A Norwich company which employs disabled people has won international contracts and is close to supporting itself following a restructuring earlier this year.

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A Norwich company which employs disabled people has won international contracts and is close to supporting itself following a restructuring earlier this year.

Pet bedding producer Norfolk Industries had relied on £200,000-a-year funding from Norfolk County Council, but has been transformed and is now winning contracts as far afield as Japan and Spain.

The company, where 65pc of the workforce have a disability, decided to focus on the pet bedding market and expects to soon be turning in a profit as a social enterprise.

Service manager Sharon Tooke said it was already in the top three pet bedding producers in the UK, with its products stocked in Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets.

“We had to look at what makes the business grow,” she said. “It’s about setting the business up as a commercial enterprise and showing you can do that with people with disabilities.”

Norfolk Industries received business mentoring support from the council to help it make the transition and develop into a business which-- could stand on its own two feet.

The key to its overseas contracts is its access to a steady supply of clean waste paper from the food and medical sectors, which it makes into pet bedding.

Projected sales figures for the current financial year are around £420,000.

The business has been designed to allow disabled employees to be as productive as possible and offer regular short-term placements to disabled people and the long-term unemployed.

Mrs Tooke said: “We try to operate on what people are good at – finding their strengths and altering the work processes to help them work at a high level.”

She added: “We’ve gone from providing a service to the community at quite an expense to providing that same service at break-even.”

Shelagh Gurney, county council cabinet member for adult and community services, called Norfolk Industries “a fantastic example of a local success story” which was helping to put Norfolk manufacturing on the map.

“It is a business providing people who perhaps would not find employment elsewhere with valuable job opportunities,” she said.

“Currently, very few local authorities are involved with sheltered workshops such as Norfolk Industries as they are not commercially viable. However, the county council has successfully re-modelled Norfolk Industries and there are now plans for further diversification providing more job opportunities.”

COMMENT – page 26.

mark.shields@archant.co.uk

1 comment

  • Great to see this good news giving disabled an opportunity to show their potential.

    Report this comment

    jennifer jane

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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