Our Participant Debbie

Before joining HeadsUp Debbie hadn’t worked for 23 years as she had been a stay at home parent. She suffered with Anxiety and OCD and was receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) through IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) who had made a referral to Mid and North Essex Mind -Support, Time and Recovery Services (STaR). On receiving this referral, the STaR Worker felt HeadsUp would be a better suit for Debbie’s needs and pointed her in our direction. At this point Debbie felt ‘useless’ and that she would ‘never be able to get another job’, she struggled knowing where to start and was feeling quite low. After she had heard about HeadsUp, Debbie remembers reading a poster online explaining what HeadsUp does and thought ‘this could really help me’. She felt anxious about joining – but noted she felt anxious about everything so was not surprised by this! She felt ‘Terrified to take the first step’ but had the goal of wanting to get back into employment so knew this was the best place to start.

When she met with Paul her Peer Support Worker she felt reassured as they discussed her goals, after chatting with Paul she realised that she also wanted to complete a computer course and had these two goals to focus on. Debbie hadn’t written a CV in over 30 years and felt anxious at the prospect of completing one, however Paul reassured Debbie and worked with her over a few months to complete it, taking it in small steps. As Debbie hadn’t known where to start when trying to do her CV, having someone to go through it with her step by step really helped. Debbie’s Peer Support Worker suggested that she would benefit from the HeadsUp 3-day workshop, which would help to boost her confidence and wellbeing. She reflected about feeling nervous when she attended the workshops but felt proud once she had completed them having enjoyed spending time with people that were ‘in the same boat’ as her. Debbie felt reassured by this experience feeling that ‘maybe there is something out there for me’ as well as the sessions having an overall positive impact on her Mental Health.

The confidence gained from these workshops allowed Debbie to step out her comfort zone further completing more workshops and going to the Adult Community Learning Centre to complete courses in computing and Mental Health and wellbeing. She could feel her confidence growing and felt reassured as she knew that if she had any questions or concerns her Peer Support Worker was always on hand to help. Her friends and family started to notice the change in Debbie’s confidence too and she felt proud to tell them about all the new things she was doing.

Looking back at her time with HeadsUp, getting a job was Debbie’s biggest goal and ultimately her biggest achievement. HeadsUp continued providing support during lockdown and this led to Debbie getting back into work. In the lead up to Christmas she is working part time at Tesco’s on a temporary contract which is a great first step and suits Debbie perfectly. She now has the confidence to carry on job searching and recently had an interview for an NHS Admin job, although Debbie is hoping she will be kept on at Tesco’s as she’s enjoying all the progress she is making there.

Debbie can feel her anxiety lessening and has completed her CBT with IAPT, saying her mood has improved substantially and her anxiety levels have decreased. Debbie describes HeadsUp as being ‘Fantastic – sums it up’. She went from thinking she ‘could never do a full-time job’ to now, when she will be doing 30 hours leading up to Christmas – this is such a massive accomplishment. Debbie says she would ‘Definitely recommend HeadsUp, I was really anxious about the prospect of getting a job and was absolutely terrified but read the poster and got support. Really good support, they really help you, in a non-judgmental way, didn’t make you feel stupid but gives you hope’

Reflecting on how far she has come, Debbie said ‘Since 2011 I was housebound with OCD and Anxiety, to go from that to driving home from work is amazing’

Meet David from Colchester

Before joining HeadsUp David had been looking for volunteering opportunities and was in the process of getting started with a volunteer gardening position. He’d been unemployed for a year and a half and whilst he’d been looking for work, he felt anxious and didn’t know which direction to go. His partner was already on the HeadsUp project and told him about the great support available, so he decided to give it a shot.

David’s first concern was how HeadsUp could support his Mental Health when considering work opportunities as he wasn’t sure how his personal Mental Health problems could fit a workplace. He was also looking forward to getting support with his outdated CV to put him in a better position for work and volunteering opportunities.

To begin with he had some well-being advice from his Peer Support Worker (PSW) who also referred him for some practical job seeking support with the teams Development and Skills Officer (DSO). In these sessions he was keen to get advice on his CV to update and improve its content to emphasize his Key Skills. David also completed other Skill Pods including; how to create and edit covering letters, making successful applications, exploring different job search methods, 2 Interview Technique sessions (looking at the types of interviews, types of questions and how best to answer competency based Questions), so he really did take full advantage of the opportunities available to him. David has also completed a Mock interview in which he received really encouraging feedback which helped grow his confidence.

David was achieving what he set out to do and could feel his confidence and self-worth grow as he did it. He feels that the whole process has gone ‘really well’ and his friends and family have even seen a difference in him since finishing with HeadsUp. His confidence has grown, and he now able to approach employers and look at different employment opportunities independently. David is most proud of successfully completing the Skill Pod updating his CV and now knows how best to use it. He is currently volunteering which he says ‘makes me feel better physically and mentally’ and also reports that he is being encouraged by other volunteers to start up his self-employed gardening business again something which he now feels confident enough to consider having had support from HeadsUp.

David’s final thoughts on his experience: ‘I would definitely recommend HeadsUp to those in a similar situation, there is a variety of support and they are there to listen’

Supporting Participants with Online Applications

A popular Skill Pod that our Development and Skills Officers offer our participants covers top tips when completing online job applications.

Sometimes one click applications through websites like Indeed or CV Library are not always the best approach for job searching and applying. Although they’re quick and easy and you may be able to apply for 20 jobs in one sitting, it’s worth thinking about quality vs quantity. If there’s the option to go to the company website then do, this way you can go through their direct application process.

How do you make a quality online application?
– Take the time to complete it, it may take you over an hour but the more information and effort you make in your application the more likely you are to hear back from them
– Edit and tailor your CV before uploading it, make it relevant to the role you are applying for
– Do some company research so that you can include this within relevant sections on the application
– If it requires a personal statement (which sometimes have word limits) go through the person specification and make bullet points on how you meet their requirement

After you have your bullet points, group your points together to form paragraphs (you may have a paragraph on your organisation skills which may include; time management, meeting deadlines and other examples) Once you have grouped your points you can turn them into fully formed sentences. This way you know you have covered everything.

Top Tip:

    Make sure before you apply you check that all of your spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct! You could type out answers on Microsoft Work / Google Docs (or similar) which will assist with spelling and then copy and paste answers into the appropriate boxes within your application.

    Hopefully some of these pointers will assist you in your applications – Good Luck!

Wellbeing workshops continue online

Many of our participants engaged with Signpost Basildon have been taking part in the online wellbeing workshops that HeadsUp currently offers to replace those we had run as face to face activity pre Covid.

Understandably some people felt nervous beforehand as they weren’t sure what to expect having not taken part in this kind of activity before. But, several participants said they would join in as “anything is worth a go”.

Afterwards participants said that their workshop went “really well” and that the HeadsUp trainer Vij was “very friendly” and made them feel more at ease which is great to hear. Participants also said that they liked having others at the workshops aswell as it was “easier to talk to them as they’re in the same situation”.

Perhaps it’s a sign of how useful the workshop had been that a participant says he would like to have a follow-up session to build on what he had learnt in the group, which I think is great testimony to the impact of the session!

Finding ways around the IT challenge!

As a Peer Support Worker I’ve found the last few months challenging. With continued remote working the challenge has been to find different ways to support my participants in order to keep them engaged with the project.

The majority of my participants unfortunately don’t have a computer at home or do not have internet access, so this has meant adjusting how I have been supporting them. We’ve been creative though and produced several in-house courses including; Customer Service, Job Seeking Skills and IT which collectively supports the participants with employability skills and enhances their CV.

Several of my participants are now completing these courses and where they do have a computer/laptop, with their approval, I have been posting out the course materials for them to work through and so far this is has proved quite successful!

Hopefully things will improve in the near future, with the roll-out of the vaccines for everyone and then I should once again be able to see our participants face-to-face and fully support them with their future goals.