A Special Olympics athlete is proving to be as successful in his role at a Bristol care home, as he is in the swimming pool.
Alex Warman works as a catering assistant at the St Monica Trust’s Garden House care home in Westbury-on-Trym.
He also swims for Bristol Sharks, a swimming club for people with learning disabilities, and competes in Special Olympics events across the country.
Alex said: “I enjoy swimming and enter competitions in the UK when we’re allowed. This is good fun.
"I also play football twice a week, I go to a sports club and a youth club. I also go to a dance class and drama group. I keep very busy.”
The residents absolutely love Alex and seeing him is always guaranteed to put a smile on their faces
Today Alex is laying the tables in the care home’s restaurant and setting up the trays which he’ll use to deliver lunch and drinks to residents’ rooms from midday.
“I enjoy serving the drinks and talking to the residents. I think it is very good to work at St Monica Trust.
"People are very friendly and I enjoy doing a good job.”
Accompanied by a support worker on his initial shifts at the care home, the Garden House team were immediately impressed with how confident Alex was and his ability “to get stuck in.”
Senior Caterer, Clare Prosper, said: “He’s got a lovely personality and a great sense of humour. The residents absolutely love Alex and seeing him is always guaranteed to put a smile on their faces.”
Working with Alex has also had a positive impact on Clare: “I was quite nervous when asked to work with Alex because I’d never worked with someone with Down’s syndrome before.
“Alex sometimes struggles with his speech, so I started to learn sign language. That means that if he’s struggling to communicate verbally, Alex can use sign language and I can understand him.
“The management team have also provided me with access to training from the Down’s Syndrome Association to help me better support Alex.
"It’s inspired me to think about becoming a support worker for people with learning disabilities in the future.”
Alex applied for the part-time catering assistant position at Garden House at the end of last year, but was unable to start work until April 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During his interview he was supported by his mum, Zoe and answered questions using a personalised tablet device.
Home Business Manager, Lin Thomas who interviewed Alex, said: “Alex had previous catering experience and we felt he had qualities to offer that would have a positive impact on residents and staff alike.
"We therefore offered him a part time, fixed term position for six months working eight hours per week over two days.
“Since joining us Alex has quickly settled into the team and become a valued member of staff, popular with both residents and staff across the whole care home.
"We’re very grateful for the support of the Down’s Syndrome Association in making Alex’s time with us so rewarding.”
The Down’s Syndrome Association(DSA) recently supported the launch of the global awareness campaign, The Hiring Chain.
The DSA’s Employment Development Officer, Paul Harrison said: “The message is that, as in the case of the St Monica Trust, hiring a person who has Down’s syndrome not only changes the life of the person concerned, but can trigger a virtuous circle of new opportunities for everyone.
“The Hiring Chain campaign is working with the Down’s Syndrome Association in the UK to support ‘WorkFit’, a national employment programme, which has so far developed 417 employment opportunities for people who have Down’s syndrome.”
You can find out more about The Hiring Chain campaign by clicking here.