‘I always wanted my own job’

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Foreglen native, Tracy Rodgers, has persuaded the Council’s Governance & Strategic Planning Committee to seriously consider a long-term jobs initiative for people with learning disabilities.

Ms. Rodgers was one of two participants in a recently completed pilot project called What About Me (WAM) under which they worked at DC&SDC for six months.

This week she joined Dermot O’Hara, manager of Destined of which she’s been a member for six years, and Gerry Craig, of the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, to tell members why the scheme needed to be rolled out long-term.

Ms. Rodgers, whose proud parents James and Margaret travelled down from the Foreglen to hear her speak, said working at the Council had been “life-changing”.

“When I woke up in the morning I was excited about the day ahead,” she said. “And when I returned home I was buzzing about what had happened during the day.”

The bubbly Co. Derry woman spoke for many when she said growing up in a rural area had been isolating at times due to the high economic activity rate among people with learning disabilities.

“I always wanted my own job,” she said, saying that’s how she felt at DC&SDC where she was treated as an equal and as a valued member of staff.

Mr. O’Hara said his ambition was for one per cent of the DC&SDC workforce to be ring-fenced for people with learning disabilities. That equates to nine full-time jobs but he said it was more likely to be split over 27 part-time posts.

Mr. Craig, meanwhile, said he believed Derry and Strabane were becoming more open.

“I think society is ready to change,” he said.

The committee agreed to set up a working group to look at putting an official policy in place before the dissolution of the current Council in April.