Meet two Barnsley employees in jobs through Down's Syndrome Association's WorkFit scheme

Laura Reid speaks to two colleagues employed in a Barnsley distribution centre through the Down’s Syndrome Association’s WorkFit scheme about their roles.

When Jordan is asked what he enjoys about his job as a warehouse operative at GXO Logistics’ centre in Barnsley, he smiles and says “being paid”.

When he first started his role there in 2019, his main objective was to save up to take his mum on a cruise.

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They’re now planning to go later this year, an achievement that instils him with happiness and pride.

Luke works as a catering assistant at Barnsley’s GXO centre. Photo: Darren Casey, DCimaging.

Jordan, who it was requested The Yorkshire Post referred to by his first name only, is involved in the WorkFit scheme, an employment programme by the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA).

It brings together job seekers who have Down’s syndrome with employers across the country.

Together with ASOS, GXO and DSA have developed long-term paid jobs for individuals with Down’s syndrome in the GXO/ASOS distribution centre in Barnsley, where more than 4,000 members of staff are based.

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There are four team members there who have joined and developed their careers through the GXO and WorkFit partnership.

Luke, a catering assistant is one of them. He helps to cater for his many colleagues, taking on roles such as preparing food, displaying fruit and washing pots.

“I like working here because I like all of the staff,” he says. “I love cooking and in the future, I would like to be a chef.”

Luke and Jordan are supported by a buddy and a dedicated WorkFit officer supports jobseekers and employers at all stages of the process.

The WorkFit programme matches the business needs of employers with the hopes and ambitions of jobseekers, supporting them to be more independent, learn new skills, meet new people, earn money and increase their self-esteem.

Some people want a paid job; some people want to volunteer or do work experience in different sectors so that they can decide what might be best for them.

GXO has more than 20 candidates working nationwide through the WorkFit programme.

Gavin Williams, the managing director for GXO UK and Ireland says: “Our colleagues who have come through the WorkFit programme are outstanding, highly-valued team members.

“Our partnership with WorkFit is very much about championing inclusion and developing meaningful, sustainable jobs for the long term and ensuring that our colleagues are fully integrated and part of the team.”

Tom Byrne, head of corporate responsibility at ASOS, adds: “The GXO WorkFit partnership at ASOS Barnsley is a fantastic example of how everyone can find opportunities to grow and succeed in the workplace and become valuable members of the team.

“We would encourage other companies to explore partnerships like this and discover the benefits of hiring diverse talent into their workforces.”

In Barnsley, Luke and Jordan are enjoying being part of the workforce.

Luke describes how he was itching to get back to work after the Covid-19 lockdowns, having spent more than six months away from the company.

“I felt bored. I wanted to do something,” he says.

For the 25-year-old, the WorkFit scheme has also brought a new enjoyment into his life.

He met girlfriend Emily through the scheme and the couple have spoken about how they want to “grow old together”.

Reflecting on the scheme, Alison Thwaite, WorkFit employment development manager at DSA says: “GXO’s partnership with the WorkFit programme has been an amazing success and their support for our work has been exceptional. It’s great to see so many candidates being welcomed and developed throughout the organisation, in different roles, across the country.”