A HORTICULTURAL BASE for employment training and personal development has taken root as a commercial enterprise.

Since 2009 Bishopwearmouth Nursery in Sunderland has provided day care placements for vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, helping people to develop their skills and increase self-confidence working in retail, floristry, and landscaping.

As a result of all those years of Sunderland City Council funding and support, the hard work and creative talents of staff and commercial success and quality of the professional horticultural services provided, a new independent company has been created.

The ‘not for profit’ Community Interest Company (CIC) Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative currently provides supported employment opportunities for 18 people with disabilities, with all profits from the services they provide invested straight back into the company to provide additional employment opportunities.

It will operate alongside the day care service operated and managed by Sunderland City Council, for vulnerable adults for people with mental and physical disabilities at the nursery in Chester Road.

Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative was officially launched by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight, who was joined for the occasion by special guest broadcaster Marion Foster from Newcastle Radio who currently presents and produces the weekly ‘Garden Mania show’ for listeners across the region.

The Mayor, Cllr MacKnight said: “The creation of this new company speaks volumes for the hard work, talent and dedication of all those involved with Bishopwearmouth Nursery, and what can be achieved when we give people sometimes excluded from mainstream education of training the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their individual skills and talents.

“Our horticultural nurseries in Chester Road have been providing a supportive and secure environment for vulnerable members of our community to do just that for a number of years, and hopefully our new commercial partnership with Bishopwearmouth Co-operative will allow that to continue.”                               

The managing director of Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative, and service manager from Sunderland City Council’s People Directorate, Shaun Donnelly added: “I am proud of what the Directors and the staff at Bishopwearmouth Co-operative have achieved over the past year, which has enabled us to provide eighteen employment opportunities for adults with disabilities from our local community.

“The setting up of the company has also helped us to access external funding for future projects such as the new coffee shop proposed for next year.

“I would like to thank all those companies and organisations which attended the launch and especially those who have supported us over the years.”

One of those working at the new CIC, Chris Bell, 50, said: “I enjoy working for the company as it gives me something to look forward to.

“I am now trained using garden machinery, but in addition I also meet new friends and get paid for something I enjoy.” 

His workmate Sarah Laing, 32, added: “Working for Bishopwearmouth is the best thing I have done, everyone is so friendly and I get to learn new things every day.

“The launch was a fantastic day and I really enjoyed chatting to the Mayor Councillor Doris Macknight.”