Redruth shop assistant a shining example of learning disabled employees
A Redruth shop assistant has been held up as a shining example of learning disabled employees.
Darren Richards, aged 43, has Down's Syndrome and works at the Tesco in Tolgus.
He has worked for the supermarket chain for the past 24 years and recently completed his Bronze Award in Customer Service.
Darren said: “My job is to pack people's shopping, I go up to them and ask if they want help.
“I love it and like talking to customers. I check with customers about the weight of their bags, put the shopping into more bags if they're too heavy.
“When I was working in the warehouse I wasn't very happy because I didn't get to see customers. I'm happier with the customers now, they say 'Thank you' and 'You're a star!'
“I'd be sad and bored if I wasn't working, I love having a job. I spend my wages on holidays and going swimming with my Mum and Aunty - I can do 20 lengths,” he added.
When Darren started out, he was employed through disability support charity The Shaw Trust's “Workstep” programme.
But after being put in touch with social enterprise “Pluss” by his employers, he has now been directly employed by Tesco for the past year.
Darren said: “Debbie is my boss, she's good as gold, lovely. She says she's happy with what I'm doing and if I have a problem I can go to her and say so. She will always help me.”
Checkout manager Debbie said: “Darren is our only bag packer and he helps with assisted shops for our blind customers.
“He's expected to be friendly and helpful and he is. He knows how to pack well and is very accommodating; he's always punctual and has a good attendance history.
“Having Darren in the team helps improve the flow of customers through the checkouts and reduces the queue times. The positive response from customers is great.”
Last week was national Learning Disability Week, which is run by the charity Mencap and is designed to celebrate learning disabled people.
Pluss is an organisation designed to help disabled people into work by finding roles in organisations that are perfect for them and helping them to apply and learn on the job where necessary.
Jayne Mills, from Pluss, said: “Research into the employment of learning disabled people found that only 6.6 per cent nationally are in any form of paid employment.
"In Cornwall that figure is just 2.8 per cent.
“However, there is a strong business case for organisations to employ more learning disabled people: they are statistically more loyal employees, staying in roles for longer than the average and are highly committed to work with low absenteeism.
“A diverse staff can not only improve the public image of an organisation by reflecting the community they work in but also frequently improves staff morale and productivity.”