Two Discovery teams win big at this year’s National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards

Discovery were part of two prestigious National Learning Disability and Autism Awards (NLDA) wins recently, at a prestigious inaugural ceremony in Birmingham.

The team at Hillcrest Road based in Yeovil won in the Lord Rix Supporting Older People with Learning Disabilities Award category, celebrating excellence around supporting older people with a learning disability and autistic people.

And Wincanton Logistics and Discovery, in a supported employment partnership, won The Employer of People with a Disability Award, which celebrates “exceptional employer(s) who are committed to their employees…delivering an excellent service to their customers, people with learning disabilities or people with autism and their families”.

The judge said of the team at Hillcrest that “meeting the team and Pete was a delight; I could have spent the entire day in conversation with them! Their genuine care, compassion, and exceptional support for Pete made them stand out as clear winners in this category…”

The judge in the Wincanton/Discovery win said:

“…passion, commitment, desire, heart, determination, and a genuine warmth define their approach. These qualities drive their unwavering dedication to those they serve, creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all.”

Other colleagues and teams from Discovery were also finalists at the ceremony, including:

Tatiana Hooper and Julie Beveridge, Discovery Support Workers at Delmore Road (in the Sporting Chance category)

Mike Bruce and Molly Northcott, Lead Support Workers at Old Farm House, Chard (in the People’s Award (Team) category). 

The team at Hillcrest Road – positively overcoming barriers to get the best outcomes

At Hillcrest, the team supports three older gentlemen with learning disabilities and autism; two of the gentlemen have been diagnosed with dementia.

As Locality Manager Hannah Grey explains when describing what her team did to support them with decorating their home:

“We did some research and had input from an occupational therapist who gave us a dementia colour palette. We also worked closely with our landlord, ABRI, who agreed to help us make sure the home was decorated in colours that would help these two gentleman…”

Hannah says that it is important that people with dementia can easily distinguish between the floor and walls. So, they worked with the people they support to choose colours they liked from the dementia palette.

“Each gentleman chose and were fully involved – the decorator became part of the family working around the people we supports’ needs.”

One such gentleman is Pete, who is of a certain age and was sent a letter around AAA screening, working in partnership with the new NHS screening team and who met Pete over Teams. They explained to him what the screening involved and he agreed to have it done. The nurse from the screening team organised the appointment.

“All the people we support enjoy gardening and growing things. We support them to plant different produce throughout the year. They get involved with growing, watering then cooking their produce once grown. This helps promote a healthy lifestyle,” says Hannah.

“We also had an old summer house that had turned into a bit of a dumping ground, so staff decided to get the people we support involved in sprucing it up and giving it a paint. They now really enjoy spending time in there, either together or to have some quiet time on their own.”

A support worker from the team at Hillcrest says this about the NDLA award win:

“We see our role as supporting people to live their best lives. We support just enough and always advocate for people to be fully involved. We don’t come to work – we come to someone’s home.”

Hannah concludes by claiming:

“As the manager, I couldn’t be prouder of my team. Whenever we are faced with barriers we work together with the people we support to overcome them.

The team is relentless when faced with health inequalities and will always positively challenge where needed to get the best outcome for someone.”

Wincanton and Discovery – a winning partnership in The Employer of People with a Disability Award

Through a successful supported employment team partnership, Wincanton and Discovery won The Employer of People with a Disability Award category.

Shona Howes, Discovery Supported Employment Manager, said:

“It was an amazing experience to witness our employer partner Wincanton win the award. The National Learning Disabilities and Autism awards have such a high reputation and it is an honour to be around such amazing people, doing such amazing work.

Dionne and Simon from Wincanton are so committed to inclusion in the workplace, they are truly a worthy winner.”

Wincanton have been working with Discovery for nearly two years, with the process of recruitment, since November 2022, evolving and continuing to do so.

Dionne Delaney-James, People Advisor at Wincanton, said: “Winning this award is completely overwhelming; I want to say a big thank you to everyone who was involved.

“Although overwhelming, it’s fully deserved. The feedback and learnings that everyone contributes from the teams has been amazing. Colleagues have absolutely loved attending the disability awareness training the team has delivered to various site and contracts within Wincanton.

Toby was our very first colleague through the traineeship with Discovery/HPC in November 2022 – he had a shorter placement due to moving to us after starting with another contractor. We happily offered Toby a position at the end; we adapted our interview process to a walk and talk due to knowing and understanding how anxious Toby can be at times (he has a visible cue of his shoulders being very tense).

We buddied Toby up with a team member and they worked on a one-to-one basis throughout his learning. Since this, we have had Discovery onsite doing-on-the job coaching with colleagues on the program, which has helped them, and us, massively!” 

Toby has gone onto start an apprenticeship alongside his operative role. The training provider Aspire has set him up with an apprenticeship coach early on to assist with his additional needs.

Dionne adds:

“As part of Toby’s course, he’s stepped up to coach new colleagues in their roles, being the wealth of knowledge within his department. Delivering a ‘Toolbox Talk’ to the whole team, I rang him after he completed this and he said he was so nervous whilst doing it but wanted to do it again. I of course cried…!

Discovery have always, and continue to be the best support network! No question feels silly, and you get the most applicable, kind, detailed and reflective response from the team and real lived experiences contribute to it!”

Dan Tozer, Head of Accounts at Wincanton, said: 

“We are delighted to have worked in collaboration with EDF and Discovery to help Toby become a colleague at Wincanton. He has settled into the team very well.

The Wincanton team for EDF is committed to being a good neighbour. A project of the scale of Hinkley Point C can have huge effects on the local community, and as a tier one supplier Wincanton takes its responsibility for creating maximum local benefit very seriously.

As a result, working with not-for-profit organisations like Discovery can have a tremendous benefit for the community in Bridgwater and throughout Somerset.”

Daniel also works with Wincanton as a document control assistant, joining at the start of 2024 through a placement and is now in paid employment. Again, as Dionne says,

“Our experiences continues to be similar – there’s great feedback and support from Discovery, adapting to Daniel’s needs to get the best outcome for him and us…

“And our training, delivered by Shona, has resulted in some good news stories. It led to a colleague pursuing a diagnosis for their child and they were so pleased with finally being able to under their ways of thinking a little better, starting the support early on for their child.”

Dionne also states that, after hosting a diversity and inclusion listening group (for the first time on their site and with no agenda in place), a colleague identified themselves as autistic.

“Just through everyone coming together in a safe, private and confidential space this happened. I believe colleagues now feel safe to discuss anything going forward, and to do it in an open forum shows that working with Discovery is breaking down the misconceptions and that having a learning disability and/or autism isn’t something which needs to be a secret.”

Overall, Dionne feels sure that

“our recruitment/onboarding/employment will continue to develop, change, adjust and progress continuously – which is amazing!”