A boutique shop has opened in the Whitgift Centre that is staffed by Croydon residents with disabilities working towards a career in retail.
Croydon Council’s Gateway service has launched a four-week employability programme to help local residents with disabilities gain experience of working in a shop and gain a City & Guilds level 1 retail qualification at the same time.
The 12 adults started at the All About Me shop on Monday (23 July), selling a range of handmade artisan products from jewellery and bags to clothes, homeware and even luggage. The shop, located opposite Superdrug, is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Mondays to Saturdays until 18 August.
The Gateway service works to support and train both people at risk of homelessness and adults with disabilities so they have greater confidence in the workplace, financial stability and independence.
Around 50 people attended the shop launch, including the Leader of Croydon Council, Councillor Tony Newman, the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Bernadette Khan, and special guest Croydon boxer Joshua Buatsi, who won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
One of the people on the course is Chris Meliniotis, aged 58 from Kenley, whose past jobs have ranged from sweet shop assistant to warehouse foreman and dry cleaner, but he has been unemployed for 12 years after being turned down for hundreds of jobs because of his epilepsy.
Chris said: “I have had interviews and it all goes well but once I’ve mentioned my disability they never phone me back to say whether I’ve got the job, and it is upsetting.
“The only retail experience I haven’t got is with modern tills where people pay with cards. I hope I get the qualification because that brings me closer to getting a job.”
Leader of the council, Councillor Tony Newman, said: “As Croydon grows we’re determined that everybody in the borough gets the opportunity to share in that success, and this council initiative breaks down barriers to work for people with disabilities who want a career in retail. I look forward to hearing about how they got on when the project ends in mid-August.”
Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, cabinet member for economy and jobs, said: “The All About Me course gives these local residents the extra practical experience, accredited training and confidence to feel readier for work in the retail sector, whether they want to work in a store or run their own business.”