All working beautifully

4th March 2005 at 00:00


When the Down Syndrome Education Trust (DSET) decided to set up its own digital press and publishing operation from its Portsmouth base, the obvious workforce for its printing workshop were young people with Down Syndrome whom the trust had supported through mainstream education, insisting on their right to inclusion.

Even so, says Professor Sue Buckley, the trust's founder, there were hesitations. "I was quite anxious to start with about them working without supervision. I didn't think they could manage it. I thought a member of staff should be with them. Other people here said that's not cost effective, and we don't think you're right anyway.

"So after setting it up with a support worker, we assumed that they could work unsupervised and would come to ask for help when they needed it, if a machine jams, for example. And that's what they do. They support each other. They are much more competent than we anticipated."

Seven young adults each work one day a week for the trust. They collate and bind booklets, work stapling and hole-drilling machines, pack print orders, put newsletters in envelopes and frank mail. Initial health and safety checks and support work was done for DSET by an employment trust. Since then, the Wednesday team of Derek Jones, 23, Trudy Mills, 27, and Ellie Hardy, 24, all of whom arrived on a three-month trial, have worked independently, being paid pound;20 a day.

Ellie Hardy says she spends her pound;20 on clothes. She enjoyed working at DSET so much she found another part-time job, too - volunteering two afternoons a week in a charity shop.

"I tell people I like the job," she says. "I look forward to it. I like the machines and I like working with my friends."

Interviews by Karen Gold

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