NORTHWICH is bidding to become the first Makaton-friendly town in the north of England.

The Cheshire Down's Syndrome Support Group and Northwich Business Improvement District are leading the charge to boost the use of alternative communication across town.

Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate and is designed to support spoken language.

Together, the BID and CDSSG will help organise and deliver training sessions for businesses in the town who would like to achieve the status, and retailers will also be provided with signage to let shoppers know that they are part of the scheme.

On top of this, the CDSSG will support any business in submitting an application to the Makaton Charity. During the process, Makaton tutors will visit businesses to observe their use of signs and symbols to gauge whether they adhere to Makaton guidelines.

Lucy Liddiard, marketing and communications manager at CDSSG, says a pledge to support the push can bring many benefits to businesses in the town.

She said: “By achieving 'Makaton Friendly' status, businesses will be creating a warm and welcoming environment for their customers where everyone is included and they’ll be helping to improve customer satisfaction.

“Businesses will also be able to upskill their staff through the Makaton training and it gives them a unique selling point when marketing their brand.

"Makaton goes a long way to helping unlock the potential of children with Down’s Syndrome too – it is a really worthwhile initiative to be a part of."

World Down's Syndrome Day takes place next Thursday, March 21, with many inclusive activities taking place across Cheshire to raise money and awareness.

Northwich BID manager Jane Hough said: “It would be great to see as many BID businesses joining in as possible because it will help make Northwich even more open and inclusive for visitors who come to shop in our brilliant retailers, both large and small.

“We might even become the first Makaton-friendly town in the north of England, joining 400 organisations across the UK who are approved as 'Makaton Friendly'.”

To get involved in the initiative, email or