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Team Domenica candidates make an impact in the Brighton community

May 24, 2024 Posted in: News

As a charity and specialist further education college, Team Domenica supports people with learning disabilities to acquire the skills, confidence and independence needed to access meaningful employment. Our programmes have a profound impact on the lives of our candidates and employers. However, our young people also create change in the local community and beyond, sharing their talents and experiences to forge a brighter future for all.

Two photos of candidates making changes in the community by presenting at UH Sussex.

Team Domenica present at University Hospital, Sussex

Back in March, a group of our candidates presented at Sussex University Hospital’s Disability Awareness Conference. They shared their stories and spoke about how hiring people with learning disabilities is not only beneficial for them, but also for employers and the wider community too. Everyone deserves a job and the social networks, and financial opportunities, they provide.

Candidates Alex, Asa and Betsy engaged attendees, answered questions and offered sound advice. Despite initially feeling nervous, the group enjoyed presenting and effectively raised awareness about the issues facing people with learning disabilities. In particular, they educated staff on the importance of supported internships and inclusive hiring practices. They also demonstrated how Team Domenica’s unique approach is closing the employment gap in Sussex.

Thank you to the NHS Foundation Trust for inviting us to share our work. David Grantham, Chief People’s Officer at UHSussex said…

We had an energetic day talking about disabilities with staff and community partners. We were thrilled that Team Domenica could join us. There is much work to do, but together we know we can make a difference

Inspiring the next generation of people with learning disabilities in Brighton and Hove

A photo of candidates making a difference in the community by presenting at HillParkOrganisations aren’t the only ones feeling inspired by our candidates. Our young people have also been attending events to discuss the impact of Team Domenica’s programmes. Together, they’ve shown younger generations what is possible when communities come together to create accessible workplace opportunities.

As part of Hill Park’s Careers Week, two of our candidates visited their old school to discuss their employment journeys. Now in paid work, Asa and Jolie presented on their hopes, fears and accomplishments – from leaving school and joining our programmes, to experiencing the workplace and getting a job. It was great to see how much their confidence had grown since joining Team Domenica and we couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.

Due to their relatability, Hill Park’s pupils could picture themselves in the workplace and felt comfortable asking questions. Our candidates were an example of the heights people with learning disabilities can achieve with the right support. Careers and Key Stage Three Lead, Samantha Simson, said: “Asa and Jolie talked highly of both their training and the roles they are now paid to do. It was inspirational to our pupils as they were both ex pupils meaning it was very relatable. They both spoke so well and answered questions confidently.”

Two photos of candidates making changes in the community by presenting to younger TD candidates.

On National Supported Internship Day, candidates on our Wrap Around Programme also visited our classroom. They spoke about their experiences as supported interns, and how it feels to now be in paid work. The presenters – Charlotte, Sam and Betsy – created an engaging and inspiring space to ask for advice. With their support, our first-year candidates could ask questions and envision themselves in employment too.

When asked what she’s learnt since working at the Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel, Betsy said: I’ve learnt new skills that I didn’t think I could ever do. I have learnt I can do more things independently.

Candidates co-design an accessible Wakehurst

Our candidates recently visited Wakehurst Kew Gardens and were invited to take part in their inaugural ‘CommUnity Co-Design Workshop’. This meetup allowed our young people to offer their insights and help Wakehurst shape their services to be more accessible for the learning disabled community.

Walking around their site, our candidates delved into the sensory garden and connected with nature with mindfulness exercises. We then finished the day with a creative session at the Millennium Seed Bank, where they reflected on their experiences and used art to envision their perfect day.

Three images of our candidates in the community at Wakehurst Kew Gardens

Overall, this visit allowed our candidates to have fun, express themselves and make a wider impact. Following their advice, Wakehurst are able to create inclusive environments for others with learning disabilities. Find out more about our partnership, and Wakehurst’s commitment to our vision, here. Harri, the participation manager at Wakehurst said:

We’re proud to be partnered with Team Domenica and delighted that Wakehurst is able to support such a brilliant initiative. The CommUnity Co-design day helped us to develop a fantastic nature-based well-being offer, aimed at adults with learning disabilities.

Creating change on the national stage with Pizza Pilgrims

A phtot of the Team domenica employment team with the location managers at Pizza Pilgrims Team Domenica’s collaboration with Pizza Pilgrims demonstrates the far-reaching impact of our candidates and programmes. For example, after hosting not one, but two, of our supported interns – as well as numerous work placements – Pizza Pilgrims invited us to discuss our work with their location managers.

Throughout our talk, the team were fully engaged and asked lots of interesting questions. Excitingly, their enthusiasm for uplifting people with learning disabilities has led to Pizza Pilgrims to become one of our biggest allies. In fact, they are now hoping to work with similar initiatives across the country.

With our support, Pizza Pilgrims truly recognise the value in reducing the recruitment gap. Together, we’re reshaping inclusivity in the workplace.Clive, Pizza Pilgrims Operations Manager, said:

We are so grateful you made the trip to speak for us and the feedback was incredible!

The moral and ethical reasons for working with Team Domenica are clear to see, but our partnership is also a chance to reduce the gap in employment opportunities. There is so much potential in engaging with people with learning disabilities, especially in an industry which has been challenged by Brexit and COVID.

Following our candidates’ lead, and engaging with the community

As part of RSHE, our candidates highlighted that they would like to learn more about LGBTQ+ identities and support. We therefore collaborated with Allsorts Youth Project to provide an engaging session on these topics. It provided a safe space for our young people to ask questions and share experiences without fear of judgment.

One candidate said: “I feel like I now know who I can go to for support and advice.”

Earlier this term, we also worked with PossAbilities to create instructional videos on self-care in care homes and day centres. This exciting project was made possible thanks to our Enrichment provision. It was a delight to see our young people become the stars of the show, and we’re excited to see them spreading joy across the nation once the video is launched!

A group of candidates stand with AllSorts Youth in the community.These experiences show our candidates’ drive to learn about – and support – other marginalised groups. Following in their footsteps, our education and employment teams have been attending local and national supported employment forums. They’ve also met with other SEN institutions (such as Oak Specialist College, Treloar’s and Orpheus Centre Trust), to discuss best practice and pave the way for a more accessible future.

What can you do?

As a charity and educational provider, we hope to continue working with more local organisations to provide insights for, and by, people with learning disabilities.

Please contact us with any enquiries, or (if you’re an employer) speak with our employment team to discover how you can be a part of our transformative journey.

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