By Steve Murrells, Co-op CEO and Joyce Miguel, Store Colleague
Today, 3 December, marks International Day of People with Disabilities, and this year’s theme is looking at the challenges, barriers and opportunities faced by disabled people as a result of the pandemic.
As one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our communities, the pandemic has significantly increased marginalisation of disabled people through difficulty accessing support and services.
Here’s Joyce Miguel’s story as she talks about how she has found happiness working in our Co-op after her previous placements came to an end due to the pandemic.
I was studying at Enfield college before I started looking for work. I felt that although I wanted to continue my studies, I wanted to look for work too. It was hard to find work because I’m incredibly shy. I found it hard to drop in CVs, to speak to people and I find formal interviews difficult. I also have a learning disability which I like to keep hidden and even if I made it through the first stage of recruitment, people who weren’t aware of my needs maybe thought I wasn’t suitable for the role. As I find it hard to talk about my needs, I always felt like I wouldn’t get the support I needed. I also tend to struggle with the induction and training processes as well as they were often very overwhelming experiences for me.
Joining the Supported Internship at West Lea School was amazing for me. It’s designed to help young people with special needs like me and I did eventually manage to find employment.
Unfortunately, due to the recent pandemic, my placements came to an early end. This really knocked my confidence, and I was quite upset. However, West Lea school told me about their new partnership with the Co-op and I was extremely keen on working there. West Lea then worked with the Co-op to find a placement in a local shop along with three other students and I started in April 2021.
This was a turning point for me and I was really made to feel part of the team in Hertford Road. My confidence quickly grew with the support of the team and my job coach. Greeting other colleagues and customers was a real challenge at first, but the team have really helped build my confidence with this. I really feel that I’m a valued part of the team, in a workplace where my needs are understood, and I’m given the time and patience from my colleagues to support me with learning new things. I have really been able to build my skillset because of this.
If you are disabled and need support, your line manager should be your first point of contact to ensure you have the reasonable adjustments and support you need. Additionally, please feel free to reach out to our Represent Network by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re currently trialling the option for colleagues to speak to someone directly to access support and guidance. To access the Reasonable Adjustment helpline colleagues should contact the HR Services Team directly on 0330 606 1001 and select option 1.