"You know you’re in safe hands with Southdown"
When I was introduced to my Employment Specialist to discuss my options there was trust straight away.
You know you’re in safe hands with Southdown.
Three years ago I set myself a target to have a full-time job. When it came to the end of those three years I had two choices - I could either bottle it, or ask for help. That’s how Southdown got involved.
Because I was disabled, I didn’t think I’d have the chance to do what I wanted, but I found out I could get help with Southdown when my doctor referred me to them.
I suffer from depression but I’m highly medicated and that’s why I believe I can work. What I needed from Southdown was someone I could talk to, someone I could trust, someone who could guide me through interview techniques.
When I was introduced to my Employment Specialist to discuss my options there was trust straight away. We meet about once a week at the Brighton office or he’ll buy me a coffee in a nearby cafe. We sit and talk for about an hour and discuss all my options.
This support has helped me along the way. It keeps me going and gives me something to look forward to each week. It’s a friendly environment and I know I can talk to my Employment Specialist, I can open up to him.
He cares – he asks how I am, how my day’s going, and sees how he can improve it. He helps me help myself. The fact that I know support is there, gives me confidence. I’m much more confident, yeah, much more confident.
The best thing about this service is that if I get into full-time work and I feel under pressure, there is a number I can call. I wouldn’t do this without support.
If I was on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and looking for work as I am now, I would be put on JobSeeker’s Allowance (JSA) because I would be deemed fit enough to work. And that would then make me ill.
It’s not like being on JSA. I don’t have to look for work every day. And there’s no risk of me attempting suicide while I’m with Southdown because there’s no pressure - I’m not going to be sanctioned. I respond better to being asked rather than ordered. Going to a Job Centre is hard. You feel doomed going in.
The whole process with the Department for Work and Pensions is stressful - lots of phone calls, diary keeping, and logging. With Southdown they are aware that you’re ill, so there’s support around it.
When I met my Employment Specialist he offered me the chance to look at jobs that are right for me. He’s helped me apply for interviews and got my foot in the door. He also accompanies me to interview venues and gives me some advice before I go in. It’s nice to have him there, get that bit of support. I hadn’t had that kind of support before.
I’m good with people. I’ve got a lot of experience in customer service and have been volunteering at Oxfam for five years. Since receiving support, I’ve had two job offers from hospitals – in the kitchen and cleaning the wards. I’m hoping to get an interview for a full-time role as a hospital porter.
Thanks to the medication and support from Southdown I think I can cope with 37 hours. I’ve been getting fit because full-time work can be a shock to the system – more exercise, eating well, and I’ve stopped smoking.
A killer for a lot of people is loneliness. I suppose that’s one of the main reasons why I want full-time work. I’m sick of being on my own and also I’m losing my social skills. It’s important to get them back.
I think 53 is a good age to start again. I’ve been sectioned twice – once when I was 13 or 14, the other time when I was 22. There just wasn’t support. I don’t know how I survived it.
I was on the streets for three months when I was 27. In the summer I could sleep on the beach during the warm nights but I had to sleep with my shoes on because people would steal them.
I’m surprised I’m alive cos I took so many drugs. I started smoking people’s dog ends at the end of the night and then started to take speed.
When I tried to get help with housing, the council didn’t think I needed help. It took 10 years to get a council property.
Things are a lot better now. Back in the day I was treated like shit. It has changed now. When I used to self-harm, I wouldn’t always go to hospital because we were treated so badly. I think attitudes have changed now – they’re getting better.
I want to make something out of myself. I want to make my reason for being on Earth a good one - like I’d like to raise money for charity.
I want a job, I want a career. I’d like to continue working for Oxfam. I want to have money in the bank so if I get down, I can get out of the flat, go to the pub, go to a show – I’ve performed in two theatre shows!
I’ve always known I’ve had a strong sense of character – if I really want to do something, I’ll do it.
I’ve learnt not to worry so much through support. And if I fail, it don’t matter. I can pick myself up again.
I feel more excited about the future. It’s a little bit scary. But my will is keeping me going and with Southdown, I feel safe.
As part of the DWP’s Supported Employment ‘proof of concept’ (pilot project), Southdown along with Brighton and Hove City Council are providing specialist employment support for people with a learning disability, autism or mental health conditions. The proof of concept is running for 18 months from November 2017 to May 2019, in which one of our Employment Specialists is working closely with the SPFT teams and the DWP Jobcentres to provide support for people with mental health challenges.