part of its commitment to supporting people gain work experience and employment.
After undertaking a 10-week work experience placement, Joseph Ward, aged 22, has joined the company on a permanent part-time contract working two days a week at the Norwich depot as a warehouse operative.
NRS Healthcare is a leading provider of community equipment, working on behalf of Norfolk County Council, NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG and Suffolk County Council to help people in the community live independently in their homes for longer.
In September Joseph, whose sister Leah works for the company as an Occupational Therapist, began a placement initially working alongside the warehouse team in cleaning and refurbishment. He quickly became an integral part of the team and then enjoyed supporting staff across all departments within the warehouse, cleaning equipment, loading and unloading the vans, scanning equipment and carrying out admin tasks such as scanning and filing.
Leah, who joined NRS Healthcare in December last year, said:
“My family and I are so grateful that Joseph has been offered this opportunity after his placement was such a success. Joseph has always said he wants a job, and it is amazing he has now secured employment, especially as there are so many perceived barriers to him being able to work. Although we credit how hard Joseph worked throughout his placement, we know it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Scott Sayer, Warehouse Operations Manager and Carla Pinto, who was his mentor, along with the wider Norfolk NRS team and the willingness of the business to give him a chance.”
Scott Sayer, Service Centre Manager in Norwich, said:
“I was absolutely delighted to offer Joseph a permanent role here at NRS after his placement. He initially joined us for 10-weeks to gain life skills and have an opportunity to work in a real warehouse environment and over that time excelled in all the tasks that he undertook. Joseph picks up different skills quickly and is always open to learning new things.”
Joseph, a Norwich City football fan, really enjoys working practically and enjoys learning and working with technical equipment. He is very sociable and likes being around other people. Leah said:
“Joseph struggles with communication. His understanding is very good, but his speech is delayed, and it is sometimes difficult to understand what he has to say. He is very good at spelling and will often spell out words or point at things to help with his understanding. He needs simple instructions, one at a time, and struggles with tasks that require him to stand in one place for a long time.”
Before Joseph joined NRS, Scott said the team had not had much experience of working with anyone with Down’s syndrome. He said:
“Joseph has shown us that Down’s syndrome should not be a barrier for having a normal working life. He has built up a good relationship with everyone and him telling me to get back to my office and do some work seems to have gone down well with the team! Offering Joseph a job made me feel very proud to work for NRS and the final bit that made me proud and showed just how welcome Joseph was, was when he was asked if he wanted to come and work for us or stay at home, he said, come to NRS!”
This was the first official work experience placement that Joseph had undertaken, having previously volunteered in charity shops and a library. Leah said:
“Joseph had been signed up to another project which fell through, so he left college last summer with no future plans. He and his mum explored various other work and educational avenues with no success partly due to the pandemic as well as other factors. I felt NRS would be a good fit for him, and Scott was instantly on board. It is important that, as a business, we are willing to provide these opportunities to adults with learning disabilities.”
As part of the WorkFit program, NRS Healthcare has asked for training for key staff who will be working closely with Joseph on how to best support him.
Alison Thwaite is the WorkFit Employment Development Manager at the DSA. She said:
“We are delighted that NRS Healthcare has registered with WorkFit and are providing a range of support to staff and Joseph through our free advice, training and resources. I have discussed with Joseph and his mum how WorkFit can support to ensure this is a positive and rewarding experience for him and his colleagues.”
If you would like to find out more information about WorkFit, visit https://www.dsworkfit.org.uk/