Feature: Our daughter is proof this works

PUBLISHED: 20:00 06 March 2013

Alex Johns with her parents Steve and Margaret

Alex Johns with her parents Steve and Margaret


In November, Havering College’s ROSE programme (Realistic Opportunities for Supported Employment Programme) held an event at the House of Commons to encourage more employers to take on people with learning disabilities. The daughter of Steve and Margaret Johns, Alex, was the first person to trial the project.

“People’s kids go to school, then they leave school and get jobs, but I don’t see any reason why it should be different for people with learning disabilities,” said Steve.

The father-of-one from Hornchurch knows what people with special needs can achieve.

His daughter Alex, who has a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome, is proof they can get paid employment just like anyone else but Steve admits it took him a while to get his head around the idea.

He said: “In 2006, Sharon Gould from Havering College invited us in and she said that she had a brilliant idea to get the young people into paid employment. We just thought it was bonkers and not going to work.”


Now seven years on Alex is working two days a week at Sainsbury’s in Romford.

Her mother Margaret said: “It is fantastic, she gets dressed in the morning and goes to work just like everyone else.

“It means that she has something to talk to us about and it has given her confidence.”

Alex, 29, was one of the first people to be selected to trial the ROSE programme, a scheme that supports people with learning disabilities and difficulties to secure paid work placements.

However, there were a lot of obstacles that had to be overcome if it was going to work.

Steve said: “We could see more challenges than anything. There is a whole list of things that Alex doesn’t like – dogs, alarms, load noises and motorbikes.

“We thought it was going to be a cosy little job like working in a hairdressers, where she could go in and have a chat with the ladies, but when they told us it was a supermarket, we just thought that ‘they could not be serious’.”

One of the reasons the scheme has been so successful is because of the support of a job coach.

The job coach spent time with Alex so she got to know her and all the things that she didn’t like.

A year into the programme, Alex left college and there was the worry that her work would end.

Steve said: “It was an anxious time for us because we thought that we would have a dilemma back on our hands, but the manager was really determined that it was going to work.

“They are all very supportive and they include her in their team meetings and she is encouraged to speak.”

The programme has been such a success that Steve now works with Havering College to promote it.

In November he went to a special needs education conference in Cyprus.

He said: “Every college should have a ROSE programme because it works and Alex is living proof of it.”

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