My name is Laura I am 39 years old, live in Bradford and I have been receiving support from mental health services since 2017. I was referred to the IPS Employment service by my care co-ordinator following a discussion about returning to work.
I had been without paid employment since 2013 when I worked as a delivery driver. Since then I have enjoyed several voluntary roles in cafes and charity shops, something that suited me as I was worried that having a contractual commitment would put a lot of pressure on me, especially following my issues with mental health. I enjoyed the work, but for many years I didn’t consider a pathway into a paid position.
Since the start of 2019 though, I began to want to explore my chances of returning to paid work and had received some assistance from employability courses. However, I felt this gave me a lot of unclear and often contradictory information and whilst I completed some job applications, I never secured an interview. I started to become disillusioned and began thinking this was an example of my own lack of employability.
When I started working with my Employment Specialist Simon Hayes, he not only helped me prepare to look for work by creating a CV and looking for employment, but he also explored my previous workplace environments and experiences. It had been suggested to me previously that my voluntary roles would not be a selling point to an employer, but Simon made me feel proud of the skills I had learned, especially as paid work in a similar role was very much my primary goal.
We also talked at length about something that previous sources of employment support had not touched upon – my mental health. Simon and I discussed triggers that could exist in a working environment and have a negative impact on my well-being. We talked about how these can be avoided via fully researching certain vacancies, or the advantages of disclosure and how it can lead to certain adjustments being put in place.
I knew I needed a small, calm work environment that used the skills that were familiar to me. I also felt strongly that I needed to work with people that would understand the challenges I faced with my mental health.
Simon understood my requirement for work and went into the community to find suitable employers. He identified two small businesses that would potentially suit my needs and sourced out two kitchen assistant vacancies. Of the two vacancies, both were discovered by Simon prior to being advertised.
Simon spoke with the recruitment and management team of both places, and with this information it made me realise that one of the roles might not be quite as suitable as the advertisement suggested. The other however, felt ideal. Simon spoke to the recruitment manager on a few occasions, just to talk about me and his belief in my abilities. He reported back that they were very open-minded and understanding to mental health issues.
This allowed me to relax and be myself and I felt comfortable in the interview. Simon had put together a bespoke interview preparation session that we did twice, as well as calling me on the afternoon before the interview and the next morning, just to go over things again. The interview went so well it gave me a huge confidence boost and hope of securing the position. I went straight from the interview to a meeting with Simon to discuss further options and talk about which parts of the interview went well and what areas could be improved upon. Later that day, they called and offered me the job which I gladly accepted.
Prior to starting my new position, Simon and I met to discuss my reservations. I had begun to doubt myself as it felt like there was more pressure in working for money rather than volunteering, that it meant that I would be pressured to work more than what I was used to. We discussed my skills and experience and how relevant they were to the role, how I was employed based on these skills, and it made me feel worthy again. Upon starting the job, I felt a little nervous, but as happy as I am now in my role, I sometimes doubt if I would have talked myself out of taking that final step if it wasn’t for Simon’s support.
Simon has helped me not only to find my perfect job, but he also supported me with a benefit calculation to help me understand how moving into work would impact me financially and supported me to contact the Jobcentre.
He also liaised with my care co-ordinator when my mental health has deteriorated which resulted in my medication being adjusted which had a positive impact on my mental state.
When I first met Simon, I was an inpatient with plans to be discharged to the community. I had no fixed abode but was being supported by my care co-ordinator to find suitable accommodation. The transition into work was vital for me to have the means and the confidence to find my own home, something I am happy to say I have been able to do.
When I first met Laura, she was of no fixed abode, and was at a very low ebb regarding her own self-worth. Her mental health issues were something she felt quite ashamed of, as if she had failed somehow. In our early chats, it become apparent that this lack of self-belief was causing her to seriously doubt her value to any potential employers, and she dismissed her voluntary experience as a kitchen assistant completely out of hand even though this was a job she very much wanted to do. I feel it was important with Laura to give constant reminders of her worth, and soon she became less apologetic, more assertive, more understanding of her value to employers in the areas she had direct, relevant experience in.
By the time we were discussing real vacancies and opportunities, she was able to dismiss some based on a much more deserved valuation of her own worth, and whilst she still had some nerves about interviews etc, she began to understand how common and understandable this is, as well as the techniques we discussed to help.
After her interview, Laura said that she thought she had done well, which in Laura’s case meant she must have done very well indeed. Within an hour of that conversation she had been offered the job.
Seeing Laura’s development from where she was to where she is now, and where she can go from here, has been a real testimony to how things can change for someone when given the confidence to believe the achievable is possible. She continues to work in her role, and we continue to meet to ensure she has the support she needs to remain in work.