Lockdown also forces positive change!

I doubt that anyone would say that they’ve enjoyed the last few months, and much of that has been down to enforced changes we have all had to make to our lives. Covid has impacted our personal, social and work lives to such an extent we have all had to adapt. But we seem to have reached a stage where conversations have started to include what we might have learned from this experience aswell.

HeadsUp Peer Support Workers (PSW’s) are used to carrying out their work face to face with participants, so of course this has had to change over recent months. Contact has continued though, with great use of the telephone. Indeed, the whole participant journey can be carried out via phone and other tech if required from enrolment, through job searching and well being chats.

This was a difficult transition for PSW’s and to begin with many weren’t keen as they prefer to meet people face 2 face. But it has proved to be a very useful timesaving method of staying in contact with participants. For example, when job-searching over the phone it takes much less time, about 30 – 45 minutes per appointment which makes it possible to contact two participants in a 90-minute window instead of one.

Positive outcomes have been achieved all the way through the lockdown period, for example a PSW supported a participant in applying to do a Construction Skills Certification Scheme course, and another was supported to make applications for several job roles – all arranged by phone appointments and email.

Whilst there is no ignoring just how tricky recent months have been in many ways, its great to also be able to take the positive and acknowledge that there is learning in the strangest of circumstances. Going forward many of our PSW’s have said that they will be considering a mix of contact methods with participants. It’s clearly been demonstrated that whilst face to face contact is really important and will remain a key part of the support offered, there are some appointments that can be carried out by phone leaving more time to offer valuable support to more participants – everybody wins!

Face to Face Meetings begin again at Basildon Advice Store

HeadsUp in Basildon are seeing participants face-to-face again this month for the first time since lockdown as our base of operations in the Advice Store is reopening to the public.

The size of our desks has doubled and plastic screens have been erected on them to separate us from the participants for their protection and ours, while hand sanitiser dispensers are dotted around the office.

It’s going to be particularly strange to meet for the first-time participants who were signed up during lockdown, they and the Peer Support Worker (PSW) have built up a rapport only over the phone until now. What is more, we have joked that as the public are asked to wear a face mask at least when moving around the Advice Store we may finally meet and yet still not see each other’s faces!

Some participants are anxious about attending appointments in person and we are accommodating their wishes. Those who live nearby but would prefer not to come into the office itself have been offered an opportunity to meet in the open air, at a distance, as the risk of infection will be even lower. Those living in other towns, have requested that appointments continue by phone for the time being as they do not want to take public transport unless absolutely necessary. All of these options are fine.

The pandemic has affected different participants differently, so those who specifically requested to only resume ongoing support once face-to-face meetings were possible again, perhaps because they had anxiety around phone calls, will be glad to see us once more.

At the moment we have a significant number of single parents on the project locally, so it will still not be possible for them to fully engage with the project until the schools go back in September, however this will give us a chance to get to know the new referrals we have now received through the Job Centre.

As always the HeadsUp team continue to adapt how our service is delivered wherever we can to ensure that we continue to offer our participants the employment and wellbeing support that they need.

Applying for Jobs Begins from the Ground Up

There’s no denying that, in the current climate, it can be difficult to find a job. Whether you’re looking to work for the first time or have recently become unemployed, prospects now may seem fairly grim; but the truth is that there are still jobs out there if you know how to target your applications.

The essential first step is to decide what type of role you are looking for, and then to match your skills to that role. If, like me in the past, you suddenly find yourself redundant after twenty years in the same role, it’s easy to fall into a couple of traps: either forgetting so many of the good skills you have developed over time; or expecting that prospective employers will be able to “read into” what you’ve done and understand its relevance to them. Similarly, if you’ve never worked or are returning to the job market after a substantial absence, it can be tempting to put together a “one size fits all” application and just hope that someone will spot your potential and give you a break.

Matching your skills to the job is something our Development and Skills Officers have been doing for a while now, and over the last couple of months they have helped some of our participants navigate the application process and get interviews in a variety of different roles and industries. In each case they have started building from the ground up, helping participants to decide what they want to do, showing them how best to present their existing skills and then guiding them through the rest of the application.