Thanks to the organisers of the Sight Support Worthing event for again drawing attention to the serious problems that ‘street furniture’ can pose to people with sight impairment. Whilst it is good that we have seen the ‘café culture’ return to Warwick Street and other parts of town, and there is again a buzz in the hospitality industry, it can be a nightmare to negotiate the obstacle course of tables, chairs and A boards not just with sight impairment but also trying to steer a pram or wheelchair.
It was good to see that many of the cafes and bars had made an effort to keep everything in a straight line and within borders and it was good to see the interest from other traders as to how they could help too, but it is easy to forget that this is a challenge that people with sight impairment face every day.
I was delighted to welcome my colleague from Mid Sussex and Employment Minister Mims Davies down to Worthing last Thursday. We were there to visit the newly opened DWP drop-in office in Montague Street in the old Poundland site. It was incredible to see the range of help and support services on offer there from a particularly impressive and knowledgeable team of staff.
Gone are the days of pokey and unfriendly offices with queues of people in front of desks behind screens. Here there are lots of people with real life experience themselves able to offer practical help to young people getting on the Kickstart scheme, longer term unemployed on the Restart scheme, actual employers there to talk to prospective employees and youth and disability specialist. There are plenty of jobs on offer at the moment coming out of the pandemic and plenty of help to make sure people get matched with the most appropriate opportunities.
After a challenge from Mr Worthing Hospitality Andy Sparsis on a previous Zoom ‘roundtable’ I had arranged for local employers and the DWP, Mims and I then offered to do a shift at one of Andy’s restaurants, The Fat Greek Taverna in Portland Street. It is a while since I have served behind a bar and Mims had waited tables but I think we made a pretty good fist of it and even got tips, notwithstanding the fact that the manager told us he would normally cover alone the lunchtime session that the 2 of us had worked.
The visitor numbers to Worthing are showing a very strong bounce back from last year which is encouraging but there are really big challenges about finding new recruits in the hospitality industry, with many having decided during lockdown to move into higher paid jobs or others with less anti-social hours. Certainly we need to pay them more and devise smarter ways of working and as Andy’s establishments shows it certainly helps when you look after your employees well and you have a great quality offer to your customers.