Northwich has officially been named the first town in the North West and only the third in the UK to achieve its ‘Makaton Friendly’ status.

Makaton was developed as a simpler form of sign language to help people who find it difficult to communicate.

The Makaton Friendly scheme recognises organisations that strive to make their services accessible to Makaton users. Overall, over 200 people from 30 local businesses in Northwich have attended training since April.

Associate Director of Memberships and Partnerships at The Makaton Charity Hannah Anderson has extended her congratulations to Northwich:

“It’s fantastic that Northwich is embracing Makaton within the community, you are opening opportunities for more members of the community to socialise and feel included within your town. Such a brilliant achievement, well done Northwich!” 

The project was spearheaded by Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group (CDSSG) and funded by the Northwich Business Improvement District (BID), Northwich Rotary Club, Vale Royal Rotary Club, Northwich Town Council and Cheshire Community Foundation.

Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group’s CEO Julie Duff spoke of how securing the towns’ status has relied on community involvement and support.

“I have absolutely loved taking up the challenge to make Northwich Makaton Friendly. It’s been a pleasure to work with the local community to spread the word about Makaton,” said Julie.

“I thought this would be a wonderful way to help the Down’s syndrome community be even more included in Northwich. We’re already planning an event to celebrate and thank the sponsors, volunteers and businesses that have approached us for training.”

A large variety of organisations attended the training including: the local library, coffee shops, dental practices, clothing stores, schools, and many more.

Northwich BID Manager Jane Hough has also expressed her joy at Northwich being awarded the status.

“This is just the beginning as we strive to make Northwich an accessible place for everyone to visit and enjoy quality time.

There are so many positive steps being made here and it has been brilliant to see how enthusiastic local businesses have been in making their environments Makaton Friendly. We have also undertaken the training in the BID Team as this will help us to support people with language barriers at our town centre events.”

Julie has big plans to take the town’s Makaton Friendly status further through approaching multi-national brands and starting a Makaton Café so that those that have been trained can keep their knowledge fresh whilst broadening their skills.

Organisations and individuals are also being encouraged to contact Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group if they would like to take part in future training by emailing [email protected].