The region’s largest independent provider of services for people with learning disabilities has received a major funding boost.
It comes with the announcement that the Big Lottery Fund Scotland has awarded the Galashiels-based Brothers of Charity £412,120 to support a two-year work and training programme for its clients.
Last year, the charity, which employs nearly 300 staff, was forced to close its day services facility – Reiver Industries at Tweedbank – along with two satellite centres after Scottish Borders Council decided not to renew its annual contract.
After discussions with the council and service users, the charity responded by launching two social enterprises, under the Working Together banner – an organic bakery and a gardening and woodwork unit, both based at Tweedbank.
According to Charmian Ledsham, chief executive of the Brothers of Charity, the lottery award will make a “substantial contribution” to helping people with learning disabilities access the training and experience they need to help them into employment.
For the aspirant workers, the two-year training programme will be individually tailored with a six-week taster session followed by a six-month training period.
This will be followed by practical on-the-job work experience in one of the two businesses – Bread Works and Green Works - before the trainees are put in touch with outside groups, agencies and employers who will hopefully be able to harness the new-found skills and provide permanent jobs.
“We are working closely with Borders College, employment support providers and job seeking services locally to enable individuals to progress through the programme and successfully move on,” said Ms Ledsham. “Each work plan will be flexible and unique to each person.”
Staff in the bakery will have the opportunity to learn food hygiene and the skills needed to produce and sell bread to members of the public, while Green Works trainees will acquire proficiency in basic woodwork and gardening.
Maureen McGinn, chair of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “This will give people with learning disabilities in the Borders confidence and skills which will be an asset to any potential employer.”