FLINT town centre is currently blooming with colour, thanks to a talented group of adults with learning disabilities, who have been working hard to create a new array of hanging baskets.

Tri Ffordd is a group of adults supported by national learning disability charity, Hft, as part of its supported employment initiative. The team are behind the 53 hanging baskets recently put on display in Flint town centre and a further six in use at Flintshire County Council.

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,900 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

The Fusion Model is based on the concept of Person-Centred Active Support (PCAS). This is a way of supporting people so they are engaged in meaningful activity and relationships as active participants. And as a result, they exercise more control over their lives and experience greater levels of inclusion, independence and choice.

Services range from supported living to residential care - from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

Back in Flintshire, the 44-strong group has been supplying handcrafted horticultural goods to people and businesses across the region and further afield for more than 25 years, and has been supported by Hft since early 2018, when the charity opened its first service in Wales. Offering various work opportunities and job coaching, Hft Flintshire, based in Queensferry, supports people to gain work experience while building confidence, developing skills and widening friendships.

After many successful contracts, including supplying plants to local agricultural shows, grounds maintenance and creating festive wreaths, Tri Ffordd were approached by local officials earlier this year to help brighten up the community

The ambitious project has been underway for more than two months, with the keen gardeners taking on a host of responsibilities, from sourcing and nurturing plants to ensuring they are ready for public display.

Steven, who is a member of Tri Ffordd, said: "I find working at Tri Ffordd interesting and everyone is supportive and willing to help. I feel valued for my hard work. I'm sure the hanging baskets will brighten up the high street and give people something beautiful and bright to look at."

Shaun Randall, operations manager at Hft, said: "We're so proud of everything our brilliant Tri Ffordd group have achieved and it's lovely to be able to go out and see the product of their hard work on display in the community.

"Supported employment initiatives like Tri Ffordd are key to our mission of supporting people with learning disabilities to live the best life possible, allowing people to gain new skills that they'll hopefully be able to take forward into full-time employment."

Hft Flintshire supports 270 people locally with day services and work opportunities.

Such opportunities for adults with learning disabilities supported at the service include Rowleys Pantry in Shotton and Freshfields Café in Holywell, Castle Connections assembly and packing service, Abbey Metal metal and iron-based contract work in Flint, and Crefftau Cariad sewing and needlework services.

"It's all about teaching skills and employability," explains Jordan Smith, regional manager at Hft. "But it's a challenge. We have a team of nine jobs coaches who help find jobs for people with learning disabilities by helping them write applications and sorting out voluntary placements.

"Nationally in Wales there are only two per cent of people with learning difficulties in employment, which is very low when you consider it's a hidden talent pool of people that deserve a chance."

Jordan points out that employing a person with a learning disability ensures your workforce is more representative of your customer base and community, while also demonstrating your commitment to equal opportunities.

Buying into the misconception that people with these difficulties may not be reliable or capable employees could mean you're restricting your talent pool unnecessarily.

"I think if it was any other group of people there would be lots more campaigning," he continues. "We work with some fantastic employers who really embrace what our guys can offer. They are all incredibly hard working, incredibly loyal and once you train them tasks it sticks - you can be really surprised by the level of skill someone with a learning disability can have."

One problem Jordan comes across frequently is the tendency for employers to stereotype people with a learning disability, meaning they are unwilling to give them a chance.

"If you asked someone in the street what they think of someone with a learning disability it's always people with Down Syndrome but that isn't always true and there are people who are really capable of contributing," he adds.

"In the last year we've organised 13 people into work but it's hard work and all about getting people to think in a different way. It's such a proud moment for the team when someone does get a job because so much goes into it.

"It's also about the little wins: it might be that someone has never got on the bus before, so we will teach them the bus routes, show them what to do if they miss a bus and how to ask for help. It's all those things we take for granted."

For more information on how to support people with learning disabilities to live with more independence and choice go to:


or email HftFlintshire@hft.org.uk