Darren triumphs as volunteer mechanic with a learning disability

Darren, a man with learning diabilities supported by ambient, is volunteering at his local mechanic garage

An Ambient team leader has gone above and beyond to secure volunteer work for Darren, who has a learning disability, at local mechanics DK Motorcycles.  

Photo of Darren, a man with learning disabilities is supported by Ambient to meet his idol John McGuinness
Darren meets his idol John McGuinness

Darren, who lives in one of Ambient’s Learning Disability Supported Living Services in Staffordshire, has always loved motorbikes. His favourite bike is a Kawasaki Ninja and he’s even met his idol, John McGuiness a Tourist Trophy races (TT) rider. 

When Darren first moved in, his Team Leader, Melissa Gadd, was keen to understand his likes and interests. She says:  

“I discovered that Darren has a real passion for motorbikes and mechanics, so I spoke to the local mechanics garage, DK Motorcycles, and asked if it was possible for Darren to trial voluntary work for one day a week. They agreed and Darren has now been volunteering at DK Motorcycles for two and a half years and is absolutely thriving in the workplace environment. Darren is not paid but he is a willing and enthusiastic volunteer which gives him flexibility and suits his personal needs.

“He has built a good working relationship with his manager and helps him to strip bike parts and place them onto the internet to sell. He also enjoys the comradery and sits and has lunch in the canteen. His confidence has grown considerably and he looks visibly happy when he returns at the end of his working day.”

Darren says:  

“Working at DK Motorcycles is really fun. I enjoy working with Matt and he has become a good friend. He has shown me how to use tools and strip and clean bike parts. When I go to work, I like to look at the race bikes. There are about a thousand bikes in the showroom and it is amazing!”

Matt Cartlidge, Mechanic at DK Motorcycles, says:

“Darren has been working with me for over two and half years now, he helps with a lot of jobs in the workshop, such as cleaning various bike parts ready for reselling. Occasionally, he goes around the main display room and polishes the bikes that are for sale. I enjoy teaching him about what the various parts of engines do.”

When asked what Matt thinks about giving people with learning disabilities equal opportunities in a workplace, he said:

“I think it’s good for Darren to interact with the other mechanics in the workshop, it’s given him a good sense of routine and independence. I believe it’s positive for his mental health and working here has boosted Darren’s confidence. I also think it encourages the wider team to be more understanding and accepting of people with a learning disability and helps to encourage engagement. We really enjoy seeing Darren each week.

Will Thornton, Regional Manager of Lincolnshire and Midlands at Ambient Support, says:  

“Our LD service in Staffordshire is an excellent example of Ambient Support’s exceptional person-centered care approach. The People We Support (PWS) are involved in all decision-making processes and at their request, given more responsibility to help manage their home- from looking after pets to growing vegetables in the garden- which encourages independence and boosts confidence.

“Darren’s volunteering work shows the importance of understanding people’s preferences, their life interests and then turning that into a reality to ensure good quality of life. We’re extremely proud of our care teams and their hard work.” 

The Learning Disability Supported Living Service in Staffordshire provides 24-hours support for three individuals and is an example of exceptional person-centered care.  

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