Chris has a year of helping others… and himself!

As well as getting NOW Group and its participants out of a difficult situation, Chris has made sure to stay on top of his own health

When NOW Group moved to working from home in March 2020, we all faced some new challenges – not least Chris, our Office and Systems Administrator. Chris had to support the whole organisation in learning how to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams to replace our face-to-face meetings, while continuing to offer his full range of IT support to staff – all remotely. 

Luckily for NOW, Chris rose admirably to the challenge and soon everyone was working highly effectively from home. Just as important, however, was that Chris managed to find ways to strike a good work-life balance.

With the support of his Workable NI support officer, Niamh Rainey, Chris got involved in wellbeing initiatives like the Strava challenge. He also used his home-based time productively by taking part in NOW Group courses such as Money Management and Cisco’s Introduction to IoT (Internet of Things). 

Best of all, Chris has actively encouraged others to get involved in activities and has been a strong advocate for social inclusion. He runs a social group for NOW Group participants, and he moved this online promptly to ensure that others were not feeling socially isolated during lockdown.

For more information on the programmes please contact us to arrange a chat!

#SupportedEmployment #WorkableNI

Recruiting people with disabilities

Hazel Craigan is an important asset to the Public Health Agency, where she has worked since 2019. As Personal Assistant to the Assistant Director, Hazel has a key role and has continued to work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her role includes diary management, admin support and coordination of meetings, and she provides an important liaison role between the PHA, Department of Health, Health Care Trusts and other professional bodies.

Speaking about her experience Hazel said: “The extra needs and communication support that I require as a Deaf British Sign Language user don’t limit my ability in any way. I recently worked independently coordinating two full days of interviews for the PHA with the support of an interpreter. I had to meet and greet the candidates, explain the plan for the day and actively respond to their needs. I love my job, I love interacting with the public and I can’t thank RNID enough for everything they have done for me.”

Please feel free to read more about this story at this link.

Online training for employers

Equality in employment for staff who are deaf, have tinnitus or hearing loss

RNID were delighted to partner with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to deliver a webinar on improving equality in employment for staff who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.

The session was delivered to employers that are engaged in our Workable NI Programme and are therefore directly involved in the management of staff with hearing loss.

Topics included the legislation underpinning the duty to make reasonable adjustments (the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) as well as some practical examples of adjustments specifically for people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.

With examples of best practice from other Workable NI employers and the opportunity to share experiences with other employers in the session, the webinar was an informative and interactive approach to what many feel can be a daunting subject.

How Workable (NI) has been helping during lockdown

Audrey is a client of the Workable programme, and had been receiving support since May 2015.

Here she tells us how life has changed, but how the support she receives from Action Mental Health through the Workable programme is so vital.

” Prior to lockdown I worked three days a week as a Peer Recovery Trainer within the Northern Region Recovery College.  My role saw me co-producing and co-facilitating our Recovery College courses in community venues throughout the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.  Since lockdown, our roles have changed significantly.  We are no longer able to facilitate our courses in the community.  As a team our work life looks very different to before lockdown.  We are all doing partial working from home.

We are not all in the office at the same time so we can effectively social distance as per government guidelines.  We have weekly conference calls where we can all be in contact at the same time.  As a team we are now looking at new ways of working to potentially be able to provide an online service for our students.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can move to an online service

I really miss my work life the way it was prior to Covid-19.  I thrive when I’m working, I absolutely love my job, my colleagues and the students we come in contact with.  I’m finding it difficult having to social distance but I’m doing it as it’s so important at the minute! And hopefully if we all continue to take it seriously, it won’t be too long until we can get back to some sort of “normal”.    

Life for me is very different than my life before lockdown.  I’m usually a very sociable person who loves to spend time with family and friends.  I live by myself so have found life quite lonely since lockdown.  I can’t see the people I love and care for most but I utilise modern technology like facetime to be able to keep in contact with people.  I’m trying to stick to a routine, for example, going to bed and getting up at my usual time every day, trying to do some exercise daily, eating balanced meals, keeping to my usual work days and keeping in contact with people. I live in hope that someday soon we can go back to some normality.

Despite my work life being a bit different at the minute I really appreciate the telephone contact I have with the Workable (N.I.) project.  Knowing someone is still there at the other end of the phone is really beneficial for me. I have been able to discuss fears for the future – I lack confidence at times and am worried how I will adjust to our “new normal” when that will come.  Knowing I have the support of Workable helps me when I’m struggling and I’m so grateful for that”.

Thank you to Audrey for sharing her story.

The SES partners include AMH and Cedar (Lead Partners), Mencap, Orchardville, NOW, RNIB and Action on Hearing Loss.

SES Aims to offer a Supported Employment approach in the delivery of programs to assist people with disabilities and health conditions to enter and stay in employment.

The Workable (NI) Programme is funded by the Department for Communities.

Workable (NI) aids conservation of good mental health!

I would like to extend my thanks to you personally and the wider AMH Workable NI programme for supporting our team member over the past 12 months.  I became the direct line-manager approx. 3 years ago when I became aware of her ongoing mental health issues, and the impacts these were having on her work and personal life.  Within my role and experience I was only able to offer her a certain level of support and flexibility, and at times felt frustrated not being able to help on a greater scale (as I am not a mental health professional).

The AMH Workable NI Programme offered the professional mental health support which she required, enabling her to remain in her work routine whilst receiving specialist support to address her health needs.  The positive impacts this has had over the past 12 months has been every evident in all aspects of her persona and behaviour towards her work and her personal life.

The person centred approach used to identify the correct support for her as an individual has undoubtedly had really positive impacts on her well-being.  She speaks very positively of the programme and discusses how she is incorporating techniques into her work and personal life to help her manage / cope with specific situations which would have previously caused her stress.  She has increased her working hours as a result of support through Workable NI and is completing all aspects of her role with renewed self-confidence.

From an employer point of view, I have found the format of the Workable NI Programme appropriately inclusive.  Being involved in structured reviews gives the opportunity for open conversations between employee and employer, without the need for full disclosure of personal details.  I feel I have also received the correct amount of information and support from AMH during the overall programme.

I would 100 percent recommend the AMH Workable NI Programme to any employer struggling to support an employee to sustain their job and their mental health.  Many thanks again to AMH / SES for all your help and expert support over the past 12 months.

Everyday is a School Day

Everyday’s a school day for our Workable (NI) Programme team here at Action on Hearing Loss, as they support three teachers with hearing loss through the programme.

The programme supports people who are Deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus as well as their employer. The team support individuals through one to one sessions, peer support and training sessions delivered to colleagues focusing on improving communication.

The team have recently been extending their support to the classroom, delivering Deaf Awareness for Young people (DAY) sessions to pupils at the three schools where the teachers work.

The sessions, tailored to the pupils’ age groups, focused on gaining a better understanding of hearing loss as well as how best to communicate with anyone who is deaf or has hearing loss. Through delivering a number of these sessions, the team reached out to almost 400 schoolchildren from ages 5 to 12 across Northern Ireland, from Portadown to Randalstown.

Signing in action – staff show pupils at Clounagh Junior High some finger-spelling


Teacher Mark from Clounagh Junior High School, Portadown, who is a participant on the Workable (NI) Programme noted, “These sessions went well and were very interactive, pupils were fully engaged and enjoyed practicing fingerspelling their names.”

Speaking about his experience as a technology teacher, Mark said: “Teaching a practical subject whilst having hearing loss and tinnitus is challenging, particularly with a noisy environment. I was apprehensive about mentioning my hearing loss to pupils but their reaction has been positive and they have been understanding, as have colleagues.”

Technology teacher Mark from Clounagh Junior High School

Mark also noted that he has found the support available through the Workable (NI) Programme to be very beneficial: “I would thoroughly recommend the programme. My Employment Support Officer comes from a place of knowledge, understanding and empathy, it’s great to have someone like that to talk to.”

50 miles up the motorway, in Maine Integrated Primary School in Randalstown, another session was delivered to a full assembly hall of almost 140 children, covering basic hearing health information, communication tips and sign language, the audience varied from ages 4-11 but their attention remained throughout. Primary One teacher, Mrs Mc Bride has worked in Maine IPS for the past 12 years and has been a participant on the Workable (NI) Programme since last year.  Speaking about Workable, she said “I didn’t know there were others experiencing the same challenges as me. The support from my Employment Support Officer has been life changing.”

Mrs McBride has started her British Sign Language Level 1 and also an after-schools basic sign language club. 12 children are staying behind each week to learn a new language and communication tips.

Communication Tactics Training was also delivered to staff at the school, specifically designed around Mrs McBride’s hearing loss and the barriers she faces on a daily basis and the small changes, which when adapted, can be a game changer for the staff member with hearing loss.

Action on Hearing Loss Workable (NI) Programme staff delivering DAY sessions

Following the training, Mrs McBride shared her hearing loss with families in the school community. Since, a number of people have made direct contact to acknowledge the sharing of information and to stand alongside her in support.

If you or anyone you know would benefit from support in the workplace, get in touch with the team for further information.  Telephone: 02890239619
Mobile: 07436838164
Email: [email protected]

Ingrid is back in the driving seat!

A local employer describes how Workable (NI) has helped one staff member to retain their job!

‘I have been Ingrid’s line manager for a good few years, over this time we had tried a lot of work place adjustments, variations, courses and counselling to help Ingrid and ourselves cope with her disorder and attend work regularly – with little success. It had actually come to the point where Ingrid’s sickness absence from work had become unsustainable and retirement due to ill health was becoming a real possibility. We had looked before at outside agencies to help stabilise Ingrid’s work pattern but none seemed to be able to help with mental health issues.

Ingrid herself sourced help from Workable N.I. and with Robert McGeachy as her employment support she hasn’t looked back. Ingrid’s attendance record for the last year and a half is exemplary; she has grown in confidence within the workplace, taking on extra duties and responsibilities. The approach that Workable NI via Robert have taken has certainly worked for Ingrid and us, working with and being considerate of the needs of the management team and the employee they have a great understanding of what it takes to sustain employment with a mental illness.’


Ingrid describes how she has got back in the driving seat

I was diagnosed with having a Bipolar Disorder and was struggling at work due to several episodes back to back.  This lead to the possibility of being retired on ill health.  I wasn’t ready to retire so I then turned to Workable NI to see if they could support me and help me stay in work and be an effective team member.

I was allocated Robert McGeachy, as my Employment Officer. Alongside both my technical services co-ordinator and my technical service manager who were key supporters within this process I began my programme.

Firstly, we looked at my role and put in place some reasonable adjustments. Then I began a course of psychodynamic therapy, through the programme.  This was the turning point in the whole process.  Now throughout my illness, I’ve received many forms of counselling but this was the most effective I have ever encountered.  My counsellor, addressed so many issues that I had never dealt with, it was hard at times but it helped with my ability to manage my illness and gave me a whole new set of coping skills. Both in a work situation and life in general.  I really got to know myself.

This is turn, showed in my work.  I was able to attend on a regular basis.  I was able to cope with my duties and was able to even take on more responsibilities, go on training courses without it impacting on my health.

All this became very relevant as we came to the twelve-month mark. Now I had been in my role for 17 years. A higher grade role became available within the Faculty, I was fit to apply for this role and was successful in getting the post.

I’m now happily settled within this role.  Also I would like to add I hadn’t been driving for years as I hadn’t the confidence.  I’m now a proud owner of a wee car and I’m back behind the wheel.  Literally I’m back in the driving seat. Thank you

Ingrid Tregear








Thank you







Employers appreciate the support from Workable (NI)

I wanted to inform SES followers and fellow employers of the Workable (NI) programme that has been supporting Sharon for over a year now.

The programme helped my business by offering advice, help, and support to both Sharon and myself.

Sharon has worked for me for over 10 years but within the past 3 years she has suffered from depression and anxiety which has led to a struggle in the workplace. She missed days, sometimes weeks at a time and this lead to crucial management deadlines such as VAT returns, wages and revenue submissions not being met.

On appointment of Workable (NI) Support Officer, Dorothy Greenaway  from AMH in October 2016, Sharon was able to get vital support to help her maintain her position as office manager but on a less stressful and less demanding role.

On the advice of Dorothy, Sharon delegated some of her duties to another person, who is employed one day a week on a s/e basis. This freed up Sharon both in her personal health issues and her works role to then be able to attend various private appointments without feeling guilty and knowing that the work was still being carried out.

I would recommend this programme to any employers and employees who have currents problems with mental health within their organisation.

Dessie Roulston

Connor excels in Social Care Council!

Connor has been working with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council for over a year now and has already applied for promotion in his role. Doing a job he loves, with a great team and for an organisation that supports it staff is very important.

Connor also had some support from the Cedar Foundation in sourcing a placement through the annual SES / Health and Social Care Board disability placement programme. Once employment was sourced support was offered through the Workable (NI) programme in his first year, but has now progressed off the programme and is flying!!