Helping my client find work

My client has said in the past that she wanted a job - she really wanted to work.

She has a severe brain injury, sustained at a very young age and requiring 24/7 support to live independently in her own home. She attended school and was keen to leave sixth form. We looked at lots of different colleges and course but there wasn't anything that my client could get enthusiastic about. My client was always easily entertained with visits to the cinema, going bowling or shopping and was difficult to distract from watching TV. It would have been very easy for her to remain without a routine or a purpose.

My client and I came across a kind of alternative placement for work by accident. We had visited the local hospital a few times as they have very interesting gardens. On the next occasion we enquired about the possibility of volunteer work in the gardens and spoke to the garden staff and their manager, who were quite apprehensive to begin with. 18 months on, my client has worked in the gardens regularly every week since, with my support. My client has her own uniform for this job and because I support her during her working hours I have the same uniform. We join other garden staff at the end of their morning break, which is just the right time for my client and means that everyone begins working at the same time. My client finishes work at the same time as the other staff begin their break for lunch - staying for a little longer to have a coffee and tidy up.

I feel very proud that I have been able to help my client find work and privileged to be able to support her. I know that my client gets a lot from her work placement. Just saying 'Hiya' to people at work really pleases her - in fact the staff, managers and other volunteers are all her friends, which provides her with the social interaction she needs and which gives her the confidence to talk to others herself instead of asking her support team to speak on her behalf. My client demonstrates a very strong work ethic and now has a purpose and a work routine.

With my client and her support team attending the garden regularly, the environment and staff have also benefited as we have encouraged and supported them to be more aware of the different needs of people. The work area has been cleaned up and there are written and pictorial signs everywhere. Walkways have been widened and are kept free from obstructions to allow access for wheelchairs. There have been changes in their attitude also - instead of assuming that my client 'can't do', other staff are seeing and understanding her achievements and giving her the praise she deserves. Now my client is involved in designing and choosing colours for some sheds and potting areas at her own property. These need to be custom built for her, along with some raised garden planting beds, and are being made for her by her peers at work.

The success of my client at work has given rise to other disabled people in the local area becoming involved in other aspects of the hospital's enterprise business.

Even after working with clients for a long time, there is still a great deal that they can achieve with our help!

Experience of a support worker in the Sheffield area

Posted: February 2014

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