Learning disability charity Norwood has launched Norwood Future Clean, the first commercial car wash in London to be manned by people with learning disabilities.
Norwood Future Clean, which is part of Norwood's supported employment programme, is a training project that teaches participants vital work skills and some business experience. The eco-friendly hand car wash and valet service - it uses bio-degradable cleaning fluids and is virtually waterless - is based at Grimsdyke Road Car Park in Hatch End, where the space has been donated by Harrow Council.
Once the project begins to generate sufficient profit, the employees will be able to earn an income. The project, which has received no capital investment, is open to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays, although Norwood runs training sessions throughout the week and aims to increase the operation to four days a week by next July. Supported by two dedicated job coaches, Drew Needs and Daniel Hyams, the car wash team currently comprises 12 trainees, the majority of whom have no previous employment experience.
Project development manager Linda Looney said: "Norwood believes that everyone, regardless of their ability or circumstance, has the right to play a full and active part in society and having a job is a key aspect of this. "Based on social enterprise principles, Norwood Future Clean is a fantastic new training project that provides an important stepping stone on the road to employment for people with a learning disability. It really suits the needs of the people we have identified as participants and, because it is environmentally-friendly, we also believe it will be attractive to motorists."
Shalev Nymark, 23, a member of the Norwood Future Clean team, said: "I like coming here. It makes me really happy to have a job and to learn new things. I've learnt how to clean cars and how to speak to customers politely. It's absolutely fantastic."