Iain’s Employment Journey With NOW Group

Iain has been a part of the NOW Group since 2018. Since then, he has gained a full time job role with Hendersons Mallusk. With the support of Employment Officer Megan McCleave and NOW Group’s SES Workable N.I. Programme, he has achieved full training in using the Fork Lifts and Reach Trucks as part of their Warehouse Operatives team.

Iain is heavily involved in most of NOW Group’s other services and training courses. Through these services he has completed his Driving Theory practise, as well as becoming one of the new Ambassadors for external events for NOW Group to help promote our services.

Iain is also one of the members of our NOW Football team and has competed in the George Best Cup. Iain is very well known to all NOW Group staff and has achieved great success in the last 18 months since gaining full time employment which has allowed him to commence driving lessons which he hopes to pass in 2023.

Iain is very hard working and has shown his commitment to helping others within NOW Group. He is always willing to go above and beyond for his colleagues and to help other participants when he is in the Hive. Congratulations on your achievements Ian!

Learn more on how NOW Group can support you into employment – www.nowgroup.org/training-jobs

SES Workable N.I. – How It Helped Me – A Western Health Trust Secretary’s Testimony

I was turning 40, and my life crashed before my eyes.  This is a cliché but that is what happened.   Work life and personal life just collided and I could not take any more.  I crashed and could not see a way out.  I was at the waters edge without a clue what next. 

On the way home from work one day I stopped on the roadside and rang Call Care; I had lifted one of the leaflets at work – I could not go on another mile.  They had time to listen and speak to me and organised counselling, they encouraged me to see my GP who put me off work and started high doses of anti-depressants – I was all over the place.  They did not seem to be working, the Mental Health team saw me and meds were changed and Condition Management Programme was started.  I attended Occupational Health and between them, they put me forward for the Workable NI programme to help me try and return to work.  Which I thought would solve all.   I was in no way nearly ready when I look back now.

I really do believe this is when I started to struggle my way out of myself.  My Employment Support Worker was excellent, she seen things clearly were I could not.  As they say, I could not see the forest because of the trees.   The things that seemed massive started to become achievable.  Knowing she was there behind me was such a prop or a support. Even when I did not see her, I knew she was there.  She did not make my decisions or do things for me but believed in me that I could do these things for myself.  I had no one else, but she was there every step of the way, with encouragement, with practical advice with clear vision when I had none.

This journey from the brink to now has been a very bumpy road and not an easy one by any means, but my support worker from SES got me here, and I know that I would not be here only for her.  Doctors/counsellors etc. changed, but she was constant beside me.  Not behind or in front but supporting me the whole way from the sidelines.

I would in no way say I am cured or 100% but I can look back and see how far I have come, and am able to deal better with situations that life throws at us.  I have even changed jobs in the Trust and feel that I have flourished in doing so.  I would not been able to even consider this move without the support of SES.  I will always be thankful for Nicola for being there for me.  I could not support the work she does more.

A New View on Life

L-R Doreen Bacon (Business & Governance Manager), Reece Kennedy (Administration Clerk), Hilary McLean (Office Manager)

Hi, my name is Reece I have autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. I was referred to Workable N.I. after having to go off sick from work due to stress and anxiety. This was due to me not being able to share with my supervisor and work colleagues that I was struggling. This resulted in my work getting on top off me, which felt like an awful weight hanging over me until it got too much which resulted in me having an anxiety and stress related episode in work, which led to me having to go off work on sick leave.  

When I was first referred to Workable NI, I didn’t know how it was going to work. Would it be face-to-face appointments, zoom or by telephone. Before attending my first appointment I received a phone call from my Workable caseworker who talked me through how the service worked. This resulted in us organising an appointment that suited me best.

When I attended my first appointment I was put completely at ease that the main goal of my case worker was to help me get back to work with more supports put in place. Luckily enough after multiple appointments with Workable and being referred by them to Access to Work and Inspire, this helped give me the tools and support I needed to help manage my anxiety and stress. This has supported my return to work.

Workable had helped so much at getting new strategies put in place and worked alongside me, my supervisor and Head of Service.  This was done through organising meetings with us all together or with me on my own. My workable caseworker came out to see me in the workplace and also arranged meetings by telephone. They also kept in touch with me by email and text to check in-between appointments to make sure that the next agreed appointment still suited or if there was anything else that they could help with until then.

Workable and my workplace helped organise training so that if I was struggling again my colleagues would notice and be able to help prevent a situation arise again. Workable also helped me realise that I was better coming forward when I’m struggling as its better to prevent problems getting any bigger.

I now know that I have multiple people in work to support me if I start to feel stressed or anxious, including my supervisor and Head of service. They have all told me they are there to support me. As well as this, Workable has recommended other things that can help me in work that my supervisor and head of service are more than happy to implement or look into when suggested.

After being involved with Workable I am so much happier in my workplace, as it has allowed me to develop more as a part of the team and become more involved in the day-to-day office work. I would suggest anyone that is struggling in work to get in contact, as the service is very friendly and accommodating to service users.

Gary’s Heartfelt Thanks to Workable N.I.

It was 2015 after 2 genuine suicide attempts that I was advised by a friend in work about Action Mental Health (AMH) and the Workable NI program. To be honest at the time, in my extremely low mood, I felt what’s the point and this is gonna be another one of these lifeless schemes that are more about ticking boxes than helping people. How wrong I was.

From the first session I had with the first of many keyworkers, I was made to feel valued, cared for and not judged for experiencing a severe dip in my mental health. I was listened to from the off and they tailored their help to me. They constantly reassessed their help with me, always seeming to provide as much as they could than they could…which was to prove invaluable. They communicated things, with my permission, with my manager who was able to get a full picture without the awkwardness of my repeating myself along with the vulnerability.

There were many dark moments during my journey when AMH gave me a safe space to be and encouraged me to keep going. Each Key Worker they provided, brought their own individual skills to help me on that stage of my recovery. From those who sat with me patiently in the silence to those who motivated me to self-care to those who laughed when I found the true me again.

In the short, sometimes in life a person or an organisation IS SENT to assist you on a difficult part of this journey and you don’t realise what they do for you at the time until the storm settles and you get a chance to reflect. And in this reflection I found true value in and gratitude for the organisation called Action Mental Health and the Workable NI Programme, its upbeat receptionists, its ever caring keyworkers and its management team who ensured I was given the space I needed to find me again.

Thank you. From the heart.

Gary Tate.

‘Invaluable’ Workable N.I. Support for Peter, NHS Worker

Working during the pandemic was a stressful and exhausting time for all of us in the NHS. The anxiety I had been trying to manage became overwhelming and I took a leave of absence in 2021.

I started working with Dorothy in SES/Action Mental Health following my return to work. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I was unaware the Trust availed of this sort of service for staff. It was nothing to be apprehensive or anxious about- in fact, quite the opposite. Over the course of a year, I met Dorothy at regular intervals to discuss work and my general mental health.

As we got to know each other, she was able to offer me options that might help with my anxiety. I chose to go with sessions of CBT. These sessions equipped me with simple tips and tricks to manage my anxiety, not only at work but also in my daily life.

I cannot recommend this programme and the people involved with it highly enough. I felt that my mental health was careering off in the wrong direction. However, this programme helped me to stop, take stock and turn things around. Mental health is just as important as physical health and my hope is that many more people are able to avail of this invaluable service in the future.

Peter Moan

Life is exciting again for Sarah!

I started the Workable programme after being off work for about 10 months after having a back operation. This resulted in me feeling very ill with vomiting/nausea, fatigue and anxiety.   I was very nervous about going back to work as I was still not fully well and was concerned that I would not be able to keep my energy up to do 4 full day’s work at an acceptable standard (having also suffered from poor concentration/‘brain fog’) and become ill again.  I was recommended the Workable programme by a colleague. 

It was great having that support from someone impartial but with the right skills and experience, who I could go to with any worries or concerns on anything that might prevent me staying in work.  My Employment Support Officer, Robert, was a great listener and very personable and understanding.  He made me feel I am not alone and I was lucky in that the same time I went to him, I was offered CBT through the Belfast Trust which has been extremely beneficial.  This was something that Robert also made me aware that I could have accessed through the Condition Management Programme that can be arranged through the Workable programme.   I also got sessions of reflexology, which was very relaxing, and provided some time out for myself.  There are also plenty of other services Workable can help access, including a dietician, physio etc. 

I cannot believe where I am now.  I have been back to work for over a year and have even felt enough energy to take on some casual work working with animals which I find very therapeutic.  My confidence has also greatly improved, probably more than before I became ill!  I am grateful to Robert and the programme for being there for me and would recommend to anyone who has been off sick or struggling to stay in work due to health issues.

Ashleigh praises her AMH Employment Support Officer

AMH Workable N.I. client Ashleigh explains how her Employment Support Officer helped to put her at ease and supported her to deal with her anxiety in the workplace:

I just wanted to email to thank one of your workers for their support during my time on the programme. I was referred to Workable (N.I.) due to having a lot of sickness due to toxic working environment which was affecting my mental health. As a result of this I was in desperate need of some help as my work wasn’t understanding of my anxiety and I felt they were using it as a weapon and if I’m totally honest I was embarrassed and ashamed of it. Due to the way I was being treated at work I was so scared about joining the programme but when I met my Action Mental Health Employment Support Officer, she put me such at ease. She was always empathetic to my work and mental health situation. It was so refreshing to have a support worker that was so supportive, understanding and such a genuine person. The Workable (N.I.) Employment Support Officer was such a good support worker as I feel that she loves her job and she genuinely wanted the best outcome for me. 

I had to email to say thank you to the programme and especially my Employment Support Officer for getting me through last few months because I probably wouldn’t have got through it without her support.  I’m very grateful for this programme and meeting her, as for once I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to have anxiety.

Stephen STEPs ahead with Workable (NI)

Stephen is a debt advisor at STEPNI in Dungannon and is supported by Cedar Foundation on Workable (NI)

Stephen with mentor Cormac.

What was your situation before you started Workable (NI)?

After I left university in 2012, I was struggling from job to job. I didn’t have a full understanding of the impact that my dyspraxia could have on my life, and it really did have an impact. I heard about the Workable (NI) programme when I spoke to a friend who was already on it. They really recommended it. A lady called Bernadette in Belfast was my mentor at the very start, and she was very helpful.

How would you describe your experience on Workable (NI)?

With Workable, you feel like you always have a layer of support. You also know that your employer understands the difficulties that you face. It helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses and build a career.

What would you say is the highlight of your time on WorkableNI? 

There are too many things; I couldn’t write them all down. It has given me a platform to show my talents and not be lost in a crowd. I found the one-to-one meetings very helpful, particularly my sessions with my Employment Officer, Katie. I was stuck in a rut, and we discussed how we would make the situation work. She helped me figure out what to do next, and I ended up doing a qualification in benefits advice which led me to my current position. Through the programme I also started working very closely with a life coach, which was immensely positive. I am now a fully accredited debt and benefits advisor. I also have a degree in tourism, I am a level 4 social security advisor, and I am completing a level 3 in generalist advice.

Have you noticed a progression in your confidence? 

Absolutely, I would have had no confidence in myself. Before, I would have told myself that I was the worst, at the bottom of the class. The biggest thing has been realising my potential. I now can say that there is more to Stephen Sheridan, and I can mix it with the best of them! A big part of this is due to my current employer Bernadette, who has also been a big support to me.

How do you feel about the future? 

I feel very, very positive. This last year I have qualified as a debt and benefit advisor, and I have developed a clear career path. I am now working in the job I have wanted to do since I was at school. I have always wanted to give something back to my local community. I wake up every morning and I look forward to going to work; because of this I feel like I will never work another day in my life. That’s really how I feel. STEPNI is situated where I grew up, so when I look out the window, I am looking at my local community, and it inspires me to work hard for the people of the town.

What advice would you give to someone who was considering contacting Workable (NI)?

Speak up, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. A lot of employers are understanding. If I could speak to a younger me, at 16 or 17, I would have said that I should have had more confidence in myself. My school did equip me, but I wasn’t confident enough. I would love to share my experience with my own school, St Patricks College. There might be people there with disabilities that could benefit from hearing my story.

Everyday is a school day…

Pauline McCarthy, a teacher from Portaferry with hearing loss has spoken out about her journey in the workplace.

Pauline, who is an Art and Design teacher in Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College, Knock, discussed the building stress and anxiety of living and working with hearing loss; “My hearing loss was gradual, and I would be the type of person to just get on with things”.

After contacting the Workable NI Programme team at RNID, Pauline notes she “realised the true impact” hearing loss was having on her. Pauline’s Employment Support Officer, who just so happened to be a past-pupil of the college, worked with Pauline and principal Deborah to address some of the barriers within the workplace.

During one-to-one sessions, aspects such as hearing fatigue (whereby a person who is straining to hear or lipread experiences increased exhaustion) were discussed and Pauline was referred to the Condition Management Programme. Pauline notes: “I had never heard that term before but when my Employment Support Officer brought it up, I thought ‘that is exactly it – it’s not just me’.”

As part of the support through the programme, a bespoke training session was recorded for the pupils that Pauline teaches, outlining the importance of clear communication in the classroom. Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s College also procured assistive equipment for Pauline to use which helps to reduce some of the background noise of the classroom. Of the equipment, Pauline says “of course, there is no equipment that restores hearing, but it is helpful to have this (personal listener)”.

Like many who are deaf or have hearing loss, COVID19 and the resulting restrictions impacted Pauline greatly. Changes to familiar practices in the school, as well as distancing and the use of masks, meant communication was a greater challenge. The College agreed to provide some additional support to Pauline by way of a teaching assistant who is able to assist Pauline with some of the larger classes she takes.

Principal Deborah McLaughlin says, “The support provided through the Workable NI Programme team at RNID has been invaluable to both Pauline and the College. It is important for employers to realise that professional assistance for each individual employee, and his/her respective employer, is simply just a phone call away.”

Senior Employment Support Officer Andrea Quinn says, “it has been fantastic to see such progress with Pauline – she is confident to advocate for herself in the workplace and indeed the College have been very supportive throughout the process, engaging with employer information sessions and learning more about hearing loss”.

Despite her decades of teaching experience, Pauline admits that, at times, she questioned her future in the profession due to the effects of her hearing loss; “without the support of the Workable NI Programme and Condition Management Programme, I might have ended up just giving up”. Now, however, Pauline acknowledges the change in her confidence and her coping mechanisms. Through monthly Peer Support sessions held by the RNID Workable NI Team, Pauline has met with other teachers on the programme and even worked with them to set up a Facebook group for teachers with hearing loss in Northern Ireland.

If you feel you would benefit from support in the workplace, please contact the Workable Team:

07384836056 – text/phone

[email protected]

Life after Workable (NI)

Paul Clarke, a former participant on the Workable (NI) Programme with RNID has developed a passion for supporting others on their hearing loss journey. Paul, who works in administration with ENGIE, received support through the Workable (NI) Programme from Dec 2018 until Jan 2021 and has taken the skills and experiences he developed whilst on the programme and shared them with others who are struggling.

Paul recently signed up to an internal Disability Awareness group in ENGIE, ensuring the views of staff who are deaf or have hearing loss in the company are considered. Following a Workable (NI) Communication Tactics training session delivered by Paul alongside his Employment Support Officer, a number of ENGIE staff took action, booking hearing tests and this led to one colleague being diagnosed with hearing loss (and receiving appropriate support such as hearing aids).

Paul has continued to be involved with RNID’s Workable (NI) Peer Support sessions which are currently held online, taking on a peer mentor type role to support others who have had similar experiences to him. His experience of hearing loss, the barriers that can exist in the workplace and beyond, and the willingness to reach out to others who are struggling add such value to the monthly sessions.

Paul also uses social media to advocate for better access to services and communication, most recently spreading the word about RNID’s Digital Communication Card: Create a personalised digital communication card – RNID. These cards can be personalised to include individual communication preferences and help to normalise different methods of communication.

Paul has also handed out some leaflets for the Access to Retail campaign to highlight the difficulties deaf and hard of hearing people face in the shops.

Speaking about his experience with the Workable (NI) Programme, Paul said; “the programme has given me confidence to accept my disability and adapt to how I can work with it.  I also hope that my experience in the workplace can help others who might not know who to turn to for help”.

Paul’s Employment Support Officer, Laura Murphy, also commented; “Paul was the first participant I placed onto Workable (NI) when I joined the employment team in 2018. It was a privilege to work with and support Paul, and his colleagues. Over the past 2 years I have seen Paul grow in confidence and now, as a peer support mentor, Pauls’ ideas and encouragement are an invaluable resource for workable participants.”

RNID’s Workable (NI) programme is funded by the Department for Communities and delivered by seven disability organisations through the Supported Employment Solutions (SES) partnership (sesni.org.uk). SES delivers work-related programmes for people with disabilities and health conditions.

Each of the SES partners provide their own tailored specialist support to best meet the needs of the individuals they assist in the workplace.  Support may include:

  • Specialist one to one support to the individual
  • Provide on the job and/or outside of work training
  • Provide specific training identified for the employee to assist them in their work above what the employer would normally offer
  • Provide specific disability awareness training to employer and work colleagues.
  • Offer advice and assistance with making reasonable adjustments in the workplace
  • A support package is agreed between the employee, employer and the SES provider for a period of 1 year, however this can be extended depending on the individual needs.

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from Workable (NI) support or further information – contact the RNID team via email [email protected]

Referral onto the Workable (NI) programme can be completed by SES staff.