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Hear from our Ability employee network as we approach International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Case Study

In August the UK Government published that 24% of the UK population have a recognised disability. Disability comes in many different forms and affects people in many ways, some you can see, others you can’t. Our Ability employee network celebrates it’s first birthday this month and as we lead up to International Day of People Disabilities on Sunday we caught up with people from around the business who wanted to share their stories and experiences.

Bradley is a kitchen porter for Eurest Catering in Milton Keynes. Here he shares his experience working in Eurest.

“I have known since early childhood I was special, and this was confirmed when I received a diagnosis of autism. Finding work has not necessarily been the problem, it has been the places I have worked and the people that have been the problem. Although I have worked for Compass for 6 years, there was a break in between. I left Compass after 5 years thinking it was time for a change, but it wasn’t the right move at all. Returning to a team of people who let me be me, makes a massive difference to me as a person. I don’t have to pretend to be somebody I am not. I can be Bradley. If you are hiding behind a mask, don’t be scared to drop the mask and be free, be you. “

Chris Simmonds is a General Manager in ESS Defence and one of our Lead Ambassadors for the Ability Network. He gives us an insight into disability in business and why it is important to educate ourselves when it comes to working in a diverse workforce.

“Those with disabilities often experience the world in different and unique ways and will have developed their own individual skill sets and perspectives. Having a wider diversity as part of a team enhances team thinking and performance. It also ensures a more inclusive output, which benefits our customers. There is still a lot of work to be done. There is still a large demographic of our population who don’t share with anyone that they have a disability. This can be for many different reasons such as a fear of judgement, mistreatment, or a stigma that it is something to be embarrassed about. This needs to change as everyone should feel comfortable in being themselves and bringing their whole selves to work.

Within my team I use discussion, education, and storytelling to normalise disability and create an open minded and accepting culture. It didn’t take long before the first few members of the team felt comfortable and disclosed their disability. In the beginning we only knew of a couple of the team who had disabilities, but we now know that just over 20% of the team have some form of disability. Firstly it’s important as it builds further trust and psychological safety into the team which are key in team performance. Secondly, perhaps more importantly, these members of the team open up and bring their whole selves to work. Some of these team members have gone on to take more senior roles. Leadership is about creating an environment in which every member of the team has the opportunity and empowerment to succeed.”

Collaboration with organisations

As part of our Social Promise we’re committed to working to enhance opportunities for the communities in which we work.

Our collaboration with Stedychefs Learning Centre continued recently with a trip for adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, to a Mushroom farm and a Kale farm in Lancashire. StedyChefs Catering Agency/Cookery School in the North West, dedicated to providing cookery skills to individuals who face severe learning difficulties.. The group also enjoyed a visit to the St Helens Cuisine Centre, helping them to gain independence through cooking while learning basic safety skills within the kitchen. We've also donated light equipment, a coffee machine and chef whites to the group.

"Compass has always been so supportive to us in so many ways. From organising trips to food factories... providing chefs and ingredients for masterclasses, donating food to help with our Christmas hampers for the local community and equipment when we moved into our new centre. This support has helped our students broaden their horizons and gain so much more knowledge. We appreciate Compass so much and hope we can continue to build on our collaborations in the future. Thanks for all you do!"

Rapport have had a partnership with West Lea since 2019, working together to provide students with Supported Internships and meaningful careers. Samuelle was one of our Interns who joined one of our client sites at Rapport through West Lea’s Supported Internship Programme and now has a permanent role!

“What I enjoy most of working here is learning to use the tablets, serving the customers and polishing cutlery. So far, my favourite task has been serving the customers - that’s the best part of it!”

Some of Sam’s colleagues share how much Sam developed during his internship:

“I was truly amazed by Sam’s progress over the initial few months. He was always motivated in doing the best that he could and keen to demonstrate his achievements to me his manager. When Sam first stepped into our contract, he was shy, and insecure. Seeing how far Sam has overcome in such a short amount of time, considering he only came to site 12-16 hrs a week, is a real success! Sam takes pride in every single task he performs. He never says “no”, and he always works with a smile on his face! His passion, attention to details, and precision is amazing. Sam is a great addition to the team.”

Daryl Antwi-Safee, London Operations Director commented: “It’s been a pleasure to watch Sam’s journey so far. He’s growing in confidence day by day and is making such a positive impact to our customers and team.”

Rapport has proudly partnered with Down Syndrome Ireland to support in their effort to make those significant positive changes and to provide work experience and opportunities to build meaningful careers within the hospitality and guest services industry. Elina is completing her work experience in Ireland. She joined one of our client sites at Rapport for 10 weeks paid work experience, that was later extended to an additional 10 weeks due to her progress!

Ioana Pastravanu - Reception Supervisor shared Elina’s development during her placement: “Elina joined us on 11th of May 2023 and she is an amazing addition to our team. Through her bubbly personality and willingness to learn, she made our Thursdays and Fridays so much better. Her enthusiasm is catching. We also had a few challenges, but mostly logistics as this was new for all of us. We have overcome them all through our team’s ability to adapt and evolve. Having Elina has made us a better team, it made us better as individuals as we learned to appreciate our small wins much more than before. I am impressed with her determination to complete her tasks and with her ability to spread her happiness around. Since Elina entered our reception on her first day and until now, I can see a huge difference...I strongly feel that being part of our team has helped Elina a lot and I love to watch her grow more and more every day.”

Priscilla Richardson - Client Services Manager said: “I am really happy that Elina’s placement is going so well. Our clients have been supportive right from the start, going out of their way to welcome Elina and to show interest in her development. The placement has been great as Elina has given us extra support in our operation and she has gained new skills. I am delighted that we have extended her placement as it has been so successful.”

Celebrating IDPD 23