At the age of 61, Jackie was facing a daily battle with her local job centre who insisted she should be spending up to 25 hours a week looking for work in order to continue to receive essential financial support. But, with a life-long history of mental health conditions including anorexia, she was mentally and physically unable to cope with the demands that were being placed on her.
So Jackie’s community psychiatric nurse, who she sees regularly to help with her ongoing health issues, referred her to our Staffordshire Work4You employment service, which helps people with long-term mental health issues into work.
“I’ve worked whenever I could, but I’d had a period of about a year where I couldn’t do it because of my anorexia,” explains Jackie. “I was really struggling with the job centre, who were telling me that I had to go in every day to look for work, and that I had to prove I was spending up to 25 hours a week applying for jobs or doing voluntary work. I just couldn’t do it – physically or mentally. I kept telling them I was ill, but they wouldn’t make any allowances for my health issues.”
The constant pressure was having a negative impact on Jackie’s already fragile health, so when she discovered that Work4You can offer emotional and practical support on a one-to-one basis for as long as it’s needed, she was keen to see if they could help.
“Straight away my adviser, Lyn, sat with me and helped me work things out,” says Jackie. “She took the time to talk to me and to find out my situation, and really understand the problems I was facing. From the very beginning, I felt like she wanted to help me. It wasn’t like she was there out of duty – she treated me like a person.”
With regular appointments with Lyn at the local library, Jackie was able to address the practical implications of her ill health before working out how she could get back to work in a way that she could manage.
“Lyn came to the job centre with me and explained my situation, and when she spoke for me they accepted that I just couldn’t do what they were asking me to do,” says Jackie. “The Work4You advisers know how to handle problems – when you’re feeling vulnerable, you just can’t do it. It’s too much.
“The thing was, I really did want to work and have that purpose in my life, but what they were asking me to do was overwhelming. Lyn told them that I could do 11 hours a week and no more, and when they agreed, it was such a relief. I’d been trying to do everything they’d asked for so long and getting into such a state, so when Lyn stepped in and helped me to sort it out I could finally focus on something positive.”
With a renewed sense of purpose and the support of WorkYou, Jackie’s confidence began to grow.
“I’m 61 but I’ve still got it in me to achieve things, and I can see that now thanks to Lyn and Work4You,” she says. “They’ve given me a better outlook to life, and given me the confidence to speak up for myself. Their help has made such a big difference to my life. They’re always just a phone call away and if I’m struggling I know that I can just tell them, and they’ll help me to work things out.”
And, thanks to Work4You, Jackie is now back in work. “I work as a cleaner for 11 hours a week, and it’s all because Lyn helped me to have confidence in myself again,” she says. “I can stick up for myself now if anything goes wrong, I’m better off financially and my outlook on life has totally changed. I’ve even been able to get a season ticket for my local football club – it’s a big thing for me to be able to afford to do that and have that to look forward to.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Work4You. It’s brilliant, and I’d recommend it to everybody.”