Training at Horticare

People with Down's syndrome enjoy work but usually they do not have the sophisticated skills necessary today to compete in the job market.

They are happy in the more relaxed atmosphere of training centres where they can work at their own pace.

Horticare provides a place, at its Lindhill Nursery, where adults with Down's syndrome can learn horticulture alongside others with learning disabilities.

Customers at Lindhill Nursery find perennial plants, alpines, conifers, bedding plants, and shrubs. There are also hanging baskets.

Trainees undertake the full range of jobs, including pruning and weeding.

Here Andrew, who has Down's syndrome, is working in one of the two large greenhouses, re-potting.

Horticare is a registered charity, limited by guarantee. It was founded in 1993 by Rosemary Robertshaw who serves as the Company Secretary. The nursery, on one-acre site on the outskirts of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, was opened in 1994. It has a full-time manager, two other staff in a job-share arrangement, and several volunteer helpers.

At present there are twenty-four trainees, each coming for one, two or three full days a week.

As well as running the nursery itself, Horticare offers a garden-maintenance service. Three or four trainees will go out with an instructor to look after school grounds or private gardens.

Horticare also has the contract to look after the memorial garden laid out in memory of the seven miners who lost their lives in the Lofthouse Colliery disaster in 1973.

There is a wide age-range among the trainees, some in their twenties, others in their fifties, and some in between. They come to the nursery because they are referred by social workers or because parents or others close to them approach Mrs Robertshaw.

When it opened, the idea of providing work in a plant-nursery setting for those with learning disabilities was a relatively new one. (Horticare was modelled on a scheme established in Harrogate.) Now the principle is being taken up in other localities and Lindhill Nursery is visited by those who want to find out 'how it works'.

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