Specsavers Cheltenham was joined by the Mayor of Cheltenham to help celebrate its involvement in an initiative from the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, which helps people dealing with circumstances that are potentially causing barriers to them finding employment.

The store has just taken on its fourth Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Project participant and is fully behind the scheme having seen first-hand the impact it can have, not just for the people the project is designed to help, but for the wider team at the store.

Part of the team

Natalie Lawson-Lee was one of the first to join the team and has been working part time in the store’s lab since September 2017. The 22-year-old, who has Down’s Syndrome, helps with quality control, ensuring the glasses are clean and correctly boxed before they are dispensed to customers.

‘Natalie is always very smiley and happy and puts a lot of effort into making sure she does the best job she can,’ says Specsavers Cheltenham store director, Melanie Brackstone. ‘Not only does the team in the lab enjoy working with her, but everyone else has really felt the benefit of having her around. It’s helped to bring us all even closer together; the team goes out of its way to engage with Natalie and to ensure she is okay.

‘We would whole heartedly recommend the GEM Project to other businesses. Not only do you feel like you are helping people get into work, but the benefits to your business cannot be underestimated. Team morale has noticeably improved.’

Help finding employment

‘The GEM Project is committed to helping people who may need a little extra help in finding employment,’ says Tony Soloman, opportunity hunter for the GEM Project. ‘We are absolutely delighted to be working with Melanie and the team at Specsavers in Cheltenham who are going the extra mile by championing diversity and inclusion in their workplace and reaping the benefits that this can bring.’

The GEM Project provides dedicated and specialised help, guidance and support, for each individual enrolled on the project, from transport and childcare costs to support with any disabilities and mental health issues.

This helps them to develop life skills, self-esteem and motivation, while overcoming any practical barriers to engagement to help them move closer towards or into employment. The GEM Project is jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund.

Specsavers Cheltenham employs four GEM participants in total, three who work in the lab and one who works in the office. 

All Cheltenham store information