The Preston charity store that has taken the decision not to reopen
Written by Skywave Radio News on June 15, 2020
While waves of businesses are set to reopen their doors today (June 15) under the government’s new rules to allow ‘non-essential’ firms to trade again, the return has been put on ice for one Preston social enterprise.
Integrate Social Enterprise, which provides opportunities and work experience to people with learning disabilities and complex needs, has earmarked July for the open sign to return to its Penwortham charity shop.
Like the vast majority on the high street, the shop closed as a result of the lockdown announced on March 23 to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
But because of the coronavirus risk that still faces its service users and staff, the return to work date has been pushed back until July as a precaution, with some service users being vulnerable.
Christine Denton, from Blackburn, runs the charity shop on a daily basis.
She said: “We support people with learning difficulties but many of those are also volunteers for us too and are quite involved in what we do.
“They are very keen to know what’s sold and help with moving stock.
“It gives them contact with the world. It integrates them into society.”
The social enterprise itself has been in Preston for 37 years.
As well as its Penwortham shop it has a number of social projects in Preston including a gardening hub at Haslam Park, a packaging unit at Oakham Court, and a car repair service with the help of trained mechanics.
All the projects are part of Integrate’s efforts to help its service users lead normal lives.
“They’re called service users,” Christine said, “but they’re our friends really.
“It helps give them a reason to get up and out of bed in the morning.
“But none of our people have been allowed at our enterprised because of the coronavirus situation.
“We can’t explain about keeping two metres away some times. It’s not always that easy to compute.
“It’s been taken away from these people and they can’t go where they usually would be. [But] it would be the wrong thing for us to rush it all back now we’re allowed to reopen.”
Integrate is currently preparing its charity shop for reopening which includes ordering PPE, training staff, buying protective screens for till areas and obtaining floor markings.
In total, the social enterprise has 295 support workers and 35 admin staff to help its 130 service users.
And despite the coronavirus pandemic, the usual checks on those that need assistance have been kept in place to make sure everyone is coping okay under lockdown.
Christine said: “The staff have been amazing, especially the care workers.
“We had to change overnight and there’s been some big changes. But we did it.”
As for the charity shop, Christine added: “I’d love to open now.
“I have so much summer stock, and most of it is pre-coronavirus and in storage. We’re in a really good position. But we’re not ready yet.”
Service users are expected back at Integrate’s social enterprises from the end of June, albeit in limited numbers at first to make sure everything can operate according to official guidance.
“It can take a lot to adapt sometimes,” Christine said.
“But now we’re at a time where rules are being changed or taken away.
“So we need to make sure we provide the additional support for our people so they know what they can and can’t do.”
Christine, who now lives in nearby Longridge, is currently back at the shop conducting risk assessments, making sure social distancing can be carried out before reopening, and creating safe spaces for donations.
She said: “Staff will be back at the end of the month to go through everything and to give their expectations on how they want to work.
“They will be listened to and be a part of the conservation; we will decide together how we will conduct ourselves as a team.”
To stay in touch with Integrate’s charity shop, visit its Facebook page.
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