Tony Martin, a 48 year old Care Assistant from Paignton, is a happy, confident and respected employee working for Ark Home Healthcare.
However, rewind 12 months and it was a completely different story. Having experienced a long period of unemployment, continual knock backs and struggling with debt, Tony was suffering from depression and was in an extremely low place.
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.
“I visit people in their own homes. Young people, older people and disabled people. I do up to 10 calls a day. Each client is different; it could be medications, getting up, washed, dressed, breakfast.
“I most enjoy making a person smile; knowing that you have got it right and that they are happy. If a client is feeling a bit unhappy, you get them to feel better about life. For me, it’s not just coming in to get the job done. I will talk about the sky being blue; I like to leave people feeling happy, comfortable and make sure they don't feel intimidated. I like to have a laugh and a joke but when it comes to work, I am very understanding of clients requirements.
“I had depression; I am also diagnosed with stage 2 diabetes. Still, I am alive and kicking... just. I was unemployed from 2007 until 2015 apart from a brief spell as an Assistant Manager at a charity for six months. That was when the depression took over. I was trying for everything going. I was applying for 8-10 jobs a week.
“I felt like I was just a number. My confidence was completely knocked. I couldn't get back up and get out there. You just get to a point where you think why am I bothering? Every job I went for either got closed or they didn't phone you back. When you get knocked back continually, you start to think there is something wrong with you and it kills your confidence. That is where I was, I genuinely thought there was something wrong with me.
“My confidence went very, very down. I had it bad – let's just say I had silly thoughts. The day they let me go from the charity shop, I couldn't feel anything – it was like a person had stabbed me in the heart. Yet I had worked damn hard. I was also in debt with a big overdraft. It was a big worry; where was the money going to come from to pay for things? I was just sitting back and watching life pass me by.
“Then I got told about Pluss. Hand on heart, I thought it was a Jobcentre plus course to get you off their books. I honestly thought, what can they teach me? Yet, I can say with pride and confidence, the entire team at Pluss made me see that I do have skills and a value. Gradually, they helped me to see that my skills could be put to good use out there.
“They gave me such positive support. If I went for a job and didn't get it, they would always know how to turn me completely around – helped me to understand it wasn't my fault. They worked wonders with my CV – it was really small and they showed me how to expand it more. They taught me things about employability but it wasn't like going back to school. I learnt skills I could use in real life. All of a sudden it just clicked. They opened up my eyes to what I can do.
“They helped me to pick clothes and paid for a hair cut which made me feel more presentable. They attended interviews with me. It was such a great thing having them there as it didn't allow the panic to set in. Before I could feel myself shaking and getting nervous and would think how am I going to do this? Where do I sit? How do I sit? What do I answer? With Pluss there, they didn't allow me to think about all the bad things.
“Pluss suggested I consider care work. I needed a couple of days to mull it over as I was bought up to believe care work was ladies work. Then I realised I had what it took.
“I got invited for an interview at ARK – Pluss were with me. I was asked questions I never thought I would have the intelligence to answer. Even then I thought 'here we go – I'll be just another name on a file'. At the end, he told me I had got one question wrong but that there was a job there for me.
“At that point, I felt that the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It was such a great feeling. I did ARK's training, shadowed a carer, then they set me free... and now everyone loves me. It feels really good.
“If it wasn't for Pluss' guidance and support, I wouldn't be in work now. I had no self belief and had let life shut me down. They took a very nervous Tony and turned me into a confident Tony. They took a person who wanted to give up to a person that is hard working, almost debt free and has got 99.9% of his confidence back.
“Now I am so much happier, I am better off financially and I don't feel stressed. I can go shopping and I don't have to worry about where the cash is coming from. I can carry on with life. I socialise more too as I have the finances to go out; before, I didn't have the confidence or self motivation to go out.
“I would never want anyone to go through what I did. I would recommend anyone to go to Pluss. The help is there if you need it and they will help and guide you. They will believe in you, give you that chance and show you that you have a value in the world.”
Esa Reeman, Regional Manager, Ark Home Healthcare
“Tony has worked for Ark for a year now and he is a great asset to the team. With the support from Pluss, Tony was able to attend his interview with confidence. I’m so glad Pluss recommended Tony for this role as he is a natural and without them Tony would have missed out on the great career in care he has ahead of him.”