LOCAL charity Ilkley Community Enterprise Ltd has hit the national news with its pioneering work to help people with a learning disability into paid employment.

The charity’s Outside the Box Works project was featured recently in an article in The Guardian written by local journalist Hazel Davis.

“Getting media coverage at a national level as well as locally is terrific,” said Graham Smith the charity’s chairman. “It puts Ilkley on the national stage and is a real testament to the work of our whole team, the achievements of our members and the support we have from local employers. We have had lots of interest in our work and social media activity as a result of the article. We are all very feeling very proud.”

The Outside the Box Works project was set up by the charity to help people with a learning disability who are involved in Outside the Box community café and Arthouse, to find paid work with local employers. Since starting up two years ago, with funding support from The Igen Trust, the project has supported 18 members to get work experience, work tasters and placements or part-time paid jobs. Local employers taking part include Specsavers, The Black Hat, Tyler James Pet Shop, The Cake Ole, LCF Law, Clarke Foley Centre, The Valley Clinic, Dan’s Den, Audley Clevedon and more recently Poppy Red Shoe Shop and Friends of Ham have signed up. Other local organisations including Ilkley Playhouse, Ilkley Literature Festival and Ilkley Arts Trail have helped by providing volunteering opportunities to OTB members.

The project received a big boost recently from local supermarket Booths who not only offered work placements and part-time jobs for the project but also made a donation to the charity of £1,000 from their staff’s fundraising activities. Following work experience placements and interviews three Outside the Box members are now working at the store. A spokesperson from Booths said: “Our Ilkley store has developed a great relationship with Outside the Box, working with them since last year and as a result we've gained three wonderful colleagues which has been fantastic."

Jane Sanderson, the project lead, has been working with many local businesses to help them to support the project. She said: “We have been delighted by the number of local employers who have got involved with OTB Works. Booths have been a great supporter of our work and we are very appreciative of the fantastic commitment of all the staff at the store. We provide lots of advice and support to businesses to help them to be part of the project and carefully match our members with employers. We look forward to working with lots of other local employers who could offer opportunities for our members."

The project runs a Work Club in collaboration its partner training organisation North Yorkshire Adult Learning and Skills Service to prepare members for moving into paid work. The course covers employability, including the world of work, CV development, meeting employers and Interview preparation. “We have lots of demand from our Work Club members for work experience, placements and work taster opportunities as well as for part-time jobs in the local area,” added Jenna Peel, Manager at Outside the Box. ”So we are always keen to hear from businesses and other organisations who want to find out more about getting involved."

If you can help or would like to more information about the project, get in touch with Jane Sanderson (Employment Support Worker) on 01943 431173 or janeotbworks@gmail.com