Sewell Facilities Management and Mencap partnership opening up new employment opportunities and changing lives

A young man who was diagnosed with a developmental coordination disorder and autism at the age of two has told how gaining employment has changed his outlook on life and given him new-found confidence.

Elliot Parkinson, now 22, from Hull, was struggling to find a job which suited his need for a routine and had made several visits to the job centre, as well as taking on various work experience opportunities, leaving him feeling all roads led to nothing.

After being referred to the Humber branch of Mencap, the charity helped him secure an eight-week work trial with Sewell Facilities Management, carrying out cleaning responsibilities and playing a general role within the team.

The role was made possible through the award-winning Abilities in Facilities partnership established by the business and Mencap, which creates paid employment and training opportunities for individuals with a learning disability.

Now, one year on, Elliot is still working part-time for Sewell Facilities Management at a Hull Primary School and said gaining employment has been a major positive step in his life.

He said: “I think the main thing is my confidence. It has definitely built up and my communication skills have really improved.

“Before, I was a bit shy about speaking to people. But I’m more confident to speak to the people I’ve worked with here.”

Elliot is one of five people who have gained paid cleaning jobs through the Abilities in Facilities partnership.

He has chosen to tell his story as Mencap’s Learning Disability Work Week runs from November 5th to 11th, celebrating what great employees people with a learning disability can make.

Elliot’s mum, Tracey Parkinson, said: “The change in him is unbelievable. It’s helping him feel like he’s fitting in, he’s part of society and he’s helping us as a family.

“We haven’t got that worry of what is next for him. He’s getting a pay packet every week which is just unbelievable. He feels like he actually fits. I can’t thank Sewell and Mencap enough for what they’ve done for my son and us as a family.”

Abilities in Facilities has recently received national attention, with the partnership winning the coveted ‘Impact on Society’ award at the national British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Awards, held at Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

The awards reflect the outstanding people, projects, initiatives and innovations happening in facilities management. The Impact on Society award recognises “exceptional benefit to society created and delivered by a facilities management team through excellent FM practice or as part of a social responsibility initiative”.

Judges were looking for evidence of the positive impact made on the social fabric of a community or the well-being of individuals or families. The three projects shortlisted had to benefit the well-being of individuals, the economic health of communities, the quality of the local environment, or help to alleviate a specific social problem.

Since Abilities in Facilities began in April 2017, more than 30 people from the charity have also benefited from work experience opportunities or gained interview techniques to help them progress into work elsewhere.

Work experience placements include some individuals based at the new £9 million Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre built by Sewell in East Hull, while employed roles are at schools and offices across the city.

The individuals have autism, mild and moderate learning disability, and mild learning differences, and Sewell Facilities Management staff have undergone specific training to help them progress and feel supported within their roles, opening up secure opportunities in the world of work.

Staff have also taken part in a local feasibility study and supported Mencap with dispelling myths around working with someone with a learning disability, while also helping to raise awareness at events for young people and employers.

Martin Stead, Managing Director of Sewell FM, said: “The individuals who have been involved in Abilities in Facilities have really grown in confidence and self-esteem since the partnership began, which is fantastic to see.

“We’re really proud of what has been achieved so far and we’re looking forward to building on it. But we know other businesses could do the same and we’d love to share how Abilities in Facilities works if anyone would be interested in learning more.

“This partnership has the potential to be an even bigger success and we’d love to see that happen for Mencap and those they support. For Elliot, we printed visual instruction cards to help with communication in his job and understanding his role, as this is how he responds best. This is just one of the small changes we made. Without the partnership, overcoming that communication barrier would have been difficult, so the relationship with Mencap has been invaluable.

“Our long term objective is to eventually have individuals from Mencap in every Sewell Facilities Management cleaning team across the Yorkshire region.”

Mencap Humber’s Locality Manager, Kerrie White, said: “This award recognises Sewell Facilities Management’s complete commitment to working with us and the full support they have given to the young people involved. For us, it’s making a massive difference. I look at Elliot and others on the team and see how much they’ve progressed within the Sewell family.”