More help to work is foundation’s next step

Laura Wood serving food to Robert Frost Burton Street Foundation
Laura Wood serving food to Robert Frost Burton Street Foundation
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Cooking a meal, paying for an item in a shop or making a journey on public transport are tasks which most people perform without a second thought.

But for someone living with a disability, all of these things can be immensely difficult without the right support.

However, Sheffield’s Burton Street Foundation has been providing help for people with learning and physical disabilities for more than 15 years, many of those at its impressive base at an old Victorian school building in Hillsborough.

Facilities include a gym, restaurant, beauty salon, recording studio and art workshop, as well as an allotment where fresh produce is grown ready for cooking, all with the aim of teaching valuable skills to the individuals who attend.

And the not-for-profit organisation is now urging more companies to offer its clients work experience and jobs, and is currently in talks with major employers, including construction, catering and retail firms.

Services director Glyn Mansell said he was looking forward to the foundation’s next step.

“The Burton Street Foundation is a community,” he said.

“Being part of a community is fundamental to a person’s health and wellbeing.

“There’s no difference in how a person with learning difficulties feels about things than we do.

“The problem is, they can’t always engage with communities in the way we do without some support.”

The enterprise is used by 300 people every week, and employs over 90 full and part-time staff.

Last year the centre underwent a £3 million revamp, and more local firms are being encouraged to make use of the facilities.

Its hall and bar can be hired out for functions such as weddings - but back in the 1990s, the space now used as the drama studio was used for a very different purpose.

The room, which today is equipped with studio lights for plays and events, served as the dole office in the Sheffield comedy film The Full Monty.

Catering and functions manager Angela Rodgers said inviting in the public created ‘hustle and bustle’, particular in the cafe where clients are given the chance to cook food and volunteer.

“There are offices along the street and people come into the cafe - everyone eats together in one big hub,” she said.

“It’s the first port of call to support social interaction. There is also a big sense of pride when clients see what they produce sold on to their peers.”

The restaurant opens in the evenings on a monthly basis for special bistro nights.

Glyn added: “People with learning difficulties should not be somewhere where people are not coming in and out.

“They often go to places where they have things done for them - I wanted to get away from that.

“They do want their own space, but not excessively so.”

The severity of people’s disabilities ranges from PMLD - profound and multiple learning disabilities - to conditions such as mild autism.

Staff are trained in how to help clients cope with the challenges of everyday life.

“It’s easy for us to take things for granted but with people with learning difficulties, little things can affect them, even noises and smells,” said Dannielle Wibberley, senior manager for learning disability services .

“We’re very trained and skilled to be able to see and look at the clues and stop it from happening in the first place.”

Angela said: “People can build their self-confidence here - we have a good record of that. Even the little things they can do they are proud of.

“You can’t tell someone to have the aspiration to work. But we have all the facilities here and, maybe a year down the line, someone may have decided that they are ready and that work is for them.”

Visit www.burtonstreet.co.uk for more information.