Roux helps to cook up a heartwarming night


Two television personalities featured prominently in educational charity Langdon's annual dinner at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

One was double Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jnr, whose Channel 4 series Kitchen Impossible trained young people with learning disabilities to work in a commercial kitchen. The second was one of the Kitchen Impossible group, Sarah Merriman, who lives in a Langdon supported house.

Born with Down's syndrome, Ms Merriman, 24, now holds down a part-time job on breakfast service at a central London hotel, enjoys a full social life and has a boyfriend she namechecked regularly when she joined her father Andrew on stage to address the 550 guests.

Telling Ms Merriman "you're beautiful", Mr Roux added that what she and others in the programme had since achieved "makes me feel so proud". He said afterwards that he had quickly realised that her capabilities were "good for front of house - meeting and greeting, organisational skills. We gave her a lot of responsibility and she relished it and grew with it.

"Then she got the job and to see her now is unbelievable. She's playing the hostess. She's standing in front of a crowd talking and having a joke with her dad. It's moving." Through the Merrimans, he had learned a great deal about Langdon's work.

Mr Merriman later complimented his daughter on performing "like an old trouper". When she was born, "my first thought was what does the future hold for her? We even thought 'shall we call her Sarah'? because she was not the baby we were thinking about. She became Sarah who had Down's syndrome, not a Down's syndrome baby. From the beginning we wanted her to be independent.

"We knew about Langdon as my wife works for Norwood. Now Sarah has got a permanent place to live, a part-time job, a boyfriend, a network of friends.

"She has such a great time and everybody who meets her just loves her.

"Langdon has offered her everything she could possibly need. Nothing is too much trouble. We are very lucky for her to be part of it and, hopefully, to be there forever."

Ms Merriman said she felt really welcome at Langdon. "I love my house and my housemates."

Charity chair Jonathan Joseph said Langdon was facing the implications of the Care Act 2015 and the national living wage.

The former had impacted on statutory support for those with mild to moderate disability, the area Langdon has traditionally focused on. Adding support for those with more complex needs required a radical adaptation of accommodation.

"We applaud the intent behind the [living wage] legislation," Mr Joseph added.

"We have staff working their socks off. But I can't pretend that this also doesn't have a significant effect on our budget."

The £500,000 raised on the night will go towards the Langdon's £6 million annual budget, of which there is a £1.5 million shortfall after local authority funding.

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