A FATHER says running a stall at Westhoughton Market has given his son “a chance”.

Matthew Howarth was born with severe learning difficulties and is completely deaf in one ear.

For the past four-and-a-half years, the 23-year-old, who lives in Oxley Close, Westhoughton, has run Matt’s Barms, Fruit and Veg, which his father Stephen says has “brought him out of himself”.

Mr Howarth said he and his wife opened the stall for Matthew after his college funding dried up because they wanted to make sure he could “achieve” something.

Matthew said: “I struggle sometimes but my dad helps me. It has gone really well.

“Lots of regular customers come every day and buy my stuff.”

His father said Matthew started attending a special school in Ladybridge when he was aged seven but faced an uncertain future after his college funding was stopped.

Mr Howarth, aged 62, said: “We did not want him just existing at home playing computer games so we set him up here. I’m with him all the time but only really in an overseeing role. He does all the main work.

“The trouble for people with learning difficulties is that they form a group of themselves and do not have chance to interact with other people.

“This has brought him out of himself — people with something like this tend to be very shy.”

Matthew has a twin brother, Daniel, and a sister, Lauren, and neither have any of the problems which affect the 23-year-old.

Mr Howarth said the Westhoughton public have embraced Matthew.

He added: “The community of West-houghton are really good with him, they have no intention of ripping him off.

“The ladies love him, they mother him.

“He comes to the bakery with us and they love him down there. Even all the lads working there will take time to have a chat with him.

“There is another lady on a stall who helps him out if he needs it when I’m not here.”

The stall, which sells a small amount of basic, fresh produce so they do not waste stock, is on the far right side of the market, just next to an exit to Market Street.

Westhoughton Market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9am to 5pm.

Matthew’s success at the market echoes that made by community group Just BU, which provides social care for adults with learning disabilities, and allows its members to work on a cakes and crafts stall.