Championing the employment of staff with intellectual disabilities at Kerry Foods, Southall

Andrew Brammer, General Manager, Kerry’s Noon Foods Southall writes about the company’s experience…

Our initiative to start employing staff with intellectual disabilities emerged in 2018 from Kerry’s partnership with the Special Olympics. Our team at Kerry Foods felt there was far more we could be doing to get those that are sometimes furthest from the labour market into employment. Thus, we decided to investigate how we could identify suitable permanent jobs for people with disabilities in our workforce and ensure they successfully integrated with local teams.

With support and advice from Mencap and Project Search the initiative set the objective of “How can we as Kerry Foods in partnership with the Special Olympics better improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by creating a pathway to sustainable employment that is transferable to other Employers.” The project would fill real vacancies in the Kerry workforce and provides pathways into employment beyond the ‘supported internship’ programmes that have been growing in West London over the past decade.

We piloted the programme at our Windmill Lane site in Southall. The project was overseen by a Site Steering Group and our first two recruits started early 2019. Both work full time in the cartoning area. They have been fully embraced by the production team and work alongside all our other employees.

In our recruits’ own words: “The best thing about work is meeting new people – I have lots of friends here” …“Working here gives me routine – it helps me to look after myself”. So we have reaffirmed the hugely positive impact of employment in all our lives.

We have codified our approach in a toolkit that has allowed the Kerry business to replicate the programme on two other manufacturing sites.

The toolkit covers queries that will need clarifying in most businesses such as:
• What does success look like?
• Site steering group and internal sponsorship requirements
• Internal communication approach for factory and other stakeholders
• Insurance
• Preparing teams at site, including Disability training
• Selection
• Induction and buddy systems
• Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – How to communicate visually rather than in words
• Travel support
• Escalation of issues

However, we have also recognised the capacity limits for the programme within our own workforce, which is why we are now keen to share the lessons learned from our experience with other businesses and enough the identification of more suitable roles elsewhere. So, if you would like to learn from our experience of how to successfully develop a more diverse, positive and committed workforce do get in touch and we would be delighted to share lessons learned.

If you would like to find out more, have a meeting or see Kerry’s toolkit to adapt it for your own business please contact Andrew directly