As the staff at the Re.work.It Boutique in Reigate know, employment is not just a means of earning money, nor is a job simply a place to just fill time during the day. It is a way to meet new people, form connections, and above all, feel respected and valued, with the chance to exercise new skills and earn a sense of independence. That is what the Re.Work.It provides: paid work and volunteering opportunities to people so that they may gain invaluable experiences. Located on Reigate High Street, the Re.Work.It boutique has refashioned (pun intended) the way in which social enterprises should be run, by enabling people with learning disabilities and autism, as well as physical and mental health needs, to access a supportive and welcoming environment that simultaneously allows them to earn money or volunteering experience.
Opened in September 2019, the shop allows pre-loved fashion to be given a new lease of life, with clothing, shoes and accessories donated by the pubic being curated and sold at a very reasonable price, including high-end brands and rare chic finds. Re.Work.It has a distinct identity that celebrates inclusion, supporting both its parent organisation Active Prospects – a local charity which enables people with learning disabilities and autism, physical and mental health needs to live full and aspiring lives- and the individuals that work within the shop itself. Any profits made by the boutique are reinvested into funding high-quality care for local people with learning disabilities and/or autism, and with their 50:50 donation scheme, donors are able to keep 50% of the sale made for their unwanted items. Donation is also very easy; potential donors can ring up or fill in a quick online form to arrange an appointment. At the appointment, the price value and saleability of the piece of clothing or accessory is assessed by the Re.Work.It team, and that’s it! The item is made available to the public for a fraction of its original price.
In addition, the donation and resale of these products reduces the number of clothes that enter our landfills every year. Studies have found that each year the average Briton throws away about 3.1kg of textiles, so by supporting Re.Work.It, donors also do their bit to improve the sustainability of fashion and help the planet. Besides, who doesn’t love to show off their new style for a lower price with the added bonus of helping the environment?
As stated in one of Re.Work.It’s Instagram posts (@re.work.it.reigate), people with learning disabilities have the lowest rates of employment in the UK when compared to other disabilities and the wider public, with only 4.4% of females and 5.7% of males being in paid employment. In Surrey, this statistic shifts to just 9%. Amidst the cost of living crisis, it is essential for people with learning disabilities to have the option to be empowered by independently earning money, and having access to supporting staff that is able to assist them whenever they need it. This lack of employment opportunities has created a barrier for those with learning disabilities from choosing a career that will help them aspire, a barrier which Re.Work.It is proud to break, by offering retail jobs that can give people necessary experience to work in other businesses, should they choose to.
Thank you to our student volunteer, Abigail Guest for the very well written article