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Making horticulture accessible

Rob Ironmonger, apprenticeship tutor at the YMCA, explains how new programme Hortability can help those with disabilities gain employment in the industry.

More than 20% of the UK population is disabled. That’s 13.9 million people, according to a Family Resources Survey for 2016/17 by the Department of Work & Pensions. These numbers don’t just include physical disabilities, either – 24% of this total reported a mental health impairment, up 4% within only two years.

But, how many of those who reported a disability are in employment? According to a report produced by  the House of Commons Library, 3.9 million people with reported disabilities and of working age (16 to 64) were employed in the UK between January and March this year. This may be on the rise – up 180,000 from the previous year – but it’s still a long way off the government’s target to have 4.5 million people with disabilities in employment by 2027.

Attempting to help change this is the YMCA Training. Working with the Monday Charitable Trust, the organisation is offering a horticultural course for those with disabilities. Launching on 23 August, the Hortability course will help tailor the City & Guilds Level 1 Practical Horticulture qualification to the individual needs of those who apply and help them to gain a job in horticulture.

“There’s a gap in the industry for people with disabilities, whether those are physical or mental disabilities,” says Rob Ironmonger, an apprenticeship tutor at the YMCA  Training who has been coordinating Hortability. “There’s not many people within the horticultural sector working with people with disabilities at present.”

Providing a person with a disability is over the age of 18, is unemployed, is able to complete a pre-course assessment, and, of course, has a passion for horticulture, then they are welcome to apply. Those enrolled on the 10-week Hortability course will need to attend one day per week and will be expected to undertake a work placement.

“We’ll look to cater for their needs and design the course around them,” says Rob. “We want to find them something which they enjoy doing. If they’re wheelchair bound, for instance, they will need raised planters. If someone has a disability where only one side of their body is working then we wouldn’t be able to do mowing or strimming, for instance, so we adapt the course, focusing on plant and weed identification, applying fertilisers, and hanging basket preparation.”

The Salford-based programme accepts a maximum of 10 students on each course, with a mentor working alongside the tutor to ensure each student has the necessary support. Though the usual course will run from 9am to 5pm, this may be shortened if requested.

Upon completion of the course, YMCA Training aims to help students to gain employment, having built relationships with a variety of local companies and local authorities, as well as with Job Centre Plus in Salford.

It might only be ten people each time, but by helping those with disabilities to get jobs within the horticulture sector, Hortability is contributing to the government’s target. From here, the number of those in employment will hopefully continue to rise.

To apply for the course running from 8 November:

Call: 0161 737 6699
[email protected]
Or apply online: ymca.co.uk/hortability

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