Chris Oliver at work - smallWe are so very delighted that Chris Oliver has been shortlisted as a finalist in the ‘Significant Achievement’ category in the national ERSA Employability Awards. ERSA is the representative body for the employment support sector.
Chris is a charming young man; professional, hardworking and sincere yet with a great sense of humour. He has an amazing natural ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. Chris was referred to Pluss’ Work Choice programme after completing the Project SEARCH internship programme at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
After Serco regularly received compliments about Chris’ people skills and fantastic work ethic, he was presented with Serco ‘Employee of the Month’ and ‘Outstanding Newcomer’ awards in 2013. He also won the Pluss ‘Achiever of the Year’ award in 2014.
Chris is now firmly settled in his role with superb support from his manager and has progressed into unsupported employment.
Chris has an acquired brain injury.
Chris says “My job involves doing breakfast trolleys and delivering breakfast supplies to the wards, taking people down to the x-ray department and taking equipment around the wards. We also take supplies from the kitchen up to the café.
“I love my job. I am very good at talking to people. I just like hearing how people are and the different stories they have to tell. When I pick a patient up, I find they talk to me. If someone is in a wheelchair, I ask them if they’re ok and the conversation starts there. They tell me about them and I tell them about me. Sometimes patients don’t want to talk and that’s fine, but others are keen to joke and I have learnt when it’s appropriate.
“When I am taking a patient somewhere I always say, if I’m going too fast, let me know. I say “I used to be fast but now I am old, I’m 22”, and they laugh. It makes their journey around the hospital easier.
“I am also good at giving directions to the public. You can always tell when someone is lost as you see them looking around. I go up to them and say “Are you lost?” and then give them clear directions.
“I’m hard working, always willing to stay on, give extra time and help out. I’m always prepared to try my best at everything. I hate being late so I am always half an hour early for every shift.
“I have an acquired brain injury and a short-term memory. I was knocked over by a motorbike when I was seven years old. I was in hospital for two months and in intensive care in a coma for four weeks. I had to learn to walk and talk again; everything was confused. I recognised my mum and brother but not other people.
“My disability has affected me over the years. When I was younger, I would say silly things, whatever came into my head. At first, I thought I made people laugh then I got the sense that people were laughing at me, not with me. I used to get bullied, called names, even assaulted on the bus. I thought they were my friends. They used to say things about my scar so I started to grow my hair longer.
“I didn’t like loud noise and my concentration at school was not so good. I would get distressed if things didn’t go according to plan. Mum would plan the day ahead for me but if it was changed I would get upset. I went to St Boniface School and had one-to-one help, to help me focus and support me out of class if there was too much noise. I had to learn in bite-size pieces.
“I used to get really down and ask lots of questions. I’d forget things and get very angry with myself. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do things. When you have an acquired brain injury it is much harder to accept mistakes and I used to be very hard on myself and get really dejected.
Louise Pelley and Chris Oliver - small“I am much more confident now I am in work. I can use my sense and intelligence. I think about the quickest way to do my job and can think more logically. I never used to talk to people but I am not afraid of that anymore and will talk to anyone. I do find making plans difficult so I use calendars and cork boards to prompt my memory. I also carry a notepad so I know what I am doing.
“I started here in July 2013. I applied for a couple of jobs before I got this one. Then this job came up, I applied and I got an interview. They called me after the interview and said I could have a six month temporary contract. I was really happy but then I was on a mission to show them what I was worth. I was determined and did extra shifts.
“Then in December I was offered a permanent contract. This was my first ever full-time permanent job and I felt that all the hard work had finally paid off. I went out for a meal to celebrate with my family.
“When I was nominated for the Serco awards I was surprised but pleased that I was achieving something with my hard work. I was in the lift and could see a gentleman struggling. He stumbled, so I insisted he sit down and took him to the ward personally. Someone was watching and told my boss. Apparently he said “I don’t know who that young man is but his manners are impeccable”. I have also had letters thanking me for being a gentleman; polite, considerate and caring.
“My team are all good. They are great people to work with. We have a good laugh, chat and joke around. I enjoy having the banter and the nurses are nice too.
“Yes, I love my job; meeting new people and the money is good, very good! I bought new cabinets for my bedroom and I thought “I paid for that!”
“Working has changed my life in so many ways. I get up every morning, I can say “I’ve got to go to work tomorrow, I work at Derriford.” I am proud of myself. I’m not going to stop now. I am going to continue to make people happy and show what I can do. I don’t ever want to sit at home; I want to show people that even with an acquired brain injury, I can do this.
“I was here, at this hospital, 15 years ago and this job is my way of giving something back. Derriford saved my life and I now I can make a little difference to people’s lives in return.”

Louise Pelley, Front of House Co-ordinator at Serco (Derriford Hospital, Plymouth) said “We first met Chris through Project SEARCH. He did an internship with us and was outstanding; really enthusiastic, he got on with everybody and fitted in right away. As his internship finished we had a 6 month temporary vacancy which he applied for competitively. Chris gave a positive and impressive interview making him the best candidate for the role. When we told him he had the job, he was both gobsmacked and delighted! He is now permanent.
“Chris is an ideal employee; enthusiastic, always willing to try new things and to help anyone no matter what time of the day – he could be about to clock off but he would rather stay to help.
“He is always on time, never late. He always goes the extra mile – every day, not just sometimes. In fact, I sometimes have to remind him not to come back from his lunch break early!
“Chris is just so friendly to everyone. If a patient is upset, shouting or abrupt, Chris always manages to calm them down. He has a real gift with people and having an employee like Chris makes the hospital a more positive place. Patients come in and get this lovely young chap to take them to their appointments – it changes the way people think, the perception is positive and we get really good feedback.
“He fits in really well with his shift colleagues too. They are like a family and all have a lot of time for Chris. They all have good banter and have never said a bad word about him. He is such a lovely guy, really passionate about the work he does.
“I sometimes think that because of things that have happened to Chris in his past, he doesn’t always believe he can do things. He can get nervous and has told me that he didn’t think he was very clever but he is actually really intelligent. He is about to start an NVQ in Customer Care and with a little bit of encouragement, I know he can do it.
“We still meet Pluss regularly and if Chris ever doubts himself, they are always there. It’s a really good service.
“Our Serco slogan is ‘Bringing service to life’. Chris does this every day – he is passionate, bubbly, outgoing and always willing to go the extra mile. I really hope he will stay and progress with us in the future.”

Disability Confident invitation - Plymouth 1Disability Confident invitation - Plymouth 2Are you Disability Confident?

Attend this free business networking event on Friday 19th June 2015: 7.45 – 9.45am. The event includes a free breakfast and tour of the aquarium.

Our guest speaker is Richard Stevens, the Chair of Plymouth and Devon Chamber of Commerce.

The Disaiblity Confident campaign encourages employers to be positive about the skills that people of all abilities bring to business; attend the event to find out more about the business benefits and support available.

Attendees will:

  • Hear the views and experiences from our partner employers
  • Explore effective strategies for recruitment and in-work support of employees
  • Share good practice and learn what works

If you have any special requirements, please let us know in advance and we will do our best to help you.

RSVP to 01752 680011 or plymouth@pluss.org.uk

National Marine Aquarium, Horizon Lounge, Rope Walk, Coxide, Plymouth, PL4 0LF

SMALL Leasan receives AoYThe Cedars Inn was delighted to win a prestigious ‘Employer of the Year’ award at a Disability Confident event held last week.

Hosted by Pluss, Disability Confident is a national campaign launched by David Cameron that encourages employers to be positive about the skills that disabled people bring to business. Pluss, a local Social Enterprise, is a national partner in the campaign and is working closely with the Minister for Disabled People to bring the campaign to local areas.

The event was opened by Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Devon, who presented The Cedars Inn with their trophy and a bottle of champagne.

Over 75 North Devon businesses also attended the event with speakers including The Cedars Inn and Johnny Kingdom. The employers spoke about how employing a disabled person is one of the best decisions they have ever made; how it has “breathed life” into their business, transformed their customer relations, their performance – and benefited their bottom line!

On winning the ‘Employer of the Year’ award, Peter Elder, General Manager at The Cedars, said “We are so pleased to have been given this award. Working with Pluss has been brilliant – the people we have employed through Pluss have breathed life into our business. They really want to work; they want to be here and are just pleased to have been given an opportunity. They lift the spirits of the rest of the team and this is recognised by the guests. It has really helped our customer service and engagement.”

Also awarded with the Pluss ‘Achiever of the Year’ was Cedars Inn employee, Leasan Chipperfield. Leasan had faced a number of chronic health conditions along with clinical depression and debilitating anxiety.  There had been times when Leasan found it impossible to leave the house.

Leasan is now a waitress at The Cedars Inn and has been described as an exemplary member of the team. Her sunny personality, excellent customer service skills and a ‘can do’ approach are now her trademarks.

Leasan says: “Twelve months ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be sitting here today. It’s the first time I have ever been able to say that I really love a job, and I am so pleased to hear that I am doing a good job and proving useful. It feels fantastic; the fact I am getting out of the house and doing something with my life. I am a much happier person. It is the best thing I have ever done.”

Nearly 7 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition, yet there is a large gap between the numbers of disabled people employed compared with non disabled people. Over 72% of the working age population are currently in work yet for someone with a learning disability living in Devon it is only 8.6%.

Many employers find that by encouraging applications from disabled people they are able to extend the pool of high quality applicants available to them. For an average business, 20% of customers are disabled and a workforce that reflects the community in which it is based is good for business. On top of this, disabled people and their families spend £212 billion a year in the UK (£20 billion here in the South West).

Pluss is a Social Enterprise that supports disabled people into work. They work with more than 400 employers across North Devon, helping them to recruit and retain staff with a disability. Their approach is founded on building professional relationships with employers; to understand each business and their recruitment needs, and to work with them to make the reasonable adjustments that some employees may need.

Businesses looking for free disability recruitment support can find out more at www.pluss.org.uk, www.facebook.com/plussinspires or on twitter @PlussInspires.

SMALL sainsbury'sSainsbury’s in Pinhoe, Exeter, were delighted to win a prestigious ‘Employer of the Year’ award at a Disability Confident event held this week at Haven Banks Outdoor Centre in Exeter.

Hosted by Pluss, Disability Confident is a national campaign launched by David Cameron that encourages employers to be positive about the skills that disabled people bring to business. Pluss, a local Social Enterprise, is a national partner in the campaign and is working closely with the Minister for Disabled People to bring the campaign to local areas.

The event was opened by Derek Phillips, Vice President of Exeter Chamber, who presented Sainsbury’s with their trophy and a bottle of champagne.

Sainsbury’s Pinhoe have made significant adjustments to their national recruitment procedures which can often prove extremely worrying and stressful for people with learning disabilities or mental health issues. Sainsbury’s offered jobseekers the opportunity to undertake short term work trials in store to demonstrate their skills first hand. By being so flexible in their procedures, Sainsbury’s have provided life changing employment opportunities to several people with complex disabilities.

Over 50 other Exeter and East Devon businesses also attended the event with speakers including Londis and Blue Chip Holidays. The employers spoke about how employing a disabled person is one of the best decisions they have ever made; how it has transformed their culture, their customer relations, their performance – and their bottom line!

Derek Phillips also presented Sharnaa Morgan with the Pluss ‘Achiever of the Year’ award.

SMALL SharnaaSharnaa, 22, has Achondroplasia, a condition that Sharnaa refers to as being a ‘little person’, and severe dyslexia. Having overcome significant barriers including being taken into care and bullied at school, Sharnaa’s ambition has always been to get a paid job. She now works at Discovery Nursery in Exeter and has gone from having very little self belief to fulfilling her job role well. She is now happy, engaged and looking for her own home.

Nearly 7 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition, yet there is a large gap between the numbers of disabled people employed compared with non disabled people. Over 72% of the working age population are currently in work yet for someone with a learning disability living in Devon it is only 8.6%.

Many employers find that by encouraging applications from disabled people they are able to extend the pool of high quality applicants available to them. For an average business, 20% of customers are disabled and a workforce that reflects the community in which it is based is good for business. On top of this, disabled people and their families spend £212 billion a year in the UK (£20 billion here in the South West).

Ian holding our certificate for our Social Enterprise Mark 2015Why does Ian look so happy? Because we’ve just received our certificate for 2015’s Social Enterprise Mark. By being Mark Holders we’re proving that we’re acting on behalf of society and having a positive impact for disabled people in our communities. The bods at Social Enterprise Mark said “Pluss are showing that they are committed to genuine social enterprise principles, demonstrating the truth about their business”, thanks!

Vivien Evans2 - Sanders Garden World smallToday is Time to Talk day. This national campaign is designed to reduce the stigma and isolation that many people with mental health issues face by simply talking about mental health.

Back in 2011, Vivien Evans, 58, a Senior Manager from Bridgwater had a mental health breakdown. She stopped going out and was unemployed for two years.

Fast forward four years and Vivien is described as an “absolute darling” by her new boss at ‘Sanders; a Wyevale Garden Centre’ at Brent Knoll.

Vivien, who is now the Front of House Assistant at Sanders’ Lemon Grove Café, said “I had a breakdown a few years ago and I stopped going out socially. I went back into work for a little bit but wasn’t ready for it and was then unemployed for two years. It’s had a profound impact on my life. I’d go for jobs and say I’d had a breakdown or that I was on anti-depressants and there was an immediate negative reaction.”

Vivien then discovered Pluss, a Bridgwater based Social Enterprise that has helped over 550 people with disabilities into employment across Somerset through the DWP’s Work Choice programme.

“Pluss understood I didn’t want a high-pressure job again. They took the time to get to know me and my needs, and it made a big difference to have one-to-one support from them each week. Within a couple of months they had supported me to start a job trial here.

“My job is great because it’s very varied; working in the café and kiosks. I do all the general duties of working in a restaurant. But the thing I like most about my job is the people: both the public and members of staff. The team are lovely.

“My manager, Claire, is very understanding, patient and supportive. I couldn’t wish for a nicer lady, she’s lovely. My illness is invisible but she’s still great about it and that’s really important in a manager. She knows my warning signs and is very astute to people’s conditions.

“Through gaining work I’ve achieved self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth.”

Claire Dawson, Restaurant Manager and Vivien’s boss, is equally delighted.

“Vivien is an absolute darling; a wonderful person who goes above and beyond her duties. When she started she was withdrawn and her confidence was totally stripped. She needed total rebuilding, to belong and to have security. Her mental health issues are invisible so it took time to learn about her, a little more consideration and care. As a result of that she’s one of my best members of staff.

“She has come on leaps and bounds. She has excellent customer service skills and would do anything for anyone. She does things that make everyone’s jobs easier. What’s great is that she’s learned how to manage and train herself, so now she can help herself.”

1. Scott Barnes webToday is Time to Talk day. This national campaign is designed to reduce the stigma and isolation that many people with mental health issues face by simply talking about mental health. One in four people in the UK every year will experience a mental health issue which can include conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Scott Barnes, 21, is a confident, productive and highly respected Lead Machine Operative who works for Atlas Packaging in Barnstaple. However, three years ago Scott was in the ‘worst place of his life’. Quiet and shy, Scott was admitted into a mental health unit with severe anxiety and was barely leaving the house.

Scott is telling his story to raise awareness of the vital role work had to play in his recovery to mental wellbeing.

Scott said “Before I came to Atlas I was at college studying plumbing. Up until two days before the start of term I had been in a mental health unit and I found it really hard to make the jump back to college. My mental health was getting worse and I had a lot of problems with anxiety. It was having a big impact on my life and I couldn’t find a way to control it. I left college as I struggled with going out and was barely leaving the house. I was in the worst place of my life back then. At the same time I didn’t want to stay on benefits and really wanted to get into work.”

Scott then discovered Pluss, a Barnstaple based social enterprise that supports over 300 people into work across North Devon.

“Pluss introduced me to the Production Manager at Atlas. After an eight week work experience I was taken on full time as a permanent member of the team.

“I have been here three years now; it feels amazing and I am happy with where I am. Back then I couldn’t see myself being in this position. The difference in me now is amazing. The biggest changes were made in the first year and that has kept me going through the next few years. It has helped me generally in life too. I enjoy coming to work as it gives you something to always be thinking about.

“When I first came here I was very shy and quiet. People would struggle to get a word out of me. The first person who trained me here became a good friend. Because I was out with him I bumped into a group of old friends – it was like a butterfly effect. It brought my old self out and as the months went on I started feeling a lot more comfortable. Some of my colleagues have become really good friends. It’s really built my confidence.

“My mental health issues will always be there, it’s not something I can forget about; I still get some bad days but when I look back and see what I have done it makes it easier to cope with. Each bad day you have gradually gets easier and you learn to get by. I have also learnt to accept support when it’s offered – you never have to do this alone. Now I couldn’t imagine not having a job!”

Graham Campbell, Operations Director at Atlas Packaging is delighted with Scott’s progress at the company.

He said “Scott is committed, driven and his is productivity is phenomenal. Having Scott in the team creates confidence; his positive approach rubs off on the other staff. If only I had 90 Scotts – we’d be singing!

“Atlas recently invested £350k in a new press machine and we identified Scott to be the operative because of his productivity, output and positive attitude.

“We like to think we are a caring and transparent company. Having a culture like this means we can get people like Scott. Everyone needs to be given a chance and when you see the success of Scott, it makes it all worthwhile. You wouldn’t know about Scott’s history – he just gets on with life. I see real potential for Scott to progress with us in the future.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to contract with providers for the delivery of the Specialist Employability Support (SES) programme across the UK. This programme is aimed at disabled people with the greatest barriers to work. The support is expected to contain a mix of provision depending on customer need, for either short intensive engagement, or longer term assistance.  This support will assist disabled people to move into other appropriate employment programmes, or help them access sustainable employment.

Pluss are currently looking to engage with a range of organisations to support them in their bid to deliver SES to customers throughout the UK.  Pluss are seeking expression of interests from providers with experience of supporting customers with disabilities.

Application deadline: 3rd February 2015

Areas: National

Please click here for the Expression of Interest form.

 

Andy Martin and Sarah Bailey - smallSeven years ago Andy Martin, 44, from Mawnan Smith near Falmouth, had two strokes and a cardiac arrest which left him hospitalised for five months and with lifelong speech and sight impairments.

Andy, who had previously been an Operations Manager at a book factory, was initially unable to speak and didn’t think he would ever get back into paid work.

Fast forward to 2014 and Andy is celebrating his first paid job as a Café Assistant at the family run Cornish Maid Café in Mawnan Smith. He is a likeable, hardworking and highly respected member of the team and the local community.

Andy told us “I was in hospital for five months. I had to learn to speak again from scratch. I ended up going home to live with my Mum and Step-Dad here in Mawnan Smith.

“My confidence really went down hill. I didn’t like meeting people because I am very conscious of my speech and I became quite secluded. I also wear glasses with a frosted lens so I don’t see double.

“I didn’t think I would ever get back into work. I did want to but because of my speech I felt I couldn’t as I find it hard to communicate.”

Andy then discovered Pluss, a local Social Enterprise who has helped over 800 disabled people into work across Cornwall.

“Pluss could see the potential in me. I did some employability training and got advice on how to find a job. They helped me with my CV and to look for a job.

“This is my first job since I have had my stroke and it feels really good. Now I get out and about and I’m sure it’s because I work here. I know more people. I have a reason to get up in the morning. I think I’ve got more confidence and I am not as conscious as I used to be about my voice.”

Sarah Bailey, owner of the Cornish Maid Café is delighted with her new employee.

“Andy is very likeable, funny and has a positive attitude. He is punctual, willing and he chats to all the customers. They ask ‘Where’s Andy today?’ which just shows the response he gets from people.

“I first met Andy when he and his Pluss consultant used to meet here in the café. Andy then asked me for a job. I thought Andy was so young to have had a stroke and could see through this; after all a stroke could happen to anyone and everyone deserves a chance. If people don’t get given a chance then there’s no hope for any of us. So I said yes.

“Having Andy here has made a big difference to the business. It has also made us think differently about things; life in general. My Mum loves working with him and they work really well as a team. Andy also delivers lunch to a 93 year old in the village and it’s good that he helps me to help other people.

“I have really seen Andy’s confidence increase during his time here. He is smiling all the time now. I try and make him do that bit more; he’ll say no and I’ll say yes! I am keen for him to do lots of courses and to really push him forwards.”

Andy adds “I used to play rugby and now I am back in contact with my old friends. I recently ran 5k in the Mawnan Smith Fun Run where I raised over £600 for the Stroke Association. I have also just completed my Level 2 Food Hygiene and First Aid.”

“My whole family has helped me so much through this. I feel I am one of the lucky ones though because I have seen people who have had strokes that have no feeling in their arms. I live independently now although Mum still helps me with my finances, cleaning and ironing. I also love a game of golf with my Dad.”

Emily Smith, 30, works as an Asda Ace Janitor for City Facilities (at Asda) in Paignton.
Emily is a good natured, warm and quiet lady who is incredibly conscientious in her work. Emily has a learning disability. She told us
“I enjoy my work; its fun meeting new people and I like the customers. It is nice and sometimes we are very busy.
“My disability means I find spellings, reading and time difficult. I also get very anxious about things. I worry about meetings and I get very nervous at interviews.
“I didn’t do anything before I worked here. It has been about five years since I had paid work and not having a job was very boring; just sitting around. I had a couple of interviews but I find them very difficult.
“Pluss helped me with my CV, applications, interviews and training such as Health and Safety, Fire and Manual Handling. They also helped me build my confidence.
“When I got offered the job here, I was jumping around at home. I wrote Steve a thank you card for choosing me.
“This job is fun. It feels fine to be earning and I am very proud. I like to be independent, busy and I am more confident now. I feel pleased with myself. Even my Mum says my cleaning has improved at home.
Soon I will be moving out to my own home. I always wanted to live independently and working has really helped me make this step. My husband is so pleased I have paid work.”
Emily’s boss, Steve Wilde, Store Cleaning Manager at City Facilities (in partnership with Asda) said “The difference in Emily since she started here is huge – she always knows where she is meant to be. Her reading and writing have improved and her timing is spot-on; we have to complete tasks within timescales and Emily uses her talking watch to monitor her timings.
“Emily applied competitively to Asda using the Jobcentre Plus application process. Pluss had contacted me beforehand to ask if they could come along to support her at interview and explain the help they could offer.
“We also interviewed three other candidates but I had a gut feeling about Emily and I offered her the job on the spot. I felt that she had a will to work and as long as that is there everything else is fixable. I felt Emily was worth investing in as she was the right person for the job. As they say, from little acorns grow big oaks. Its just about giving someone a chance and Emily is making a big difference.
“She is conscientious, willing, reliable, punctual and fine with customers. She is also honest, trustworthy and good example to other colleagues around timekeeping and attendance. Many people could take a leaf out of Emily’s book!
“When she started, Pluss were able to offer a month’s job coaching to help Emily learn the new job and settle in. They also helped visualise our paperwork and training with photos. We made Emily’s crib sheet visual by taking photos around the store – a list wouldn’t have worked.
“Now Pluss come in regularly, we sit down and look forward. I know I can call them at anytime, particularly if Emily is anxious or worried about things.
“And certainly, Emily’s thank you card when we offered her the job was the first I have ever had! “

Chris Oliver was seven years old when he was knocked over by a motorbike which left him in a coma, initially unable to walk and talk, and with a lifelong acquired brain injury. His family were told by medical professionals that he may never be able to hold down a job or work full-time.

Chris, however, had other ideas! Chris, now 22, is a General Porter with Serco at Derriford Hospital. His amazing ability to communicate with people has resulted in him winning four awards for outstanding patient care.

Chris has recently won Serco’s ‘Outstanding Newcomer’, ‘Employee of the Month’ and ‘Star’ awards, Pluss’ ‘Achiever of the Year 2014’ award, and was also a finalist in Serco’s national Star Awards.

Chris told us “My job involves delivering breakfast supplies to the wards, taking people down to the x-ray department and taking equipment around the wards.

“I love my job. I am very good at talking to people. I just like hearing the different stories people have to tell. When I pick a patient up, I find they talk to me.. When I am taking a patient somewhere in a wheelchair I say, if I’m going too fast, let me know. I say ‘I used to be fast but now I am old, I’m 22’, and they laugh. It makes their journey around the hospital easier.

“I’m hard working, always willing to stay on and help out. I’m always prepared to try my best at everything and am always half an hour early for every shift. I do find making plans difficult so I use calendars and cork boards to prompt my memory. I also carry a notepad so I know what I am doing.”

Despite his charm and popularity, life has not always been easy for Chris.

“My disability has affected me over the years. When I was younger, I would say silly things. At first, I thought I made people laugh then I got the sense that people were laughing at me, not with me. I used to get bullied, called names, even assaulted on the bus. I thought they were my friends. They used to say things about my scar so I started to grow my hair longer.

“I didn’t like loud noise and had one-to-one help at school. I would get distressed if things didn’t go according to plan. Mum would plan the day ahead for me but if it was changed I would get upset. I used to get really down. I’d forget things and get very angry with myself. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do things.

Chris was supported into work by Social Enterprise, Pluss, who have helped over 500 people with disabilities and health conditions into work across Plymouth.

“I am much more confident now I am in work. I started here in July 2013 but it was a six month temporary contract. I was really happy but I was on a mission to show them what I was worth. I was determined and did extra shifts. Then in December I was offered a permanent contract. This was my first ever full-time permanent job and I felt that all the hard work had finally paid off. I went out for a meal to celebrate with my family.

“When I was nominated for the Serco awards I was surprised but pleased that I was achieving something with my hard work. I was in the lift and could see a gentleman struggling. He stumbled, so I insisted he sit down and took him to the ward personally. Someone was watching and said to my boss ‘I don’t know who that young man is but his manners are impeccable’. I have also had letters thanking me for being a gentleman; polite, considerate and caring.”

Louise Pelley, Front of House Co-ordinator at Serco is over the moon. She said “Chris is an ideal employee; enthusiastic, always willing to try new things and to help anyone no matter what time of the day – he could be about to clock off but he would rather stay to help. He is always on time, never late.

“Chris is just so friendly to everyone. If a patient is upset, shouting or abrupt, Chris always manages to calm them down. He has a real gift with people and having an employee like Chris makes the hospital a more positive place. Patients come in and get this lovely young chap to take them to their appointments – it changes the way people think, the perception is positive and we get really good feedback. He is such a lovely guy, really passionate about the work he does.

“Our Serco slogan is ‘Bringing service to life’. Chris does this every day – he is bubbly, outgoing and always willing to go the extra mile – every day, not just sometimes.”

Chris adds “Working has changed my life in so many ways. I get up every morning, I can say ‘I’ve got to go to work tomorrow, I work at Derriford’. I am proud of myself. I’m not going to stop now; I am going to continue to make people happy and show what I can do. I don’t ever want to sit at home; I want to show people that even with an acquired brain injury, I can do this.

“I was here, at this hospital, 15 years ago and this job is my way of giving something back. Derriford saved my life and I now I can make a little difference to people’s lives in return.”

Four months after finishing college, Chris was having difficulty finding regular work and had been doing odd jobs for friends and neighbours to help him get by.
What Chris really wanted was a full-time outdoor job, preferably working alongside other people. Everyone agreed that Chris was a hard worker and was very reliable but there just seemed to be a shortage of opportunities for him locally.
Finally, Chris’ luck changed when Stonewood Builders, a well-established high-end building company in Chippenham, notified Pluss of a labouring job on a large renovation project just a few miles from his home.
Pluss supported Chris at an interview with the employer and he was offered full-time work which involved working alongside the skilled tradespeople on the renovation and restoration of an old Georgian rectory in a Cotswold village.
Chris, who has a learning disability, loves his new job and has settled well into the team on site. He has even mastered his fear of heights and is now able to work on scaffolding.
Chris says “I like being busy all day and having a laugh with the team. I have also learned new things like mixing up mortar and enjoy working with the brickies and carpenters, cutting wood and using tools. I am a lot more confident now.”
Stonewood Builders are equally happy with Chris. Aaron, the site supervisor, has watched him progress. “He has come on in leaps and bounds, his timekeeping and attendance are impeccable and he is always helpful, coming to ask me what he can do next after completing each project.
“I have given him some responsibility for opening up and closing the site and he has taken this and grown in confidence. Chris is part of the team and works with everyone on site, helping all the different trades and learning from them.”
Fabulous!

Sophie and James - RestomodSocial enterprise Pluss was recently bestowed with the national Social Champion Award at the Charity Times Awards.

The awards are in their fifteenth year and are the pre-eminent celebration of best practice in the UK charity and not-for-profit sector. The judges said Pluss had “Impressive growth, impressive impact based on a clear vision. This is a very impressive winner.”

The Social Champion Award is given to a Social Enterprise that can show how they have consistently delivered outstanding service to the end-beneficiaries, promoted and raised its cause, been clear in its social changing goals, strategy and vision and demonstrated excellence all round.

Pluss works to help people with disabilities into work, people like Sophie. Sophie, 20 from Fishponds in Bristol, is a Vehicle Repairer/Painter for Restomod, an automotive repair business. She is profoundly deaf and communicates by lip-reading and using British Sign Language.

Sophie said “I had looked for jobs but it was difficult to find a job to match my skills and interests. It’s quite rare for women in jobs like this. I also think communication was an obstacle – some people talk too fast and they see me as a barrier. Then I had support from Gary at Pluss. After a couple of weeks we found this garage and it suited me and my skills. When I came to look around I could see the atmosphere was very positive.

“I have become much more confident since I’ve been here and I feel motivated.

“It has made me more confident with lip-reading and communicating with people outside. I had to write before, I would write things down and it used to be difficult to communicate.”

James Nichols, the owner of Restomod, and Sophie’s boss said “Sophie is a very hard worker; she doesn’t stand around chatting. She has real drive and uses her initiative; she asks me what’s next. This type of work can be quite demanding and you’ve got to have a real passion and be able to keep up – which Sophie does.

“We were a little apprehensive at first just around how things would go with communication but everything is going very well. It really seems to be working. You need to know a little bit of sign language but I’m really quite enjoying learning. I have never had to speak other languages but she is quite willing to teach me and I find it interesting and refreshing to do something a bit different.

“We have had brilliant support from Pluss and they visit every three weeks or so just to make sure everything is going ok. They have basically given us a good worker who is very willing.”

Huge congratulations to Jeff Duddridge who celebrated 25 years with Pluss this week.  Jeff, who started working for us in 1989, was presented with his certificate over lunch with his colleagues at our Bridgwater factory. He will also be awarded with five additional days Annual Leave.
Jeff said “I have seen some real changes over the years. Different people coming and going. What I like about my job is the people here. We have a laugh. It’s like a family really – we help each other out.”
Andrew Turner, Enterprise Manager (on the right of the photo) said “Jeff is always willing to help people. He is very reliable and does his very best, both in and out of work”
Jeff works at our Bridgwater operations where we offer a range of manufacturing services including light engineering, metal fabrication and digital printing services.
Jeff Duddridge, on the left, with Andrew Turner

Project SEARCH, a supported internship programme, based at Derriford Hospital, that supports young adults with Learning Disabilities to gain paid employment, has been confirmed as a finalist for a top award.

The work of Project SEARCH in supporting young adults with Learning Disabilities to gain paid employment has been shortlisted in the ‘NHS Inclusivity Leader of the Year’ category of the ‘2014 South West Leadership Academy, Leadership Recognition Awards.’

The project, now in its fifth year, is a partnership between Derriford Hospital NHS Trust, Pluss, Serco and City College Plymouth who have come together to offer interns with developmental difficulties a pathway into paid employment.

Pluss Employment Advisor on the project, Pip Critten, commented: “We are proud and humbled to be considered amongst the very best working in inclusivity within the NHS and are passionate about the benefits of Project SEARCH, not just to the interns but the whole workforce and wider community.”

Hein Sheffer, Derriford Hospital’s HR Director said: “Derriford Hospital is proud to be an employer with a diverse workforce that reflects the surrounding population. Being a partner in this project has reinforced our view that employers should focus on people’s abilities and not their limitations.”

The shortlisting of the nomination recognises not only the work to support the interns but for the way they have helped to change attitudes to disability in the workplace.

The nomination states: “Through their outstanding commitment to inclusivity, they have enabled 57% of the graduate Interns to achieve paid employment. This is in contrast to the national average of 6.6% employment for people with Learning Disabilities.”

Members of the team will travel to Bristol for the award ceremony in November.

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