Disability sites swap to Covid-19 support

29 April 2020
Foundation work has switched to Covid-19 related products
By Jane Hanks

A disability training foundation has turned over its workshops to the manufacture of Covid-19-related products.

The Fondation Franco-Britannique de Sillery normally caters for more than 800 people with various disabilities in nine training and care centres near Epinay-sur-Orge, Essonne, and two in Brittany.

The workshops are where young people with mental and physical handicaps are usually employed on routine work subcontracted by civilian firms.

They are now packaging alcohol-based hand sanitiser gels, making face masks, quality-checking taps used in Air Liquide’s oxygen cylinders for hospital ventilators, and providing laundry services to France’s armed services, a biopharmaceutical firm, the Centre d’Essai Atomique, and to Paris airport catering hubs.

This is being done by existing staff, hastily recruited employees on short-term contracts, and also service-users.

Most of the people normally cared for by the foundation have had to go home and the president, Geoffrey Cardozo, said many are finding confinement exasperating.

“We saw this coming and created rapid response teams of trained staff and caseworkers who proactively call every one of our home-bound service users daily to chat with them and check on their wellbeing.

“Our team of psychologists has set up a helpline, which is also being used by other mental health establishments.”

Work is continuing in the foundation’s vegetable gardens and produce has been sold or offered to soup kitchens.

The main site near Epinay-sur-Orge is being used by the emergency health service units for their command post, and staff also sleep there.

The foundation was created during World War One to coordinate assistance to French soldiers injured on the Western Front.

Its functions have changed over the years but it has always been involved in actions helping the vulnerable in France.

Mr Cardozo said he was grateful to his staff and happy that a largely British-run organisation was being supportive

“The current actions by the Fondation Franco-Britannique de Sillery make me so proud of being a Brit in this wonderful country, which many of us have adopted as our home,” he said.

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