A charity has issued a plea for more volunteers to help run a new training scheme which gets people with learning disabilities out into the workplace.

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Mencap in Dereham has started training residents of its care home in the town to work in its charity shop on Norwich Street alongside paid staff and volunteers, teaching them skills such as using the till, handling money, preparing stock and dealing with customers.

The idea is to give those with more severe learning disabilities a purpose and safe learning environment while more able members will be able to get the training they need to get jobs.

Training and leisure co-ordinator Adele Shand set up the scheme when she joined the charity last year and said the residents were really enjoying the challenge.

“The support workers come into the shop with the residents and give them one-to-one training and we have really started to develop as a learning centre,” she said.

“As a result I have developed a course for them to follow with five different criteria, like an NVQ, so they can really feel like they are achieving something. It also means they have to work in different areas of the shop so the ones who like to be at the back sorting clothes have to get used to the till and money. We can also use the books to teach alphabetical order or just teach them the letters. We have seen it give them a huge boost in confidence and those who were really shy and quiet have really come on.”

Where possible, the charity is also able to support those who want to take an NVQ in retail to allow them to get paid jobs. Miss Shand also runs the Health Lottery funded Gateway Award in Norfolk, similar to a Duke of Edinburgh award but for people with learning disabilities – part of which involves volunteering.

“When the participants want to work towards the volunteering element we can get them in the shop to do that. At the moment we have the residents of our care home, Merle Boddy House, working here but we are also able to take people with learning disabilities for an afternoon or a couple of hours and teach them some useful skills. But to do that we really need more volunteers to give them that one-to-one support.”

Contact Mencap on 01362 695300.

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