What is Makaton and should pub staff learn it?

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sign of the times: training staff in the language programme could benefit your business
Sign of the times: training staff in the language programme could benefit your business

Related tags: Children

Makaton is a language programme that uses signs and symbols to help people with communication difficulties. The Makaton Charity is encouraging pubs and restaurants to teach staff.

Businesses can acquire Makaton-friendly recognition for striving to make services accessible to people who use the language programme, Makaton charity co-ordinator Sarah Drew explained.

There are more than 2.2m people in the UK with speech, language and communication difficulties, which includes more than 1m Makaton users.

Licensee Noreen Tristram hopes to develop a training programme with Star Pubs & Bars to teach other pub managers the language.

Simple process 

Staff at her pub – the Oaklands in Littleover, Derby – achieved accreditation for the language in order to communicate with one of their regulars, a little boy called Oliver.

“For me, it was about how do we, as a business, communicate better with him as he gets older,” she said.

Learning the programme was easier than expected, but the costs could be off-putting to other pubs, Tristram explained.

She said: “I was quite surprised at how simple a process it was to get the accreditation. It's about how committed people have been, and financially getting the money for the taster session.”

The Oaklands team were not charged to do a taster session with a teacher at Oliver’s school, but the average cost could be around £150 per person for a session.

Why pubs should seek Makaton-friendly status? Makaton charity co-ordinator Sarah Drew gives five reasons.

1. Increased business potential

By making your pub more accessible to Makaton users, you will widen your customer base. Being Makaton-friendly will enable Makaton users to feel confident as well as enabling carers and parents to use services where they know someone understands and will treat them like everyone else. It can increase customer satisfaction, which improve business.

2. Investment in staff 

You can choose which elements of Makaton you would like to use, but by offering your staff the opportunity to learn and use Makaton (how much is up to you) you are empowering them and enabling them to grow and increase their skill set. These communication skills are life enhancing and they will be able to carry with them throughout their lives.

3. Strengthening community ties

Within our communities, there will always be individuals who struggle to communicate at some level. The Makaton-friendly scheme will allow people who use Makaton to feel welcome, included and access services within the wider community, just like everyone else can.

4. Increased publicity

The Makaton Charity will let other people know you are Makaton-friendly through the website, newsletters and Makaton tutor networks.

5. Recognition

As a Makaton-friendly organisation, you will gain exposure within the pub environment and the wider community by going the extra distance to help people with individual needs. It is a unique selling point that will set you apart from other businesses.

Venues said improving accessibility was good for business
Venues said improving accessibility was good for business

To join the scheme, staff must attend a workshop with the recommended minimum being two days involving learning a core vocabulary.

The Makaton Charity provides books, DVDs and digital resources to aid learning.

There were three pubs in the UK with the Makaton-friendly status but, after management changes and closures, it is just the Oaklands pub.

Hospitality engagement

However, several hospitality businesses have the accreditation, including Alton Towers’ restaurants and venues.

A spokesperson from Alton Towers explained the decision to obtain the status stemmed from wanting visitors to be “fully engaged and immersed” in their experience.

“We wanted our employees to have the skills and confidence to fully communicate with the young guests and families that use Makaton, so there were no barriers to their exciting experience and time with us,” they said.

“We opened up our Makaton training to all of our employees giving them the opportunity to learn the basics, such as signs and symbols relating to our facilities, hotels and rides. We were overwhelmed with the response.

“The feedback from guests has been tremendous and they continually tell us they love it! To be able to communicate using Makaton means everyone can make their own special memories with ease.”

Related topics: Training

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