Closing the employment gap amongst people with learning disabilities

Step and Stone is a charity that supports young people with learning disabilities, helping to develop their skills and confidence to gain employment in the catering industry.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, Step and Stone had to close their bakery – a huge blow to the young trainees who were gaining social skills, life skills and employment skills by working there.

In response to social distancing rules, the kitchen space had to be reconfigured, providing each trainee with their own workstation. In July 2020, Step and Stone approached SMV for a grant of £3029 to purchase additional kitchen equipment, furniture and uniforms.

Without the grant, only three young trainees could be accommodated each day, supporting up to 15 trainees each week; but the new kitchen allowed Step and Stone to double their capacity and welcome six trainees each day, supporting 30 young people every week.

The young people supported by Step and Stone found lockdown particularly difficult. In normal times, they are more socially isolated than their peers, they don’t have access to the same support networks, many struggle with social communication and they have limited use of social media to stay in touch. The onset of lockdown exacerbated these challenges even further and returning to the bakery was a lifeline.

Jane Kippax, Executive Director of Step and Stone said: “Being able to reconfigure the kitchen space meant that we could welcome every trainee back to the bakery as soon as we were able to reopen. The smiles on the face of every young person said it all!”

Family members were also thrilled that the bakery was able to reopen to all trainees. One parent said: “It was such a relief when my son was able to go back to the bakery. It lifted his mood, gave him structure and focus and he was just so much happier”.