Workable gave me invaluable support

This is a testimony from a service user who really appreciates the support SES can provide:

‘Workable has given me invaluable support.  I would never have been able to cope with the level and complexity of the caseload that is demanded of me now. The Employment Support Officer (ESO)  listened as I unburdened my stresses. Having that ‘one to one’ support from someone who didn’t judge my failings but encouraged me, sympathised with me and gave me suggestions that would help when my brain felt totally frazzled and I couldn’t think straight, was vital. One of the best suggestions I have to add was the aromatherapy sessions.  What an absolute treat they were, not only for helping me relax when I was so stressed, but also for soothing my back pain after going through spinal surgery a few months earlier.

I used to go out of those sessions feeling that I was floating on air, but feeling guilty that they relaxed me so much that the poor therapist had to put up with my snoring!

I have no doubt looking back on it all, that I only managed to remain in my employment because of the invaluable support from Workable (NI), who were there for me at a time when I felt vulnerable and I needed it most.

So thank you to my AMH ESO, to me you were more than an Employment Support Officer, you were a valuable friend and will continue to be so.

Trust Worker – Assistant Care Manager



Support for a way forward!

I had struggled with my attendance over several years due to my own and my families health.  When I was returning to work my line manager suggested referring me to the Workable NI programme.  I had never heard of it but thought it was worth trying as losing my job was a real possibility.

This programme was much more than what I initially anticipated.  What really sets this service apart is the support I received from my Employment Support Officer and her manager.  Through them I was initially able to communicate more effectively with my line manager and explain to them how my issues made me struggle with both attending work and carrying out my work when I was there.  This was something I previously hadn’t been able to do but was crucial to me moving forward.  From here we were all able to put a structured plan based on my difficulties in place to monitor my work on a regular basis and to keep me on track.  As well as providing 1-1 support through my Employment Support Officer I was also offered counselling sessions.

Since starting the programme I have had further difficult times however the support I received helped me continue working despite everything that was going on.  Meeting regularly outside of my workplace and having contact through messages and telephone calls were an invaluable source of support to me.   My Employment Support Officer genuinely made me feel that she understood everything I was going through even when my thoughts were irrational.  She really listened to me and showed me empathy to the extent that she would often seek out courses for me to attend or activities to get involved in to improve my work/life balance.

Although not all the way there, I now have no issues with my attendance, my performance has improved, my confidence is growing, I have been promoted and have stopped taking medication.  I can safely say that none of this would have been possible without my Employment Support Officer and the Workable NI programme. I would highly recommend Workable NI to anyone who is struggling to keep their job and urge line managers to be as proactive as mine.


NICS Employee

What Workable N

I returned to full time employment just over 4 years ago after being unwell with severe depression.

I have been very fortunate to receive vital support from my Employment Support Officer over the past 4 years. Illness can leave its mark on a person and rock their confidence. I have found the support, advice and reassurance I have received through this programme invaluable.

I could never have coped or managed to progress my role without this help. Since returning to work I have had some very difficult times personally, at the start bereavement and then more recently my husband being ill, the valuable support I received especially at these times helped me continue working despite the challenges.

Being able to meet someone outside work, an encouraging email, text or telephone call made all the difference.

I would personally like to thank my Employment Support Officer, the Workable Programme for all the help I have received and would highly recommend to anyone.


Marlyn Grant

Service User Consultant

Clare found the support she needed!

Clare Herrington is a Customer Service Advisor in Hughes Insurance and had been off work for several months due to being mentally unfit to work. After speaking to her manager about the issues she was having, her manager set about finding a way to best support Clare and to help her get a better understanding of mental health.

‘My Manager found SES and through them, I had the opportunity of getting Psychotherapy/CBT sessions, as I was struggling to find this level of support anywhere else, at a time when I most needed it.  I believe these sessions were the biggest turning point for me in managing my well-being, It has made such a huge difference to me as a person and as an employee and I have begun to perform better in my role.’

Nadine Donaghy, (Branch Manager) commented, ‘Clare had been off for several months suffering from depression and anxiety.  As a company, we wanted to do something to support her in her work and with help from our HR team, we were able to source SES.

Since SES has started to support Clare, I have noticed a significant improvement in her performance in our branch.  Not only this, but Clare’s confidence has improved and she is getting involved in more aspects of working life, coordinating activities in Promoting mental health awareness across the organisation.

We would like to thank SES for all their help and continued support.’

Aquatics is the job for Arron, clearly!

Arron is 25 years old and works for Clearly Aquatics in Bangor as an Aquatics Consultant. He had several work experiences before securing his full-time position, starting off as an apprentice with the company before securing his consultant post.

Arron approached Orchardville in 2012 as he wanted support to develop his skills and further his career. It was also important for Arron that his employer was supported to better understand Asperger’s Syndrome and how it can affect his daily life. Support was therefore aimed at developing Arron’s communication skills, confidence, professional relationships in the workplace and establishing a more healthy work / life balance.

In 2014 Arron expressed an interest in expanding his work experience and branching out into another vocational area. With the help of his Workable (NI) Employment Officer Arron created a CV and applied for a temporary position as a Clerical Assistant in Queen’s University. Arron secured employment with Queen’s and worked hard throughout the year of his temporary post. The support and frequent mentor sessions with his Employment Officer helped Arron develop his skills in organisation, prioritising, meeting deadlines and improved his communication. His confidence also grew in this time and he became more aware of his ability and strengths.

Throughout this time Arron continued to develop his knowledge in relation to aquatics and their living conditions. He is currently one of the top performing consultants in the company and has developed strong relationships with customers, who often return to the store due to the support and expert guidance provided by him.

On the support provided by the Workable (NI) programme, Arron says:

“Without the support of Orchardville assisting me to achieve my personal career goals, I would have struggled much more than I have. Having one to one support on a regular basis from Workable has assisted me to challenge my barriers to achieving employment and establishing key skills for life. I am pleased to say that I have bought my first house, and without the support I’ve had over the past few years this may have not been possible”

He continues:

“I would like to challenge employers to listen to and avail of the support available from organisations like Orchardville, to provide further opportunities for people with learning disabilities or those on the Autism Spectrum to gain meaningful employment. I believe my story is a small piece of the jigsaw in creating a more diverse work place“


If you would like more information on how Workable (NI) can help you as an employee, or your employer please contact us.

SES staff make a difference!

‘My Employment Officer is a remarkable person who has directly improved my experience of work and subsequent work/life balance.  They have been a source of strength and have promoted good mental health throughout my referral to Workable NI.


Often above and beyond what I had initially expected (based on similar support I have been offered in the Managing Attendance process), they are driven to achieve the best outcome for their clients and their employers through genuine communication skills, empathy and understanding.


My Employment Officer has challenged me to implement structured steps to re-evaluate distressing or overwhelming situations and feelings with excellent, quantifiable results. I have moved off medication for panic attacks through this process. I have maintained good attendance in my job and seek help in the first instance of anxiety rather than repeating old patterns. I would genuinely consider this an outstanding achievement given where I was prior to the referral process and support from the Employment Officer.


I have undergone several years of difficult situations with my own health and with my family too. I could explain examples but the overall positives are that I have developed significantly in emotional response and in maintaining personal resilience due to the continued support from Workable NI.


I would recommend Workable (NI) to any colleague undergoing mental health difficulties and who are finding keeping their job a struggle.  As I have said before, though numerous counselling and welfare referrals have helped to an extent, I always wondered why there wasn’t that kind of advocate that Workable (NI) and my Employment Officer has been for me, to help with the translation of my often  jumbled and stressed thoughts into superb communication with my management, and equally helpful in explaining management to me.


I have achieved many things I thought impossible 12 months ago, including improved work relationships, improved concentration, resilience with attendance, significantly reduced stress responses, embracing positivity, making appropriate contributions at work, clawing back flexi deficit… communication mostly  – based on when I could seem to do nothing but have panic attacks and leave the workplace.


I believe these and other achievements have been inspired and driven by the work of my Employment Officer to believe in me when I found it impossible to do so myself.’


Civil Servant Employee

Conor is swimming towards a paralympic dream!

Conor is 25 years old and currently works as a leisure attendant at Templemore Swim and Fitness Centre, Belfast. For as long as he can remember Conor has had a passion for fitness and the leisure industry. Upon leaving school he attended work placements at Queen’s PEC and Templemore Baths and with the help of Orchardville’s employment service he secured part time paid employment at Templemore. A referral to Workable NI (WNI) then followed and with the support of his Employment Officer, Conor gradually increased his weekly hours and now works full time at ‘the Baths’!

Conor has made huge progress during his time on the WNI programme with Orchardville. He recently completed a Swim Instructors Level 1 course and can now teach swim classes with assistance from colleagues. He is keen to complete his Level 2 but at present it is unavailable – that will remain a goal for the future! Instead, he has decided to expand his industry knowledge and with the support of his Employment Officer has enrolled on a fitness instructor’s course at BMC. This will allow him to teach exercises classes and provide one to one personal training. The ongoing restoration of Templemore Baths means the Centre will be providing a much more diverse fitness programme that will give Conor greater variety in the classes he can teach.

Workable NI has provided Conor with consistent and ongoing support at work enabling him to overcome many of the barriers initially posed by his learning disability and autism. Regular support sessions with his Employment Officer have helped Conor adapt and continue his development in work, while outside work a newly found confidence means Conor regularly socialises with others at Orchardville’s various social clubs. The support of WNI has been invaluable in allowing him to work successfully at the same level as his peers. Conor says, “Workable has really helped me. Without it I probably wouldn’t be working and if I was it would probably be a job I didn’t like as much and I wouldn’t be as good at it”.

Swimming has always been one of Conor’s passions. He has had an extremely successful competitive swim career, competing and winning in venues across Europe. He is currently in training for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan where he hopes to represent Team GB at the games. Yet another goal for Conor that we’re sure he’ll reach!

Stephen advocates for in-work support

Stephen is a 30 year old Software Engineer, currently working in a software support role for the HSC Business Services Organisation in Belfast. Stephen was referred to NOW Group’s Workable NI (WNI) programme by his local Jobs and Benefits Office after recognising he needed more support in the workplace. This need of additional support was identified following a survey from an adult autism post-diagnoses peer group led by his local HSC Trust. In 2013, some HSC Trusts stopped giving more specific diagnoses such as Asperser’s Syndrome and instead use the broader term of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Stephen says it is important to recognise that no two people with ASD are alike or to put it another way, “if you’ve met someone with autism, you’ve met someone with autism.”

At that point Stephen had a lot going on. He was coming to terms with a recent adult ASD diagnosis, coping with the sudden loss of his elder brother by suicide and an unexpected change in job role. Stephen also had a significant negative experience with a previous employer when he changed role and this had affected his self-confidence to the extent that it left him wondering if he needed a complete career change. With all this going on, Stephen was experiencing considerable anxiety not sure whether history would repeat itself in his new job.

Once signed onto the WNI Programme, Stephen started having regular meetings with his WNI Officer, meeting her outside of work in a nearby coffee shop to talk through any issues and work concerns. Stephen’s manager was very supportive towards him taking time out from work and commended him for seeking support using his own initiative.

Stephen says, “Workable NI has given me back my self-confidence and has helped me to come to terms with my diagnosis. It has particularly helped within the area of communication in work, recognising when to “step back” and finding the best strategy for each situation. If I was feeling stressed or anxious, my WNI Officer would bring calm and a fresh perspective – even speaking on my behalf if necessary.”

Stephen has made huge progress during his time on the WNI programme with the NOW Group. His confidence has grown to the point that he now receives minimal support from his WNI Officer and will no doubt progress to the point where he feels he no longer needs it. He has shared his diagnosis with his work colleagues and is a positive advocate for disability. Stephen is part of the ‘Tapestry’ committee, a recently formed Disability Staff Network that covers 11 regional organisations within Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. In speaking about Tapestry Stephen said, “One of the reasons the name Tapestry was selected via an open competition was that it seemed to represent the complex, interweaving interactions between disabled and non-disabled people in a shared society.”

Stephen concludes by saying, “If I changed jobs in the future and needed support, it’s reassuring to know that Workable NI will be there.”

Feeling at home on the Range

L-R Ashley Rodgers (Deputy Manager) Christopher Moore (Replenishment Supervisor) Barry Simpson (Sales Manager)


Christopher is feeling right at home in the Range, having returned to work through the Work Connect programme. This provided 1:1 support from an employment officer, offering a personalised approach to sourcing  suitable employment opportunities.


“Work Connect has been very useful in helping me remain focused on making a return to work and supporting me in the workplace, as from time to time I still find things hard sometimes. Work Connect does work and is working for me, so thanks to Robert, my Employment Officer, for helping me back into work, and more!”


“I have been working in the Range for the past four months now, in the position of Supervisor for the Replenishment team, where we break down deliveries for all departments throughout the store. The support and encouragement I have received from my managers has been fantastic, my managers and other staff are very friendly, making the Range a great place to work. I am currently training to operate the forklift and hope to continue to develop my skills and experience during my time here.”


If you would like more information about any of our services please contact us to see if we can support you into work, to go back to work or to stay in work. We use the #supportedemployment model to support people and employers.

Learning Disability Pride

Over 2000 people are expected to attend the first ever Northern Ireland Learning Disability Pride event in Carrickfergus. Pete Snodden has been confirmed as the host of this event and the event will take place on:

Saturday 27 May 2017 from 12 noon until 4pm.

The day will have a carnival parade, market stalls celebrating social economy businesses and family fun activities.

Visit their page and let them know how many people are attending!

Check them out on Facebook  @learningdisabilitypride or twitter @ld_pride2017