The Staffordshire Employment Development Service gave me back my confidence and helped me to believe in myself again.
When 52 year old Kevin Bryan was made redundant from his job at an airline in 2012, he immediately began applying for new jobs. With 5 years working in the refund and administration department, and 2 years in the fraud department, he had valuable experience and skills.
But, as months went on, Kevin’s optimism began to dwindle. When months turned to years with no success, he sank into a deep depression. As a claimant of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Kevin tried hard to meet the obligations they set, but his mental health meant he was struggling to function with basic tasks, and he risked sanctions for failing to meet the required criteria.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re on JSA, and you have to tick a lot of boxes,” explains Kevin. “I understand they need to have regulations, but from my point of view I was really struggling with an illness and I really couldn’t cope. If I could have snapped my fingers and made it go away I would have, but it doesn’t work like that.”
“It’s an incredibly frustrating situation to be in,” he adds. “I know what I’m capable of and there’s nothing I wanted more than to get back to work full time, but I was just too ill.”
After struggling with his illness for 3 years, Kevin began attending a mental health wellbeing group in an attempt to experience some relief from his suffering and isolation. It was there that he was introduced to our Staffordshire Work4You service, an employment service for people with severe and enduring mental health issues.
Work4You works on a one-to-one basis with people who want to find work, but find that their mental health issues present barriers to traditional methods of job seeking. Our support workers can also advocate on behalf of our service users, helping them with benefit claims and appeals against sanctions.
“The main benefit for me is the indvidual support I get from Lyn, my employment advisor,” he says. “She really helps to motivate me when I’m struggling, which is quite often when I’m experiencing depression. She knows me well, she has faith in me, she knows what my abilities are and she knows what my potential is. Her knowing those things and treating me like a human being, rather than a claimant number with boxes to tick, makes such an incredible difference to my state of mind.”
Kevin sees Lyn once each week at his local library and, together, they discuss the type of roles he can realistically achieve.
“Lyn sets me goals in terms of what she thinks I might be able to achieve, based on how my situation is and how I’m feeling at that time,” he explains.
“She doesn’t push me into anything and I know I can be totally honest with her. That’s the terrific thing about it – if I’ve had a bad week and I haven’t done any of the tasks she’s set me, I can be honest and open about the fact that I’ve not necessarily achieved anything but she won’t judge me. Instead, she’ll modify what she’s asking me to do. That makes me feel like I’m achieving things, instead of constantly failing to meet unrealistic expectations.”
“In the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that an admin job isn’t right for me,” he says. “I want to perform a role with more of a social value where I can help people, and I’ve realised the social aspect is very important to me.
“At the moment, I’m volunteering for Age UK, driving people to their luncheon club and taking them home again. That’s the sort of role that I’d love to do full time and, thanks to Lyn, I now feel like I can achieve that. She’s given me confidence and helped me to believe in myself again.
“If I didn’t have Work4You, I’d have no hope at all. I really don’t want to think about what life would be like without Lyn and the service. The help and support I get is nothing short of tremendous.”