Barnstaple’s Robert plays vital role in Covid-19 research

Robert Braunton is working at North Devon District Hospital thanks to gaining a paid work placement

Robert Braunton is working at North Devon District Hospital thanks to gaining a paid work placement via Seetec Pluss. - Credit: Archant

A young man from Barnstaple is playing a vital role in the fight against Covid-19 thanks to a specialist employment agency.

Robert Braunton, aged 21, works as administrator on an antibody research study looking at how healthcare workers are affected by the disease.

His story has been shared by agency Seetec Pluss to mark International Day of People With Disabilities (IDPWD) today (Thursday, December 3).

Robert, who has learning disabilities, has a paid full-time placement at the North Devon District Hospital putting swabs and research packs together for participants in the SIREN Study.

It has been a lifeline during the Covid-19 lockdown. He said: “When Covid-19 started, there wasn’t much work about and it was difficult. I didn’t like being at home for a long time.

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“Now, I’m working every day on the computer in the office and I really enjoy it. The staff are nice and helpful and it is a really interesting place to work. I like meeting new people and learning new things.”

After taking a supported learning course at Petroc College in Barnstaple, Robert gained work experience in the pharmacy and eye clinic at the hospital through Project Search, a scheme to help young people to gain work skills and experience.

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His current placement as SIREN Study administrator was organised by employment support specialist Seetec Pluss.

Only six per cent of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work.

The theme for this year’s IDPWD is ‘not all disabilities are visible’.

Marise Mackie, Seetec Pluss’ regional manager for Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, said it was an important opportunity to raise awareness of the work to break down barriers in society.

She said: “Our society must never be complacent about addressing the challenges disabled people can face in their community and place of work. Seetec Pluss is committed to working with people of all abilities to help them achieve their full potential.

“The challenges for young people with learning disabilities to get into employment are huge yet, in the right role and with the right support, hardworking people like Robert are able to succeed.

“We engage with employers to talk about the untapped resource they could benefit from by adopting a recruitment strategy that complements their ambitions for a more diverse workforce of all abilities. We work with many people with learning disabilities who perform complex tasks and do an excellent job, provided the right support and reasonable adjustments are in place.

“They may not perform at their best in a job interview but can show their ability through a work trial or a few days’ work experience. If employers give them the chance, they can gain hard-working, reliable and committed employees for the long-term. We have feedback from employers about the positive impact of increasing the diversity of their workforces and what it has done to build on and further improve the workplace culture that already exists.”

For more information about how Seetec Pluss helps people back into work, call 0800 334 5525 or email

Employers who would like to discuss signing up for the Disability Confident scheme and employing people with disabilities should contact 0800 334 5525 and speak to Seetec’s employer services team.

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