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Small businesses fill the void of Covid job losses

14 December 2020

Kisharon is helping people with learning disabilities to set up small businesses, filling the gap caused by the loss of countless jobs because of Covid.

Gardening services, parcel deliveries, takeaway coffee pop-ups and selling challah are all ideas for the future.

New businesses would largely depend on an individual’s hobbies, skills and passions, and there would be guidance with business plans and to secure initial funding.

Kisharon’s Employment and Opportunities Manager, Shlomo Weltman said: “Regardless of the virus and lockdown this is something we could have done earlier. One day we will return to some normality and when this happens these businesses could carry on in addition to the part-time jobs people worked at before.”

Shlomo said support workers, volunteers and managers were an untapped pool of entrepreneurial skills and talent. Any new schemes will take time to establish, but he hopes support workers will become business ‘champions’ and offer a helping hand.

“The uniqueness of Kisharon and the Jewish community is a good starting point for business ideas,” Shlomo said.

Many of the 80-odd employers Kisharon worked with let their learning disabled employees go at the start of the pandemic.

In many cases, their jobs were no longer relevant. With home working the norm, office tasks like shredding and delivering and collecting post were not required and with hotel occupancy down, additional staff were simply not needed.

Social distancing caused job losses in schools, shops and warehouses.

In other cases, the people Kisharon supports with underlying health conditions had to pull out of jobs they loved. This had a catastrophic impact on Kisharon’s employment programme and the people it served.

Shlomo explained: “The jobs provided purpose and routine and meant people had a fulfilling day. They felt proud, their behaviour matured, and they integrated well with new colleagues. More independent with earned money, their friendship circle expanded and they were often included in staff parties and other events.

“Many learned to travel on their own even taking the Tube into central London. However some employers have kept jobs open while others who cannot offer opportunities have kept people we support on the payroll.”

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Pirkei Avos
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.” Kisharon looks at the person not the disability, teaching Torah, Middos and Mitzvot embracing and cherishing everybody’s special talent and bringing out the best in them.