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Pillow Talk
Wednesday 13th July, 2011

Pillow Talk
Paul Neves, Northern Feather employee and supported employment service user, with factory manager Pam Lythgoe, Cllr David Molyneux and Cllr Chris Ready

They are one of the region’s biggest suppliers of pillows, duvets and cushions – and they are also one of the borough’s top champions of supported employment.

Northern Feather, with its factory near Three Sisters in Ashton, has a history of working with employees who have challenging needs. But, as factory manager Pam Lythgoe says, it’s all to the benefit of the company.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” enthuses Pam. “We’re a normal firm, subject to the same issues and market pressures as most others, but thanks to the council’s supported employment team, I am able to take on several people who would otherwise not get a chance in the workplace – and they all come up with the goods for me.”

The work of the Ince-based council group has been of close interest to senior politicians. This week Cllr David Molyneux and Cllr Chris Ready continued that relationship with the Supported Employment Service and toured the factory.

They met Jan Fullerton, who has worked for Northern Feather since 2006, and Claire Tickle and Paul Neves, both of whom started there in 2008.

Cllr Molyneux, who leads on the economy on the council’s cabinet, says: “Firms like Northern Feather already make an important contribution to jobs and the economy in our borough. But they are not just an ordinary business, because they make time to do extraordinary things by supporting a diverse workforce.”

Like the others, Jan was desperate to work and move away from the day centre she was based in. It became the first important move to independence and finding a productive role alongside the rest of Pam’s workforce. Jan says: “I like it here, work hard and enjoy it.” All three are now valued members of her team who are expected to deliver just like the rest of her staff.

Wigan Supported Employment Service is a professional employment and training provider, securing paid work opportunities for people who have a disability. Their aim is to create a truly diverse workforce which reflects the local community and offers equality of opportunity to all. They are an Ofsted rated "outstanding" grade 1 service, and their service users include people who have a number of barriers into employment such as having a learning disability, mental health issue, an acquired brain injury or a physical or sensory impairment.

Each Christmas, Supported Employment have organised an event to acknowledge the long term achievements of individuals who they’ve supported into permanent employment, as well as applaud bosses from firms like McDonalds, Morrisons Ince, Asda Golborne, MPV Packaging and Northern Feather who have excelled in displaying good equal opportunities practice and employing a workforce that truly reflects local communities.

Kerry Claxton, Employer Engagement Officer for Wigan Supported Employment Service, adds: “Pam Lythgoe, the factory manager at Northern Feather, has provided a diverse working environment for her employees. We’d like more businesses within the borough to work and engage with our service so that those who are the furthest away from the labour market can get the training they need to sustain paid employment.”

For further information, employers can contact Kerry Claxton on 01942 828439 / k.claxton@wigan.gov.uk

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