Toucan Employment is the UK’s longest-running supported employment charity for people with learning difficulties and disabilities; we aim to reduce the social exclusion of our clients from the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, Brent, and Haringey by aiding them to find and retain employment. Our service is tailored to meet both the needs of the job-seeker and the employer by offering full support during the whole of the recruitment process; we work with employers to set up/find jobs that are suited to our clients’ abilities and interests and offer on-the-job support and job coaching to meet the needs of our clients and their employers, as required.
Since Toucan Employment was established in 1989 we have worked with hundreds of individuals and employers to promote the inclusion of disability in the workplace. In the last 10 years we have supported well over 550 people with learning difficulties and disabilities into paid employment with employers including all the major supermarkets, London hotels and museums, the Houses of Parliament, and many more smaller employers. Toucan Employment works with some of most marginalised people in the job market - people who would often otherwise just be left in the mire of day centres, where there is a self-perpetuating circle of disinterest and meaningless activities.
We have a number of distinct projects to support clients into, and at employment (an allotment, and projects for NEETs, vulnerable adults, and for first work experience placements for students from special schools/colleges, amongst others).
People with learning difficulties and disabilities only have an employment rate of between 5-15% nationally (Valuing Employment Now), and the boroughs we work in have aggregated unemployment rates of roughly 10.8% (Economic Development Bulletins), meaning that people with learning difficulties and disabilities in these boroughs have very low levels of employment. No other supported employment charity works with this client group with the same level of success as Toucan Employment does – last year we worked with more than 266 clients across the projects, and of these 266, 180 were in some form of work. Additionally, to this Toucan Employment works in a truly holistic manner – we pick up and address a whole range of issues (benefits, housing, tax issues) which, if not dealt with, would seriously impact on clients’ ability to enter and sustain employment. In a recent analysis of our work in Southwark showed we had 65 clients who had been in work for more than 5 years, including 31 who had been in work for more than 10 years.
Toucan Employment has a small management team – Alex Margolies is the CEO, and has responsibility (along with the trustees) for fundraising, management, project development, and future planning. He works closely with the Company Secretary, who is also the Finance Officer, to ensure that all statutory and regulatory requirements (company and charity law, etc) are all met.
The Toucan, Hither Green is a new project we are looking to establish. The Holly Tree Arms was a local pub based in a residential area of Lewisham, which has now stopped trading.
Lewisham has a range of services for people with learning difficulties/disabilities, but few are free at the point of entry, especially employment services. Despite only running a Supported Employment programme for Lewisham residents between 18-25, we are getting substantial numbers of enquires so we know there is a large demand for the employment support we provide.
Geographically, there are no learning difficulties/disabilities services in the area of Lewisham where the Holly Tree Arms sits.
Re-branding the Holly Tree Arms at the Toucan and re-opening the space would offer the space for this employment work with people with learning difficulties/disabilities to occur.
Aligned to this, the space would also offers additional services that would complement the employment work undertaken - i.e. benefits advice, volunteering opportunities - we would invite other organisations to access the space.
Having conducted an audit of local residents about the Holly Tree Arms and what they might like to see there, I am confident there is an appetite for a community pub, especially one offering activities such as board-game nights. Additionally, work in both these methods would be acceptable to the Council and its planning department - they are not granting permission for previously open pubs to change into other commercial activities (i.e. Tesco mini, Sainsbury Local).
The Toucan would operate in a hub manner during normal office hours (9-5), with a range of services for Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities - employment support from Toucan Employment, benefits advice, volunteering opportunities, etc. In the evening the Toucan would be a Community Pub, offering a wide range of activities. There would also be opportunities for people with- and without learning difficulties/disabilities to volunteer and enter paid employment at the pub.
The Toucan would compliment the existing and new services we are running in Lewisham. At present, as part of the Workstart Project, we are working with young Lewisham residents, 18-25, to support them into, and at, employment. We are also establishing a Supported Internships project in Lewisham, working with Lewisham Council, Job Centre Plus, other voluntary sector partners, and a range of employers. We are also looking to establish a 25+ project for Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities and autism to ensure there is a pathway for Lewisham residents post-25 (there is no specialist provision that is free to access, and these clients need more help than can be provided by Job Centre Plus). We are working closely with a range of statutory, voluntary sector, employer, educational, and parent groups, to establish a better pathway for young people with learning difficulties/disabilities and autism in Lewisham, and the Toucan Pub would offer
The intended outcomes are:
- Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities to have improved vocational skills;
- Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities to have improved employability skills;
- Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities to have improved social skills.
- Lewisham residents without learning difficulties/disabilities to have increased opportunities to access a community pub;
- Lewisham residents without learning difficulties/disabilities to have increased social interaction.
The intended outputs are:
- Lewisham residents with learning difficulties/disabilities to have training, volunteering, and employment opportunities - both within the Toucan during its pub/social hub operations, and elsewhere.
- Lewisham residents without learning difficulties/disabilities to have volunteering opportunities both during the day and evenings, as well as paid opportunities in the evenings.
The estimated net benefit to local and national government of clients with learning difficulties/disabilities moving into work is estimated at between £7,000 and £18,000 per year, in terms of reduced use of day services, support services, etc.
Additionally, there will be a community pub, where at the moment is just no pub at all.