Vivien Evans, 58, lives in Bridgwater and is a Front of House Assistant in The Lemon Grove Café at Sanders; A Wyevale Garden Centre.
Vivien was referred to Pluss’ Work Choice programme (a contract Pluss runs on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions – DWP) by Jobcentre Plus. Vivien is a quiet lady who has mental health issues after a breakdown a few years ago. She is lovely to talk to and has a great deal of empathy when considering her colleagues and customers.
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.
"My job is great because it’s very varied working in the café and kiosks. Making coffees, serving ice-creams, clearing tables and cleaning the coffee machine; I do all the general duties of working in a restaurant. The thing I like most about my job is the people: both the public and members of staff, I like people! The team are lovely, all really nice. Claire is an excellent manager; I couldn’t wish for a nicer lady, she’s lovely. My illness is invisible, but she’s still great about it, that’s really important in a manager.
"I had a breakdown a few years ago, I went back into work for a little bit but wasn’t ready for it and was then unemployed for two years. 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. I knew also that I was now only able to do part-time hours in order to be able to give 100% to my work whilst I was there.
"A couple of months after being in touch with Pluss I started a job trial here. They understood I didn’t want a high-pressure job again, I needed something where I could leave work at work. When I had my breakdown I stopped going out socially, and I still get very tearful at times. It’s had a profound impact on my life.
"Claire is a great manager, very flexible, understanding, patient and supportive. Because she understands about mental health issues it’s great: she knows my warning signs. She’s very astute to people’s conditions.
"Pluss have been very good, it made a big difference to have one-to-one support a few times a week. They took the time to get to know me and my needs, providing a bespoke service. I don’t think I’d be in employment now without Pluss. Through gaining work I’ve achieved self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth."
Claire Dawson, Restaurant Manager, Sanders, A Wyevale Garden Centre
"Vivien is an absolute darling, a wonderful person who goes above and beyond her duties. She’s come on leaps and bounds, when she started she was lacking in confidence and withdrawn.
"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.
"Vivien’s mental health issues are invisible, so it took time to learn about her. Her confidence was totally stripped, she needed total rebuilding, to belong, to have security.
"All my members of staff are treated as individuals, Vivien needed the confidence to do things, a little more consideration and care. As a result of that she’s one of my best members of staff.
"Having more experience now of employing people with disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health issues has reinforced that you do have to remember that your team are all individuals, and need managing as such. You need to get to know each person, about their background, etc. before we even get to the interview sometimes.
"It’s great to do job trials, and I believe strongly in working interviews – all my staff do them. The most important thing is that they have to really want the job.
"Pluss are there from the point of helping to find staff, supplying in-work supporters, they always offer to come in and assist if I need. I know that they will support someone to learn a new job and that they’re at the end of the phone for me and my employees, and support the retention of staff. Pluss gives that little bit extra.
"I would well and truly recommend Pluss, it’s a shame they’re not all over the country! They supply the right people for me and save me time by doing all the sifting for me."