Six new employees who have Down’s syndrome are now working in the Palace of Westminster as part of a pioneering programme.
The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has welcomed the new recruits and says their appointment to paid positions is “long overdue”.
Less than 5% of people with learning disabilities in paid employment
According to the British Association for Supported Employment, less than 5% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment.
The WorkFit programme, founded by the Down’s Syndrome Association, is working to improve this employment rate. Currently, there are around 1,200 people on the Workfit programme.
The six new recruits employed by the House of Commons were chosen from a shortlist for positions such as general catering assistants, service delivery assistants, and kitchen stewards. They work part-time for 10 hours a week over two days.
Six “incredibly talented” individuals
James, Amy, Safiya, Robert, Beth and Jessica, who all have Down’s syndrome, started their roles in House of Commons over the past two months.
James Hamilton, who has joined Parliament as a general catering assistant in a staff restaurant, said this was his first ever paid job.
“I am 35 years old and have volunteered and done work experience in lots of places,” he said. “Now I am working here I am so proud. This is a dream come true. Being paid makes me feel that I am doing a worthwhile job.”
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Amy, who is a catering assistant in the Houses of Parliament, explained why she loves her new role.
“I really enjoy greeting people, serving people their food and drink. I enjoy the work and the team are very nice. I’m getting to know a lot of people, and I love it,” she said.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he is excited to welcome the six “incredibly talented individuals, who have so much to offer Parliament.”
“I have already heard from the catering team what a difference they are making. To my mind, their appointment to paid positions is long overdue,” he added.
The WorkFit programme is improving the lives of people with Down’s syndrome
The WorkFit programme operates across England and Wales and has been highly successful since its inception in 2011, with 92% of people on the programme retaining their jobs.
The DSA says 87% of its candidates have gone into paid work from the range of formats it offers, including paid work, fixed term work experience placements, supported internships, apprenticeships and volunteering.
WorkFit operates without the need for job coaches or other third-party stakeholders by using a workplace “buddy” system. This significantly reduces overall costs and provides a more organic and typical career pathway for employees that can help to reduce their anxieties around different abilities.
This approach supports the DSA’s key goal of developing sustainable and meaningful work.
Carol Boys, Chief Executive, Down’s Syndrome Association, said: “The DSA provides support to people who have Down’s syndrome throughout their lives, from birth and into old age. Work is such a huge part of a person’s life experience, and it’s vital that anyone who has Down’s syndrome that wants to work should be supported to do so.
“Our results speak for themselves. People are getting into work and staying in work.”