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Helping those with disabilities find work, and stay in work

Reporter Kieran Bell spoke to Becky Beechen, managing director of Ways Into Work, and some of the people the service supports.

“Your work is almost the first thing that somebody asks you, so for people that do not have a job, that is a really challenging thing.”

As well as paying the bills, a job provides a sense of independence, a chance to socialise and interact with others, and most importantly, a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

That is the belief of Becky Beechen, the managing director of Ways Into Work (WIW), a social enterprise helping people with a disability or a disadvantage gain employment.

It became independent from the Royal Borough in 2015 and has worked for 20 years to not only help those with barriers get into work, but also support them while they are there through its Supported Employment Model.

“We know things change at work and people with a disability might need to be able to overcome those changes,” Becky said.

“Over time, we phase out that support and reduce it as much as possible and keep in touch with all parties so that we are there and can be proactive.

“It is not just about getting someone a job, it is about supporting them throughout their career.”

WIW helps with aspects such as full and part-time paid work, apprenticeships, work experience and writing CVs.

It works with 90 firms in the Royal Borough and also branches into Hampshire.

The three main groups it works with are those with a disability, on the autism spectrum and with mental health problems.

Becky, who has been MD for a year, added: “Employment is one of the central things in our lives. A lot of the groups we are working with are marginalised and it can be difficult for them to access [it].

“Your work is almost the first thing that somebody asks you, so for people that do not have a job, that is a really challenging thing.

“We know that people who are in work are healthier, happier and for us it is an important thing to be able to offer.”

A total of 240 individuals are supported in the Royal Borough, and 68 per cent of those are in work, Becky added.

“That is what it is all about. You get that butterfly feeling.”

Four young people included in that 68 per cent are Patrick O’Brien, Bradley Coles, Wyne Nhau and Lewis Goodchild.

Patrick is working at The Green Parrot in Queen Street, aided by his employment coach Donna Evans.

WIW started working with Patrick when he left college with a Level 1 catering qualification and a dream of finding paid work in the industry.

Rather than going through a traditional interview, Green Parrot manager Geoff Salinas agreed to give Patrick a work trial so he could demonstrate his skills, rather than trying to articulate them at a formal interview.

He was offered his first job in March last year and now travels to work himself.

Patrick O’Brien at the Green Parrot cafe (above) with owner Geoff Salinas and Donna Evans, employment coach.

Bradley has been supported by WIW since he was 17, and was offered a job at Manor Green School, in Elizabeth Hawkes Way, after a supported work trial.

His first job there as a day cleaner inspired him to become a caretaker, and with support from his coach he was promoted to apprentice caretaker in September this year.

Bradley is now taking qualifications to become a qualified caretaker and hopes to complete this by the end of 2020. 

He said: “Getting the support to work in a job that I love has really changed my life, I feel that I am an important part of a team. I hope that [by] reading this, anyone with a disability will be inspired by what I have achieved.”

Bradley Coles, who works at Manor Green School

Wyne and Lewis are employed at Anthony Mullan Furniture in Drift Road.

After support from job coaches and some initial work experience there, both were offered a full time position.

Debra Burnett, transition manager at WIW, said: “We are so grateful to Anthony for giving these young lads the chance to prove themselves and for being creative about the recruitment process.

“In return he has two young men working for him who are highly motivated and who truly value their job. It has changed theirs and their family’s lives immeasurably.  Everyone is a winner.”

Managing director Anthony Mullan added: “[Wyne and Lewis] are great young lads. Ways Into Work were very helpful, they gave us all the support we needed.”

From left: Lewis Goodchild, Anthony Mullan and Wyne Nhau

To find out more about Ways into Work, call Debra Burnett on 07920 831511 or email debra@ waysintowork.com

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