Social enterprise brings hope and work to people with disabilities

TWO-and-a-half million Brits are expected to be unemployed this year, and there is concern about how disabled people especially will fare in the pandemic aftermath.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the national average. News broke last year that one of the UK’s oldest charitable enterprises, Clarity, had allegedly left disabled employees’ wages, pensions and furlough allowances unpaid.

Melior products
Melior will employ marginalised people in the creation and sale of non-toxic, ocean-friendly cleaning products.

A former employee at the organisation, Diane Cheung, is launching a social enterprise Melior (“better” in Latin) to employ marginalised people in the creation and sale of non-toxic, ocean-friendly cleaning products.

“I’ve seen injustices against people with disabilities at a time they need support the most,” she said. “I simply could not sit by and watch. There are over a million people with disabilities who want work, but can’t find any. That’s what drives me.”

Around 80 percent of employees at Clarity had disabilities. The firm was founded in 1854 to ensure people on the margins of society had access to secure, fair-paying jobs. Actress Joanna Lumley and Sir Ian Duncan Smith have spoken in support of workers still awaiting their payments.

Sareet Shah, blind since birth, had been with the company since 2006. “Coming to work used to make me feel good,” she said. “I used to enjoy the responsibility, and making money. I want employers to understand that people with disabilities can work, want to work and are committed. The only thing we are asking for is a chance.”

Melior has partnered with a biotechnology company to launch three ocean- and pet-friendly cleaning products. All are sold in reusable glass bottles for £9.50. Refills cost about £5.

Since the start of the pandemic over 60 percent of consumers around the globe have been making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases. And nine out of 10 intend to keep on doing so, according to studies.

Marketing director Paul Twiss said it was a project with passion. “R&D is at the heart of our business and we’re delighted to be sharing our expertise to create products that are better for people and the planet.”

Melior products are used in the Houses of Parliament, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Hotel de Paris in Monaco. The firm employs people with disabilities, supports emerging creative talent with a rotating Artists Collection, and its zero-waste returns policy means an end to single-use packaging.

Melior’s first hire, Wendy Manning, says her mental health had worsened during the pandemic. “I’m exhausted, worrying how I’m going to make ends meet,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to Melior. It’s something to focus on, a big adventure. I’m sure it will be a success.”