Not alone …..

As well as offering employment or training advice and support, as Peer Support Workers (PSW’s) we also offer a broader moral support to our participants. There can be many factors involved in individual cases which all need to be addressed to ensure that someone is ready and able to return to work.

For example one participants life has been extremely hard recently. She has 2 young children, no local support network and a difficult relationship with her ex-partner (her children’s father). So, how can she even be ready to start work if she’s trying to cope with lockdown, home-schooling her children, her own mental health issues and, on top of all that, dealing with domestic abuse?

But this lady is a fighter, she is determined to get back into work, provide a safe and loving environment for her children and take back control of her life. However, she cannot do all of this at the same time, and she cannot do this alone.

Part of our job as PSW’s is to recognise when we need to find other sources of help outside of that offered through our own employability project. In this instance we have signposted our participant to various local support groups for those suffering domestic abuse and we have reached out to colleagues for additional support and guidance. At HeadsUp we have a Wellbeing and Safeguarding policy to keep both staff and participants safe, and we make our Safeguarding Lead aware of relevant information to enable them to follow things up and provide any further support should it be required.

Sometimes the most important thing we can do is make sure that our participants know that they are not alone.

When a thank you note says it all

Sometimes you don’t need to write an awful lot to relay the message you are trying to get across. This note was sent from one of our participants to their Peer Support Worker (PSW), the person who had offered them 1:1 support from day one of our project, and you can see how much that had meant.

Our participant here already volunteered in an outdoor role but wasn’t required very often so his PSW  found an opportunity at a local Hospice who were asking for volunteers to support the maintenance team. After meeting and an induction they started attending every Wednesday (in Feb 2020) and really enjoyed being part of a team again.  A purpose and being constructive with their time made a huge difference to how they felt about themselves.

Our PSW actually [socially distanced] ‘bumped’ into that participant in a supermarket recently and they were such a happy, beaming person. They were thriving at the Hospice and a paid job had been created due to the extra precautions the Hospice were needing to take due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants Dad was with him at the supermarket, and he couldn’t be happier, he had seen such a positive change in his son.

The participant who sent the note above was in a very different place to the one that started with HeadsUp – such fantastic progress for this individual even in these really challenging times – a great outcome for all involved!


Deciding your direction

It’s difficult sometimes to decide what course to do or which career path to take when you’ve had a period of time out of work, we know how hard this can be which is why our Development and Skills Officers (DSOs) have developed a session around exploring this with you.

We can chat about what your experiences have been like in work, what you enjoy doing/ have a passion for and what you would like to do for a career. We can help you to form ideas and the plans you might need to achieve your goals.

Sometimes it takes a little time to decide what you would like to do for a job, sometimes you don’t know what best suits you and you don’t know where to start. We can show you some tools to help you make decisions including thought provoking questions to get you thinking about what you really want to achieve and walk you through some great online resources. Between the DSO and the participant they’ll find the best starting point and that’s when the practical skills start, like getting your CV up to scratch, talking you through some practical job searching tips, getting you prepared for interviews and looking at volunteering options.

All these steps can help you on your journey to achieve your goal, whether it be to go back in to work, access a training course/get back in to learning or to be able to have the skills to job search independently.

Accessing Technology Funding

As  project we pride ourselves of providing practical and wellbeing support for our participants, all of whom have had mental health challenges during their lifetime, but still really want to job search and find work or training. But alongside skills and personal wellbeing  you also need access to some kind of technology to take full advantage of the websites and information available to help with the job search process, and actually, most job applications are now solely on line.

So if you don’t have a laptop or smart phone, and of course in recent months we haven’t been able to visit libraries and suchlike where you can often use tech, what are you to do?

One of our Peer Support Workers (PSW) has supported two of her participants to access technology funding in order to help them with their search. One of the participants was able to secure funding from her local Job Centre Plus  for a smartphone enabling them to job search from home whilst the libraries are closed. Another participant was able to get funding for a laptop so that they can work towards a mental health nursing qualification at home.

Our fantastic team are great at taking a challenge and helping to find a solution and this scenario is no different as both participants would not have been able to progress had our Development and Skills Officer not sourced the government funding, and the PSW supported the participant in successfully applying.

Great outcomes for the team and our participants, especially under such challenging circumstances!

If you have your own Job Coach at a JCP then have a chat to them about how the Flexible Support Fund can help them overcome a substantial barrier to employment.