Candis Big Give – Little Gate Farm

Andrew Canon, 37, explains how Little Gate Farm helps to support him into
paid work and a more independent lifestyle

For Andrew Canon, a work trainee at Little Gate Farm, Wednesdays are one of the highlights of his week. “I spend every Wednesday working at the farm, which means I might spend the day helping to feed and care for animals, cooking in the kitchen, or working in the gardens – my role changes all the time. Getting to try out different things is really good, as it means I’m learning a wide variety of skills as well as having fun.”

Diagnosed with autism when he was four years old, after his family noticed he was displaying symptoms of the condition, Andrew explains, “Although I could understand the words people were saying, I couldn’t always understand the meaning or context and could take things the wrong way, which made relationships more difficult. I also struggled to adjust to new environments and social situations.”

Following his diagnosis, Andrew began attending a special-needs school, where he was supported with his learning. “I enjoyed school and did well in several subjects. I got some certificates and completed the Young Enterprise course – which required me to do a horticultural work placement one day a week, which I enjoyed. It gave me the confidence to go on and learn more.”

After leaving school, Andrew went on to attend Hastings College, where he studied cooking and computers and completed a number of work-experience projects. He then went on to gain short-term work in a few local cafes and shops and move into supported accommodation, where staff were available to assist him with tasks such as shopping, cooking and laundry and help him to live more independently.

“I was always quite ambitious and was determined to do things for myself. I was interested in working in gardening or in a furniture store in the future, but being able to live and work
as self-sufficiently as possible was the most important thing.”

In July 2017, Andrew’s social worker informed him about Little Gate Farm, a charity based in East Sussex that helps to support adults with learning disabilities and/or autism into paid work and independence via work training at the farm and job coaching.

“I thought I would give it a go, as it seemed like a good opportunity to learn new skills. My carer filled in an application form and I then attended two taster days at the farm in October, which I really enjoyed.

I was really happy when I heard my funding application had been approved and I could start at the farm that November.”

Since November 2017, Andrew has attended Little Gate Farm every Wednesday from 10am until 4pm for work training. “Starting new things and being in new surroundings is something I find difficult, so I was quite nervous when I first came to the farm. However, the staff and other adults were all really friendly and I found the work very enjoyable.”

Andrew was provided with a job coach who supports him at his Friday job at Birkdale Nursery where he works as a gardener’s assistant. “Little Gate Farm helped me to get the job and my job coach, Sarah, comes along with me every Friday to support me with anything I might need during the working day. She is there to help me make decisions about what to do or to help me to communicate more effectively with my employer or other members of staff if needed.”

Little Gate Farm raised £3,499 in The Candis Big Give, part of which will go towards providing work-related training and job coaching to more adults with learning disabilities and/or autism. The job coaches assess the adults’ skills and aspirations and then support them into paid work, including helping with job applications, travel training, adjusting benefits, attending job interviews, and working with the employer on an ongoing basis to make that placement work – tailing off support as and when it’s no longer needed, with an open-ended offer of future support.

For Andrew, this has been so beneficial. “I can sometimes find receiving new instructions anxiety-provoking as I worry I might not understand what I’ve been asked to do properly, but having my job coach around for support has helped with this and I find I can now learn from instructors quite quickly and am able to do what is asked of me quite easily. I have developed techniques such as using checklists to help with this. “My skills and confidence in my abilities have also improved greatly since I started working at Little Gate Farm. I am working towards getting more paid hours and I now feel more confident about getting more work in the future and becoming even more independent.”

6% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment in the UK. This compares with 95% of the general population

Little Gate Farm provides work training for 80 adults with learning disabilities and autism

They have supported 38 people with special needs into paid jobs.

Little Gate Farm

TOTAL RAISED: £3,499

➸ Little Gate Farm is a 46-acre care farm in East Sussex that equips learning disabled, autistic and vulnerable children and adults with skills to improve their well-being and future. It runs projects for children with learning disabilities, and supports adults into work and independence through work training. Trainees will be supported by
a job coach, who will go to the workplace with them each day for as long as needed, and will get support with anything that will help them to get and keep a job.
➸ The money raised in The Candis Big Give will help the charity to provide work- related training and job coaching to ten adults with learning disabilities in 2019, as well as provide a holiday club for 30 children with additional needs at its farm.➸ Visit littlegate.org.uk to find out more.

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