May 06

Disability Firm Switches Production To PPE


An Exeter-based disability enterprise that usually makes wheelchair upholstery has switched its production line to manufacture thousands of masks for frontline NHS workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Devon Disability Collective has 26 employees, most of whom have physical or learning disabilities or mental health issues. So far they have turned out 3,000 face shields since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

The company says it has yet more capacity to produce even more personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS, which has had chronic shortages of vital safety equipment.

Operations director Steve Gallin said: “When we heard about supply issues and shortages we thought we might be able to help. The team all wanted to do their bit for the UK’s response to the pandemic and to show that local manufacturing can play a part in fulfilling the increased demand for different products.

“We’ve had an excellent response to the PPE products we’ve produced so far and we’ve certainly got capacity to do more around various products.”

Machinist Jenny Selley, 63, said: “We are really glad to be playing a part in giving something back to the NHS and also keeping us working during these strange times.”

Back in 2015, the firm was faced with closure but with help from the Community trade union, it transformed into a social enterprise so it could stay open.

Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “We are proud of what our members at the Devon Disability Collective have achieved. Five years ago we came close to losing the business and the vital jobs it provides for people with disabilities.

“To see the company adapting and changing to respond to the UK’s demand for supplies in the coronavirus crisis demonstrates just how much this business has to offer.”

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