Members and relatives of Middlesbrough Erimus Rotary visited Ampleforth Chocolate Factory. The visit was hosted by Michelle Lumb, the factory manager. Michelle explained before the visit that In 1986, the charity Autism Plus was created by a group of passionate parents. The charity was created to support adults and young people with autism, learning disabilities, mental health conditions and complex needs on a whole life journey, to empower individuals to gain more control over their lives.
Autism Plus noticed that despite the supportive services they offered, opportunities for employment and developing necessary life skills to become more independent were scarce.
Research shows that 77% of individuals with autism want to work and feel like they are contributing to society, however only 22% are in meaningful employment, in contrast to 52% of disabled people and 81% of non-disabled people.
“Autism Plus has responded by creating a range of exciting social enterprises to provide work experience and employment opportunities.
“In 2012 Philip Bartey, Group Chief Executive of Autism Plus began discussions with Henry and Mary Scrope, parents of William who has autism. The discussions were around a shared vision of supporting people with disabilities into work. It was this vision that was presented to the Ampleforth Abbey Trust later that year, where a partnership emerged.
Park House Barns is designed to offer a variety of roles for different levels of ability, from crafting, decorating and packaging chocolate, working outdoors in our horticulture centre to administration and customer service.
“Today, we are helping young people to develop work skills, and can offer an average of 160 placement sessions each month in our chocolate studio and horticulture centre. More than half of our paid employees are on the autism spectrum!
“We have also partnered with local special schools to offer an accessible educational venue. Outdoor activities and learning away from the classroom encourages students to develop new skills, benefit from new experiences and has been proven to improve personal, social and emotional development.”
President of Middlesbrough Erimus Rotary, Alan Clifton, really enjoyed the experience as did all those attending.
Why not visit the factory and have a great time? Donations on the day are welcome. Please visit their web page
Photos show the Middlesbrough Erimus Rotary members with Michelle and other employees making chocolate and the finished products.