Partnership with the East of England Co-op changes lives through Inclusive Employment

Our Inclusive Employment service has formed a dynamic partnership with the East of England Co-op to help people in Essex with learning disabilities and autism achieve their ambitions of paid employment.

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This successful collaboration has placed 11 people into a variety of roles with the East of England Co-op to date.

The local retailer has had a 90% success rate in retaining the colleagues appointed through ECL’s Inclusive Employment service which matches talented individuals to meet the needs of the business.

People with learning disabilities and/autism have a wealth of talent and skills to offer and yet they are often overlooked by employers and can also be put off applying for positions because of the application and interview process.

The collaboration between ECL and the East of England Co-op embraces the talents and skill sets of this valuable pool of job candidates - facilitating success through inclusive recruitment and HR processes, offering work trials as an alternative to interviews, and the provision of on the job coaching.

To celebrate this success we have made a series of films to showcase the benefits of employing people with learning disabilities and/autism. The films show Inclusive Employment from three different perspectives, the employee, the employer and that of an EofE Co-op branch manager.

Inclusive Employment is not just a checkbox for us; it's a fundamental principle we uphold. We recognise that individuals with learning disabilities and autism possess unique talents and capabilities that can benefit our organisation just as much as any other colleague.

“Our partnership with ECL is a testament to our unwavering dedication to Inclusive Employment, and it's a journey we're excited to continue. Together, we're breaking down barriers and creating a more diverse, inclusive, and prosperous workplace for all.

Douglas Field, Chief Executive Officer, East of England Co-op

The partnership has been brilliant, we had hired our first candidate from ECL within one month of the start of the relationship and we now have 11 in employment meeting our self-imposed target of 10 new recruits by the end of 2023. We’ve had a 90% success rate in retaining the employees we’ve appointed from ECL, we’ve had no employment issues and some of the employees have now been with us a year or longer

Ashley Symonds, Resourcing Advisor, Talent Acquisition and Development Team, East of England Co-op

The East of England Co-op is the largest independent retailer operating in the East of England. Proving food stores and specialist services, such as funerals, security, travel and petrol filling stations to communities across Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

As a co-operative business, it puts its members first. Its focus has always been, and always will be, the local communities in the areas it serves. This community-centred approach makes it the ideal partner for ECL’s Inclusive Employment initiative, which supports people with learning disabilities and/autism to achieve their ambitions of meaningful, paid employment.

It’s the ideal partnership for us. They are the local supermarket chain in the Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and they have a really positive, open minded approach towards employing people with learning disabilities and/autism. We’re an Essex-based company that’s passionate about Inclusive Employment so it’s the perfect combination! They really have moved mountains in terms of their inclusivity and other organisations could learn a lot of positive lessons from them. They are truly leading the way in terms of being a disability confident employer and we are so proud to be working with them.

Emma Young, Inclusive Employment Employer Engagement Lead, ECL

ECL’s Inclusive Employment service was established in partnership with Essex County Council. To date the service has achieved 342 successful employment outcomes. Of these, 60 of those have transitioned directly from day services.

ECL has facilitated more than 9,198 job applications, 965 interviews and 205 work trials. In addition to working closely with the Essex business community to encourage more companies to become disability confident employers.

The East of England Co-op is an independent retailer in East Anglia, with over 200 stores and branches across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.

The East of England Co-op has been serving communities for over 154 years and is owned by its members – made up of customers, colleagues and communities. It is independent of the Co-op Group and other regional co-operatives but run with the same co-operative principles.

The East of England Co-op has a £120 million investment property portfolio of 500 properties throughout East Anglia, including 250 residential units.

Each year, the East of England Co-op invests part of its profits to support communities across their trading area. The East of England Co-op's Community Cares Fund, set up in April 2020, supports a diverse range of local groups and services and has supported more than 95,000 people.

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