Learning Disability Week 2019

Camden businesses come together to talk about the importance of employing a diverse workforce

Yesterday (Tuesday 18 June) local businesses including the Francis Crick Institute, Re-Gen UK, The Alan Turing Institute and Camden Town Unlimited met to discuss the benefits of employing a truly diverse workforce, and how we can work together as a borough to achieve this.

Having a local, committed workforce can bring a range of benefits to any business, as well as helping to make Camden a more inclusive economy. Nearly one million adults in the UK have a learning disability and it’s vital we consider how to utilise the wide range of skills of every member of our potential workforce.

The theme of the week is ‘sports and inclusion’, so Camden’s community leisure and fitness facilities provider, GLL, spoke about their positive experiences of recruiting and employing local people with learning disabilities. They were joined by one of their employees who spoke about her time there. Read more about their story below.

Councillor Danny Beales (pictured, left), Cabinet Member for Investing in Communities and an Inclusive Economy, who hosted the event, said:

“Last year you all helped us to develop our community vision Camden 2025. A key theme is for this to be an inclusive and equal borough, with opportunity for all – we want everyone to be valued and included.

"Over the next three years we’re investing £5m in supporting employment, which includes in job brokerage. Hopefully this is the start of an exciting period and journey with you all.”


Camden Council is working closely with employers and businesses to break down barriers which prevent young people, residents with disabilities and those who have been out of work for a long period or are on low incomes from accessing well-paid employment and help them gain new skills, progress or retrain. We want everyone in Camden to be able to access work that is right for them.

The next step is to follow up with employers who attended the event to explore how we can work together to employ a diverse workforce.

Here we share some experiences of residents who found jobs within Camden, and also hear from their employers.

GLL and Lucy’s story

GLL are a national provider of sports and leisure, with several centres within Camden. They have a strong focus on employing local people, and are currently aiming for 50% of their employment base to be from the areas they operate in.

They also employ over 400 people across the UK with disabilities, including Lucy, who joined a Camden centre as a multisports coach.

Lucy enjoys her role at GLL, saying “I love helping people in sports”. Adriana from GLL works with Lucy to make sure she is supported in her role and encourages all organisations to find out more about employing people with learning disabilities and the great benefits it can bring.

Of Lucy she says, “We really needed to find a coach and Lucy does a brilliant job. She does so much! As well as her job here she also has a role at a local youth club.”



Unity Kitchen, Harry and Mary’s story 

Local residents Mary and Harry got involved with unity kitchen through the Unity Works apprentice programme, which is open to everyone (18+) with a learning disability who has a passion for the catering industry.

Managed by the Camden Society, who provided refreshments at the event, the Unity Works Apprenticeships Scheme is a specialist training programme offering fully accredited training, NVQ qualifications and practical work experience in all aspects of catering and hospitality to people with disabilities.

Since joining, Harry and Mary have almost completed their industry standard catering qualifications and have recently taken part in a work placement to gain even more experience.

Milly from Unity Kitchen says: “Mary is incredibly dedicated and is always striving to do her best. Recently she has done some barista training and she’s currently working on the perfect flat white! Her customer service is excellent and she will be an asset to any future team she joins”.

“Harry has an outgoing and cheeky personality, which makes him a great team worker, always polite and willing to help out. His passion for cooking is blatant and he loves to try new recipes that he’s been researching at home. His reading skills have improved over the course of the programme and he’s excited to see where his career will take him.”

Both employees have worked on the catering for events at the newly opened Greenwood Centre in Kentish Town.

Of the Centre, Harry says “(It’s) all good, I’m happy, it’s a lovely place”.

Mary explains that when she’s not doing baking and cooking at the Centre, which she really enjoys, “I will come here to do more activities and meet a lot of people.”

Find out more about the Greenwood Centre in this video.

Lam’s story

Vinh ‘Lam’ Tran left Vietnam in 1980. As well as having mild learning disabilities he’s faced other significant barriers including ill health, the death of his mother and a lack of English.

But thanks to his determination and the dedicated support of Camden Learning Disabilities Service (CLDS), to whom he was referred by a GP in 2016, Lam has now found employment and happiness in a full-time job as kitchen porter with Hicce restaurant at Wolf & Badger in Coal Drops Yard.

Sophie from CLDS, who had supported Lam to downsize to a one-bed following the death of his mother, came with him to a KX job’s fair and said: “The day after, we had a job offer for him. The restaurant absolutely loves him. He’s a very proud man and hated signing on for benefits and not working.”

Lam, who has also been supported by Council access to work, said: “I’m very happy with the job. It was boring sitting at home on benefits. I hope this will inspire other people who have learning disabilities to find work.”

Find out more

If you’re a local business interested in working with the Council to offer inclusive employment, contact [email protected]

If you or someone you know has a learning disability and are interested in employment opportunities in Camden, contact [email protected]