“My name is Paul Hanman and I am a Senior Job Broker working for Pluss in Swindon. I support unemployed individuals with disabilities and long term health conditions find paid employment.
“Like millions of people within the UK, I was not born with a disability. When I was 18, I started working for one of the largest employers in the UK. After two years I was informed that I had a hereditary health condition which meant in a short period of time I would lose all central vision leaving me blind.
“Luckily for me, I had a manager who believed in giving everyone a chance. I spent 26 years with the same company and became a senior manager.
“In March 2011, after one restructure too many, I was made redundant. All of a sudden I was plunged into a world I had never known. For the first time in my life I had to register as unemployed.
“I thought that trying to find a new job would be easy, I had worked all my life and achieved so much. Then the reality of trying to find work in a recession kicked in. It was hard to get noticed and I soon found out that being disabled closed nearly all doors when applying for vacancies. Many companies would not consider me because of my disability.
“I applied for over 400 positions and it seemed my applications were being refused automatically. On one occasion I applied for a position at 10 am and at 10.05 I received an e-mail from the company informing me that the application would not be considered. When asked why, I was informed that their computer system automatically sorted the applications and had been programmed not to short-list disabled people. This was the same with many companies around Swindon.
“It was about this time that I was referred to Pluss for support in finding paid work. This decision changed my entire life. I attended Pluss in early December 2011 and can honestly say that I was determined, ambitious and arrogant. I believed that my future would be back in project management.
“Following many coaching sessions, Pluss worked with me to help identify possible careers I could excel at. This was done through extensive employability skills training and coaching sessions including confidence building, team working and interview techniques, plus many more.
“It was during these sessions that I realised my passion for work was within the supported employment sector. My passion had been ignited by Pluss and I was adamant I would work for them!
“In April 2013, I applied for a position as a Job Broker. I applied and at last I was able to do the work I had become so passionate about.
“With amazing support from Pluss and help from Access to Work, I am now able to give back to others the help and support I received when I was unemployed. I’m proud to say I’ve now helped many disabled people back into work and feel I am well respected. I have since been promoted to Senior Job Broker.
“Without the help of Pluss, people like me can often be left on the scrap heap and forgotten about. Disability is not a reason for not employing someone, it’s a reason for employing them. By working together with employers, we can jointly change the lives of people with disabilities forever by giving them a chance of work.”
Pluss delivers Work Choice, the Department for Work and Pensions specialist disability employment programme. Work Choice receives funding from the European Social Fund for customers referred to the programme prior to 25th April 2017.