Being employed is important to all of us; it provides us with an income to afford to live independently, offers important social networks, a routine, and a sense of pride.
And that's why we offer an employment support service within our charity, advising and guiding the people in our care to help them achieve their job goals.
The person responsible for supporting our patients in to securing and maintaining meaningful employment is Kate Allen, who has been with the charity since March 2017. For the 18 years prior to that, she had been supporting unemployed individuals - some with physical, mental health and learning difficulties - to successfully get back into to work.
What inspired you to get into the work that you’re doing?
Back in 1995 I started training as a Counsellor and, as part of my training, I volunteered as a Support Worker to students with learning difficulties so that I could practice my skills.
After a couple of months I was offered a job by the Charity and I really enjoyed supporting the students to learn everyday skills. What I enjoyed most was seeing the students flourish through their gained confidence and self-belief.
Following on from that I have worked with organisations who have offered careers counselling and job search support. As a result, I have gained the relevant qualifications, training, skills and, most importantly, experience, which enables me to offer our patients and service users the tailored information, advice and guidance they need to work towards their job goals.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
No two days are the same, that’s for sure!
I help Occupational Therapists to set up work placement opportunities for their service users; I organise and facilitate interviews and inductions for work placements; I carry out reviews; I have one-to-one meetings with community service users who are looking for employment, work experience or paid work; I deliver employability skills sessions on wards; I contact employers to talk about work opportunities and visit local companies to build relationships for future opportunities; I promote St Andrew’s and Workbridge to internal and external partners; I attend meetings with other support staff to discuss how we can enhance the service to everyone, and I keep up to date with training and relevant changes to legislation affecting our service users.
What do you like best about your job?
Seeing the smile on a service user’s face when they have achieved something, however small, and knowing they have grown in confidence and self-esteem.
Can you tell us the benefits for people accessing employment support, and can you tell us any recent success stories?
Service users and patients accessing employment support can benefit in lots of ways:
• Increase in confidence, skills and abilities through completing a work experience placement
• Placements help to build a routine, sense of pride and purpose and develop social networks
• Understanding the employment market and what’s expected in the workplace through the eight employability skills sessions that are available.
• Dedicated one-to-one, patient-centred, employment support designed around individual needs
• Job shadowing in the workplace to facilitate the smooth transition into paid employment
• Support after discharge: Once discharged, patients can access support for a further 12 weeks from anywhere in the country
There are many benefits for employers too, as service users can help businesses to create a more diverse workforce and help to change the attitudes surrounding employment and mental health.
His supervisor at the University said: “We’ve been really impressed with Gary’s horticultural knowledge, and he’s proving himself to be a fantastic asset to our team. Hopefully the experience he picks up working with us will help him to find employment.”
Fingers crossed they can offer him a permanent role once they move to the new Waterside campus in the summer.