A £30,000 grant from West Sussex County Council’s Social Enterprise Fund will help set up a charity shop staffed by adults with learning disabilities.
The Ferring Country Centre wants to set up the store in a high street area to help boost their work and life chances. It will sell second-hand items donated by supporters.
Adults with learning disabilities will be paid to work in the charity shop with support, and to pick up charity bags filled with goods to sell in the store.
The idea is for the wider community to see the capabilities of adults with learning disabilities at first hand and to build an understanding and awareness of their abilities.
The hope is this will encourage more firms to employ adults with learning disabilities in paid work, which will allow them to play a fuller part in society.
The shop will provide a useful added extra to Ferring Country Centre’s ‘work counts’ scheme.
This offers a choice of meaningful work experience and therapeutic services, as well as helping towards social inclusion and living independent lives.
Currently clients help the social enterprise by operating the Riding Therapy Unit, the Garden Centre, the Café and the Small Animal Farm where they learn work and social skills.
Ferring Country Centre was set up in 1986 by a group of parents who saw the need for an active workplace.
West Sussex County Council has also pledged to help improve the employment prospects of adults with learning disabilities across the county.
Michael Brown, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “Ferring Country Centre has proved to be a unique and ground-breaking charity that has helped to open people’s eyes about what adults with learning disabilities are capable of.
“I firmly believe that this shop will go one step nearer in helping promote social inclusion and boosting their work and life chances, which is why I have approved this £30,000 award.”
Lynda Vowles, Ferring Country Centre’s General Manager, said: “This is fantastic news for the charity.
“It will help to build bridges and dispel misconceptions, raise awareness of the ability of people with learning difficulties and foster goodwill across the community.
“People with learning difficulties represent a substantial source of untapped commitment and talent, yet they are one of the most under-represented groups in the labour market with fewer than 10 per-cent of working age in full time employment.”