PEOPLE with learning disabilities are being given the chance to experience working life at Westhoughton Market.
Leigh-based disability charity Just BU has opened a cakes and crafts stall at the market, with the people it supports playing a pivotal role in running it.
Just BU’s founder Justin Fellows said the aim was to focus on what disabled people can do, rather than what they cannot.
Ashley Cartwright’s Leigh business As Sweet as Honey Cakes and Balloons, which is across the road from Just BU, supplies them with products to sell.
Overseen by a paid employee, the charity’s members have to do all the work on the market, including cashing up, ordering extra stock and serving customers.
They have been welcomed by other Westhoughton stallholders and, in true market spirit, have even been helping out on other stalls.
Mr Fellows, aged 41, said: “This is an opportunity for disabled people to be independent and make a positive contribution to the community.
“This is a safe environment for them here, it is not too vibrant or hectic.
“The emphasis has always been on disability but it should be on what these people can actually do.
"They are making a real contribution to what is happening in here, not just on our stall, and we have been made really welcome.”
Inspired by his uncle, Clive, who has Down’s syndrome, Mr Fellows started Just BU two years ago after leaving Wigan Council’s adult and social services department.
Ms Cartwright said: “I worked with Justin before and have supported adults with disabilities since I was 16. It is nice here because it is indoors and when the weather is bad they can carry on.”
Among the members to have gone to the market are Andrew Radcliffe, Raymond Bowden, Toni Saunders and Matthew Stanford.
Miss Saunders recently made her first visit and Mr Fellows says he introduces members to the market gently, giving them a drink and meal, before gauging whether they would like to return to be involved with the stall.
Cath Higham, a stallholder who oversees the market’s operations, said: “I think it’s absolutely brilliant, to give people a chance to get confidence and interact with the community.”
Members sometimes help out at AOKay Cafe where staff member Alex Ingram, aged 19, said: “They are brilliant, it is a fantastic idea. It is getting them interacting with other people and they have made friends with some of our regulars.”