Chris' Story

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Chris Oliver, 22, is a General Porter at Serco.

Chris was referred to Pluss’ Work Choice programme after completing the Project SEARCH internship programme at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

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.

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.

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.

Chris’ words

“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.

“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)

“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.”

Ginny’s (Chris’ Mum) words

“Chris was so dependent when he was younger. It was upsetting to see him feeling like that. He used to lose a thought and would come back 10 minutes later and have to start again but he is much better with his memory now. He also struggles with academic work. We were told by medical people that he may never be able to work full-time or even be able to hold down a job and work shifts.

“We were absolutely thrilled when he was offered the job – he had worked so hard; so conscientiously. Chris is very determined when he sets his mind to something.

“I am very proud of him. He has achieved so much. He’s got a good caring nature and families have contacted the hospital to say thank you for the way Chris has treated them. To me, this is Chris and I know he wouldn’t be any other way.

“Working has helped his self esteem; being part of a community, part of a workforce. Now, he has got a purpose, a reason to get up in the mornings and he is part of a team. He comes home and tells us about his work. I just think he’s brilliant and it’s so good to get these awards to recognise the fact. I hope that one day he will have a family – I am sure he has got a long way to go as yet.

“Project SEARCH has been a brilliant opportunity as is shows the employer what you can do. It gave Chris the opportunity which he grabbed with both hands.”