Olaronke, Our New Peer Support Worker

Hi, I am Olaronke. I am new to the team here at Signpost Basildon. I used to work within the NHS as a Health Advisor. I have experience with mental health and speaking with people to gather information. I also enjoy helping people and listening to people so I’m looking forward to getting started with my participants in my role of Peer Support Worker.

I really like how HeadsUp really supports the participants, and how the support is tailored to their needs. I can provide support, advice, interview skills, looking for courses and work that you might be interested in.

Please get in touch with the project if you’d like to find out more, and you never know it might be me that you find is supporting you!

Meet our new Coordinator

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m the new centre manager at Signpost in Basildon.  I’ve always lived in Basildon, which means I know the community well. My previous roles have been team management within clinical labs, which although very different, I spent a lot of my time and energy developing my team.

Being out of work isn’t easy, I was made redundant myself in May 2021. I think this gives me a unique insight into being unemployed, and hopefully allows me to help the community better. I’m keen to learn, and excited to help people within the community to develop their skills, and get back to work.

I’m based in the Advice Store in Basildon so please come in and say hello if you’re passing!

Developing Participants IT Skills

Over the last couple of years, HeadsUp Development and Skills Officers (DSOs) have spent a lot of time helping participants to make the most of technology that they already own. This might be  unused PCs to smartphones, as the majority of people in this day and age own at least one item that will allow them to access the internet. Showing them how to use their equipment stops our participants thinking about having to buy something new, both saving money and having a positive impact on the environment. One of the biggest issues with people getting the most from their smartphones however, is the size of the screen! If you’ve not used a touchscreen device before, then learning to type on a tiny screen can be a confusing and frustrating experience which saps your confidence.

IT to reduce social isolation 

Essex County Council recently invited organisations to bid for recycled Samsung tablets. With a ten-inch screen and using the same operating system as most smartphones, these tablets would provide a perfect blend of accessibility and transferrable knowledge. HeadsUp obtained 15 of them: some to loan out to participants and others to use in larger training events, but all with the aim of reducing social isolation by using technology.

Growing confidence

Our first tablet was recently loaned out to a participant in south Essex. He had been struggling with the size of his phone-screen, and his dyslexia made typing on it even more frustrating. Having been supported with the creation of a CV he wanted to take his job searching online, so one of our team met him at his local library to hand over a tablet. As well as showing him how it worked and linking his email account to it, we showed him how to use Google Docs for word processing and how to use the voice search function. They then looked at the similarities between this new device and the participant’s phone, showing that skills practised on the tablet were directly transferrable. The participant’s confidence grew as he realised that he already knew more than he thought, and that anything new he learned could be used on devices ranging from his own phone to a library PC. He will now continue to work with the HeadsUp team, building his wellbeing at the same time as developing his employability skills.

With more loans planned and our first tablet-based digital job searching session in the pipeline, we’re grateful for the opportunity provided by Essex County Council to once again adapt and enhance our support.

Behind Someone’s Silence

What methods can assist support workers when our conversations result in silence? I always ask the questions: what hobbies do you have? What things interest you? These prompts always seem to ignite a more fulfilling and productive response from my participants.

Connecting with participants

I think that when we can find an opening this gives us an insight to how we are able to connect with people. It provides us with a snapshot into their journey, essentially a metaphorical window that we can look through. This way we cannot only find a starting point but we can also find a finishing point. We will get to know what kind of person we are trying to help; this assists in linking work ideas and ‘hobbies’ in order to improve mental health and create a platform for more active cognitive engagement.

Working with that connection

When I asked someone these very questions, the reply was ‘I don’t have any hobbies.’ Despite the initial reluctance, this then led on to him expressing a great desire for reading books, especially history. We then discussed how reading could help with mental health by keeping one focused and placed an individual in a different world – a world away from the day-to-day anxieties that have likely been contributing to depressive symptoms such as low mood and becoming overwhelmed with procrastinating behaviours.

An example of this interest-based engagement is LEGO therapy, which is a well-known technique for helping with anxiety. It’s already been identified in psychological research as being an efficient therapeutic process. However, the opportunity to implement these methods are not always noticed and the ability to implement this highly successful technique is missed.

I had a conversation with a participant about their love of watching Star Wars films and explained that LEGO have a range of Star Wars sets that may be of interest to them. l asked whether my participant had considered purchasing any of these. During our next conversation this same participant was talking about a particular set that he had purchased and constructed; he told me how this had been very therapeutic and ‘helped on a bad day’.

Perhaps, if we look at what is going on in the outside, this quite often is an indication of what is going on in the inside. So, next time you are ‘stuck’, ask the question ‘what hobbies do you have’!