Adults with disabilities shadowed council staff and councillors yesterday (Monday) at a takeover event as part of a push to boost their job prospects.
More than 30 local people with learning disabilities got to experience the day-to-day jobs of council staff to help their CVs and wider confidence.
Held to coincide with Learning Disability Week, shadowers spent the day with different council teams including legal services, the Gateway welfare department, planning, social care, economic growth, regeneration and housing repairs, as well as one person shadowing the borough’s autism champion Councillor Jerry Fitzpatrick.
The council is already a Disability Confident employer – around 8% of its workforce have a disability and the council runs several initiatives to boost the job prospects of disabled people from Croydon. These include a reverse jobs fair that matches local employers with disabled applicants and a Supported Self-Employment Academy, where disabled entrepreneurs with no previous experience get help to pursue their business ideas.
One of the people who took part in Monday’s takeover event was Debbie Twinn from Thornton Heath. The former care worker shadowed Gateway director Julia Pitt and got a taste of working on the corporate reception before attending a team meeting and helping to improve signage in Access Croydon.
Debbie, 48, said she would now like to explore the possibility of working one day a week on reception. She said: “I was a bit nervous when I came here, but this is about getting confidence; I’m relaxed now. I’m going to ask if I can do what I did on Monday and sit behind the counter.”
The event was the council’s first takeover challenge for people with learning disabilities, and its third overall after similar work with young people in 2017 and 2018.
Council chief executive Jo Negrini told the delegates at a welcome session that the takeover was a chance for everyone to learn from each other, and she praised the council’s disability employment manager Emma Shepherd, who organised the event and is herself disabled.
Ms Negrini said: “We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that the workforce reflects the population that we are here to serve, but we can always do more.
“The takeover is a fantastic thing because it is not just about you coming to see what we’re doing and how we’re responding within the council; events like this are important because we can hear directly on how Croydon Council could be the employer of choice for you.”
“We work hard to give as many career opportunities as possible to local people, and this takeover is a good way of helping to boost the independence of jobseekers with disabilities.
“Whether it is with the council or another employer, I hope this event will give extra confidence to local disabled people to see what else they can achieve in the world of work, and we will plan more such takeovers in future.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services