Embracing difference

Embracing difference

Shane Mousley on ‘Tuesday boy’ Matthew turning full time

“My wife Sallyanne first met Matthew when she taught him maths at college. He was doing a lifelong learning course and she just loved him from the start.

He was always the one who wanted to write the date on the board, always the one who wanted to carry her bag. We would often bump into him in town and Sallyanne would make a fuss over him. One day we asked him if there were any days he didn’t go to college, and if he’d like to try work experience with us.

He came along on day release from college after that – he became our Tuesday boy – and then unfortunately his college funding was withdrawn. Plans were made for him to go to work on a farm two or three days a week, but he didn’t like that idea – in fact he got really upset about it. That’s when we asked his parents if we could ask Matthew if he wanted to join us full-time. They were delighted and so was he.

Matthew has worked with us for five years now. We had opened in 2012, so were still fresh and new then and we were growing when he joined us. He just slotted into that growth.

Matthew does everything apart from administration – he has his own computer and sits tinkering away on that, but admin’s not really his thing. He literally does everything else, though. He signs off arrangements, sits with us when we’re arranging, asks families questions and does all of the basics including removals.

Conducting funerals is where he really shines, he likes being out in front of the hearse, guiding the family to the service and looking after the donations. He does all things associated with the smooth functioning of the day. That’s where he’s best placed – he likes to be on show and understands what he has to do.

He is 27 now and lives with his parents who are still really chuffed and proud of what he does here. We work together to support him – it depends on his needs at the time but if they have an issue or we have an issue, we work it out together. It’s a really positive relationship.

Shane with his daughters Poppyjoy and Jennifer, alongside Matthew Jacques

Matthew’s often left in charge, so he has to deal with whatever comes in, answering the phone and taking messages etc. Sometimes things go a little bit wrong, but it’s nothing insurmountable, nothing we can’t fix.

Families love him. He hasn’t got the toolbox to be fake. He just can’t be false – he’s got no filter. But that’s what makes him so genuine. If he gets it slightly wrong, which he does sometimes, it actually brings about a smile or a laugh, which can be really welcome. He’s very affectionate – it’s cuddles all day long for me or the girls – our daughters Jennifer and Poppyjoy – and it’s the same for our families. If Matthew senses or sees they’re upset, they get a cuddle.

You can have such a good laugh with Matthew. Yeah, we fall out some days – he can be a pain in the arse and I’ll be picking him up all day, saying ‘you know how to do that, you should be doing this’… Then at the end of the day I’ll say, ‘Sorry mate, I feel like I’ve been getting at you all day!’ and he’ll say, ‘It’s alright mate, I’ve been a complete pain, I’ll get a good sleep and be better tomorrow’.

I would have another ten Matthews without a shadow of a doubt! I feel blessed to have him and he’s just one of the family.”

Shane’s advice

“If you’re recruiting, look for the best candidate – don’t look at the disability. If you put disabled people in the same pool as able-bodied people you might find they bring a lot more to your team.

Their loyalty and pride will be boundless for a start. Just put whatever you need in place to give them an opportunity. Do a risk assessment based on the individual’s needs and crack on. You won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll get more joy!”

“Our team takes sign language lessons”

Oliver Towner is co-owner of Arthur C Towner Ltd. The family firm is based in Hastings and St Leonards, where one of the team excels in his role as a mason.

“One of our team of monumental masons, Piers, is severely deaf, so our five full-time employees in that department undertake British Sign Language (BSL) lessons so they can all chat to each other. Communication is an important part of the job and as a company we pay for the BSL lessons because it makes everyone’s lives better.

Piers has been with us for 27 years and does very physical work – he’s a banker mason and fixer. That involves cutting and gilding lettering – hand-cut into headstones – into different kinds of heavier stones.

He also fixes stones on site and the skills our stonemasons have is fantastic. We are the last of the Independents in our area from the 19th century and we are very fortunate because no one else in the area does the job we do of repairing gravestones and tidying up grave sites.

If families don’t want to pay out, we will give them recommendations, of course, but we do a lot of repairs. Some of the stones Piers works on are ridiculously old – from the 1800s in some rare cases – although most are twenty to thirty years old. Piers will also go out to remove the headstone when families want to add a name.

Brand new headstones normally take six months to create from start to finish because we have to let the ground settle. Bigger companies might have them pre-cut in China, but we order stones in ourselves and cut them, hand letter them and paint them. The stones come from all over the world – Welsh slate, granite and marble from Eastern Europe – and Piers learned the craft of cutting and decorating them on the job from the rest of the team.

He’s an invaluable member of Towners’ staff.”

Help for employers

There are more than 10 million disabled people in the UK and you may be considering employing a disabled person for their abilities, skills or experience.

Access to Work is a specialist disability service from Jobcentre Plus that gives practical advice and support to disabled people, whether they are working, self-employed or looking for employment.

The programme is provided where someone needs support or adaptations beyond the reasonable adjustments which an employer is legally obliged to provide under the Equality Act.

Reasonable adjustments

  • Adjustments to premises
  • Giving some of a disabled person’s duties to another person
  • Transferring a disabled person to fill an existing vacancy
  • Changing a disabled person’s working hours or place of work
  • Allowing a disabled person to be absent for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment
  • Providing training or mentoring
  • Obtaining or modifying equipment
  • Modifying procedures for testing or assessment
  • Providing supervision or other support
  • Modifying disciplinary or grievance procedures

You will find useful guides from the HSE and more information at gov.uk.

Useful reading

For employers looking to find out more about autism in the workplace, or working with autistic colleagues:

Down’s Syndrome WorkFit

The Down’s Syndrome Association’s Employment programmme which brings together employers and jobseekers who have Down’s syndrome.


A Scottish site with a very useful reasonable adjustments document on how to handle mental health issues for employers in Scotland.

Rethink Mental Illness

Has a useful ‘What’s reasonable at work?’ document for employers and employees on how to handle mental health issues in England and Wales.


Mencap’s employment service can provide tailored support throughout the entire recruitment process.


The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group demystifies the tax system and explains the Access To Work programme with a range of guides.

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