Work: Darren's a valued team member
A SOCIAL enterprise that helps people who find it difficult to get employment is highlighting the success of a Redruth man as an example of its work.
Devon-based Pluss helps disabled people into work by supporting them, finding suitable employers and helping them apply and learn on the job.
Darren Richards, 43, has worked for Tesco for 24 years, and for the past 12 at Redruth.
With support from Pluss Mr Richards, who has Down's syndrome, became directly employed by Tesco a year ago.
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"My job is to pack people's shopping," he said.
"I go up to them and ask if they want help. I love it, and like talking to customers.
"I check with customers about the weight of their bags, put the shopping into more bags if they're too heavy; push heavy trolleys for them and put their shopping in their boot if they want.
"People who might need this help are disabled people and older people. The best bit of my job is all of it."
Mr Richards, who has just earned a bronze award for customer service, said: "I love having a job. I spend my wages on holidays and going swimming with my mum and aunty."
Checkout manager Debbie Pascoe said he was friendly, punctual and good at his job, adding: "Having Darren in the team helps improve the flow of customers through the checkouts and reduces queue times.
"The response from customers is great. He likes banter and all the customers know him and like seeing him here.
"Support from Pluss has been really good and given him a better understanding of his training, which he always looks forward to.
"When Darren moved to being employed directly by Tesco his family were concerned, as he is now required to conform to our company procedures, including return-to-work meetings if he's been ill.
"Pluss is always there for the follow-up process, which makes Darren and his parents less anxious."
Pluss is publicising Darren's story to mark Learning Disability Week.
Only 6.6 per cent of learning-disabled people nationally are in paid employment, while in Cornwall the figure is just 2.8 per cent.
For more information about Pluss's work, see the website at www.pluss.org.uk/