Leasan Chipperfield is 42 and lives in Roundswell in Barnstaple.
She is a waitress at The Cedars hotel, bar and restaurant in Barnstaple, part of the Old English Inns group.
Leasan is supported by Pluss on the Work Choice programme. She has achieved so much that last year she won the Pluss ‘Achiever of the Year 2015’ award.
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 love talking to different people. It’s nice to hear their stories; how their day has been. It puts a smile on my face. I have always been helpful, polite and understanding of people’s requirements.
"18 months ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be sitting here today. I am really happy here. It is the first time I can really say I love a job for the first time in 20 years.
"The Cedars is fantastic. They made me feel extremely welcome and are very understanding. I have been very open about my anxiety and depression but there is no stigma. I can go to my Manager and say if I have any worries.
"18 months ago I couldn’t leave the house. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt that there was nothing for me out there in the world. I had worked previously for over 16 years. Then I was out of work for a year. I hated being out of work and the fact I didn’t really have a life. I looked at the same walls day in and day out.
"Then Jobcentre Plus put me in contact with Pluss. They arranged for me to go to Cedars for a six week work trial through their ‘Skills for Work’ programme.
"It took me up until five minutes before I left to decide I was coming, I was so stressed. I phoned Pluss and it was just so good to have someone walk in with me. If it wasn’t for them I would still be stuck indoors.
"Now it feels fantastic. I am getting out of the house and doing something with my life. I am a happier person. I still have my down days but they are getting less and further apart.
"A lot of it is due to being here and the fact that Pluss has stood behind me all the way. They helped me to understand no matter what your disability is, you can carry on with life and get back to work.
"It has helped me become more confident and helped me to come to terms with my illness. I feel a million times better than before. It has improved my life in every way it possibly can and has made me feel like I am worth something; that I am worthy to be on this planet."
Peter Elder, General Manager, Cedars Inn
"Everyone loves Leasan to bits and she has fitted in well into the team. I think her big skill is her personality.
"Leasan lifts the spirits of the guests and the rest of the team. Everyone looks forward to Leasan coming on shift. She is never down, never negative, just comes in and gets on. She loves her job; loves being here – and we love her being here too. She is recognised by the guests and she is wonderful at customer service. She is bubbly, outgoing and a really nice person.
"I would definitely recommend Pluss. They’re fantastic. The support has been brilliant. We meet regularly, have regular reviews and feedback, and I know that I can call them if there are any issues."