International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) on 3 December celebrated the achievements and contributions of people with disabilities, while seeking to increase public awareness of the social and environmental barriers which stand in their way.
Two people from Wiltshire who struggled to find employment because of health impairments have told their stories to highlight how support to overcome barriers has helped them secure jobs.
Hannah Lawson from Salisbury and Ken Cox from Swindon have been supported throughout their journey by a Change Coach at employment specialist Seetec Pluss.
With the 2019 International Day of People with Disabilities looking towards an accessible future, Hannah explained how her Aspergers syndrome means she needs an understanding employer. She likes to have a routine, needs extra time to learn different jobs and finds large crowds difficult.
Due to her anxiety and lack of confidence, Hannah was struggling at job interviews. After being referred to Seetec Pluss, her Change Coach worked with her to identify opportunities to mix with others and gain confidence, while signing up to online customer service and retail courses to gain qualifications.
Hannah secured a part-time job at Poundland in Trowbridge, where she now works on the tills and helps keep the shop tidy. She said: “Getting paid work has increased my confidence and social skills, and I really enjoy chatting and interacting with the customers.
“It’s nice to have an income, I have increased my hours and I am off benefits – it’s such a good feeling! Seetec Pluss has been very supportive, it was good to meet up on a regular basis and discuss my issues. I found my confidence in working with Seetec Pluss.”
Her employer is delighted with Hannah’s development and recommends the Government’s Disability Confident scheme to other employers. Hannah attended a Disability Confident event in Melksham, where she met her local MP Michelle Donelan (pictured with Hannah) and spoke in public about her journey.
Like Hannah, Ken Cox from Swindon joined the Work and Health Programme, which is co-financed by the European Social Fund. Ken’s Change Coach from Seetec Pluss initially supported him on a Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) to help him regain his labouring qualification and provided his Personal Protective Equipment.
Ken suffered from depression, anxiety and type 2 diabetes and was recovering from drug dependency. He said: “These conditions affect my day-to-day life, I didn’t want to think about it too much and I used my drug dependency to escape it.”
He was also experiencing poverty, and Seetec Pluss helped him by funding training, mobile phone credit and renewing his driving licence. After helping Ken find work, Seetec Pluss also covered his initial travel expenses and helped him to pay his rent while he found his feet again.
Ken said: “Seetec Pluss and the Work and Health Programme helped me by funding the essentials I needed to get back to work. I am now more confident in standing up for myself and I have achieved a four-month working contract with a sub-contractor of BAE Systems.
“After being offered a job, I felt elated and euphoric. Working has changed my life and having money has changed my life by enabling me to take my family out for dinner, giving my daughters’ holiday spending money, saving for Christmas and paying my rent.”
Ken said his Change Coach had become his drug rehabilitation mentor, helping him to continue to fight his addiction.
Paul Hughes, Seetec Pluss Operations Director said: “We work with individuals and employers to support and empower people to move into and progress in employment.
“By focusing on Hannah and Ken’s strengths, we were able to to raise their aspirations and help them to overcome their barriers to work and demonstrate the skills that employers are looking for.”