Island charity, Osel Enterprises was established in 1988 to help find and provide work for people with disabilities living on the Island.
In the ’80s people with disabilities were rarely even considered for an interview and our founder Trustee, Bill Davidson, a former Director of Isle of Wight Social Services, wanted to change that mindset and give people with disabilities hope and a brighter future. He, and other founding trustees, had witnessed the struggle of family and friends with disabilities to find work experience which could lead to meaningful employment.
When the local authority was looking to outsource adult social care, Bill seized the opportunity and set up Osel, a charity with the vision ‘to create and provide genuine quality products made by workers with disabilities in a genuine job’. He promised that ‘every pound we make will be ploughed back into the business to create more opportunity’, and it is. Osel is an acronym for Outstanding Support, Education and Learning, and that remains the central ethos of the organisation, although it has changed and grown over the years.
We work with people with physical or mental disabilities who struggle with normal daily activities, the long-term unemployed, lone parents and people on low incomes. We also work with other third-party organisations on the Isle of Wight to provide specialist support for people needing urgent or crisis support. Giving people an opportunity and a real choice about how they live can make a huge difference to the person and their families, as well as the wider community. Our clients rely less on local authority support and other statutory services such as the NHS.
We know that having a job or routine improves physical and mental wellbeing, it lifts the mood and engenders self-worth. I see the incredible results that it brings every single day, and it is truly life-changing. Every employee is treated like a part of the family and allowed to grow in confidence whilst building their social skills and training. They can then either stay employed by the charity or move on to an external employer and further their careers.
Osel is now the parent company of three separate enterprises. The Way Forward Programme provides specialised facilities in Newport for people with learning or physical disabilities or autism. We provide weekly sessions and tailored support, often on a one-to-one basis. Working towards well-being offers support to those recovering from mental health conditions, building confidence to help them back into the work-place. Particularly since the Covid pandemic, a growing number of people have mental health challenges and Osel helps local employers, large and small, to recognise they still have much to offer.
Wight Crystal is probably the most widely recognised of our three brands. For more than 30 years we have bottled water from our natural spring at Knighton, using a workforce with disabilities, ploughing the profits from water sales back into our charitable activities. As well as selling bottled water we install water-coolers into many Island homes and businesses and we also supply carbonated drinks. We have built relationships with many valued partners, including the Isle of Wight Festival, Walk the Wight and the Garlic Festival.
Osel is a very special place. A determination to succeed runs through the whole organisation. Whatever their challenges, everyone has potential to maximise their own self-worth, leading to self-confidence and resilience. The Island is fortunate to have such a unique organisation and I consider myself very lucky to lead it.