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George at Asda becomes first supermarket to offer clothing that supports independent dressing for children with specific needs such as autism

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George at Asda has become the first supermarket retailer in the UK to offer clothing especially designed for children with specific or sensory-sensitive needs such as autism, through its Easy On Easy Wear range.

Research from George has shown that the move is sorely needed – 8 in 10 parents (79%) of children with specific needs say that it is difficult to get their children dressed every day. As such, nine in ten (89%) say they have become ‘distressed or upset’ trying to dress their children or watching them try to dress themselves, with nearly half (45%) saying this is the case ‘most or every day’. Similarly, 90% say their children themselves often get distressed whilst trying to get dressed.

The research found that it takes nearly twice as long (88% longer) for children with specific needs to get dressed. This is due to clothing being designed with neuro-typical children in mind – for example with tight necklines, hard to do up buttons or non-elasticated cuffs – that is not always suitable for children with conditions such as autism.

There is more of a need for specially-designed clothing than many may realise. Approximately 2.5% of children in the UK are believed to have a learning disability*. Looking specifically at autism, diagnoses are on the rise and it is estimated that approximately one in every 100 children in the UK has autism. In addition, it is thought that for every three children with a diagnosis, there are another two who have the condition but have not been given a formal diagnosis**.

Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s great to hear that George at Asda will be developing autism friendly clothing for children. Parents often tell us how sensory sensitivities can mean that autistic children struggle with clothing, like an itchy label, a scratchy seam or an uncomfortable fabric.

“Finding clothing their children can wear can make shopping for clothes time consuming and stressful. Many parents have to scour specialist shops for everyday items that other families are able to buy easily. So, it makes a real difference when a major retailer takes this on.

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“Simple changes like removing a scratchy label make an enormous difference.

“Around one in a hundred children are autistic in the UK – that’s around 120,000 school-age children – and they deserve to have the same choices as everyone else. We hope that even more retailers will come up with similar ideas, and do their bit to help create a society that works for autistic people.”

The research found that on average, parents of children with specific needs have to buy twice as many clothes in the search for suitable items – 94% more. They almost unanimously agree (97%) that more high street and affordable clothing brands should offer clothing ranges designed for children with specific needs.

Six in ten parents say that regular clothing is simply not suitable for special needs children. And whilst 81% have tried clothing made with specific-needs children in mind, 38% say there are not many options, and 28% say they are too expensive.

The elements of non-specially designed clothes that cause the most issues for children with specific needs are itchy labels (38%), clothes that are hard to get on and off (38%), uncomfortable materials (34%) and seams that irritate them (31%). All of these issues are addressed in the new Easy On Easy Wear range from George – for example, fiddly buttons have been replaced with easy close fastenings (although mock buttons ensure they look just like the regular range). Meanwhile, all the clothing has softer thread used on the seams and care instructions are printed on the fabric rather than using labels. Elasticated waistbands make trousers easy to put on, and ensure they are extra-comfortable.

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Commenting on the launch of George’s new range, singer, actor and long-time autism awareness campaigner Keith Duffy said: “I know first-hand just how difficult it can be to find clothes that children with specific needs are happy and comfortable in. Not only do they want to feel physically comfortable but they also don’t want to look or feel different from their friends when having to wear specially adapted clothes. There are more children with specific needs than you might think and yet there are not enough options to clothe them, which is why I think George’s new Easy On Easy Wear range will be a lifeline to parents up and down the country, helping their children to feel independent and just like everybody else.”

Caroline Hicks, Head of Schoolwear at George, said: “We’re very proud to be the first supermarket retailer in the UK to offer clothing especially for children with specific needs. We have undertaken extensive research with customers and charities to ensure our clothing is suitable for them.

“Our main goal was to create clothing that allows independent dressing and that is more comfortable, thus addressing some of the challenges with clothing not designed for specific needs children. Seventy-one per cent of children with autism attend mainstream schools. We know that these children want to look the same as their peers, so we have designed the range to look just like the rest of the school clothing we offer. The collection also comes with all the great quality, value and sustainability that you expect from the main range – and all at the same price too!”

Commenting on how the range was created, Caroline added: “We were talking as a business about how we support a wider range of customers and deliver clothing to meet those needs. Alongside this, we had also received a few letters from customers asking us how we could support their needs, focussed around independence and easy to wear clothing. These customers supported us as we developed the range, and have given us incredibly valuable feedback along the way.”

The Easy On Easy Wear range was launched by George on 6th April and is available nationwide via its website at www.george.com

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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Technology

£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications

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Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.

The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.

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Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.

Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.

“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.

“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”

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Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.

“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”

Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.

The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Money

64% of Wales employees set to leave due to cost of living

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couple talking while moving in new apartment

During the biggest cost-of-living crises most people will have ever experienced, only 6% of employees in Wales believe their employer is doing enough to support them through the crisis.

Even though staggering 72% believe their employer has a responsibility to support them through the current climate.

That’s according to new research from Blackhawk Network, which says that according to employees, employee benefits are no longer just added incentives, they are now a way for employers to support their staff.

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It says it’s now essential employers are informed on what employees want and ultimately need from benefits schemes to help guide them through the cost-of-living crisis.

Other key findings in Wales show 94% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises, with 79% of employees saying employee benefits play, or could play, an important role in improving the cost-of-living 

Almost two thirds (64%) would leave their current job in order to find an opportunity that provides better financial support during the current cost-of-living crisis. 

The findings come from research conducted by Blackhawk Network in conjunction with Sapio, to support the launch of its new Blackhawk Network Extras Benefits Platform.

Workplace benefits are hot property at a time of crisis  

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According to the UK-wide data, 85% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises. While raising wages might seem a simple fix, businesses are also impacted by rising costs and inflation making pay increases unviable. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do to help. 83% of employees agree that workplace benefits play an important role in helping to balance finances as the cost-of-living continues to rise; and 95% of employers agree.

It is telling that almost a quarter (24%) of employees admit they’ve already used their benefits package more during the cost-of-living. In addition, almost three quarters (73%) of employer’s state that prospective employees are looking for employee benefits as part of the solution to the crisis.  

Employers must dial-up on support to have real impact  

The report says that dialling-up cost-of-living support through employee benefits is a must when talent is at risk. For example, salary sacrifice, where employees are offered the option to pay for services or products from their salary before they receive it to reduce tax, can be found with offers such as Cyclescheme, on technology or gym memberships, to save money that would otherwise eat into pay. However, there are still barriers to overcome.

When employees were asked what the term ‘salary sacrifice’ meant, almost three quarters (73%) admitted they did not fully understand it, including 18% who had not idea at all. In contrast, to almost all employers (98%) believing employees understand it to some degree. There is a clear disconnect between the employer and the employee, yet salary sacrifice can save employees money and help in mitigating the effects of the cost-of-living crisis. 

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If employers want to support employees, they need to make information about benefits, like salary sacrifice, more accessible and digestible to prove that it can have a real-life impact on their current financial situation by making their pay go further.

Over half (53%) of employees say they would be more likely to use salary sacrifice schemes if they had a better understanding of how they work. But this is an issue that only employers can fix. Better communication is essential to close the perception gap on employee benefits to be the support employees want and need during the cost-of-living crisis. 

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA Incentives & Operations at Blackhawk Network said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that employers have a vital role to play supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. But the rising costs also mean that businesses are unable to offer blanket wage increases.

“Our research takes an in-depth look into the current state of employee benefits and the perceptions of the employees who are in a position to use them. With the release of this research, we hope to give businesses the tools they need to improve their benefit packages so they continue to support staff throughout the crisis.” 

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