Jigsaw Pieces: Gizza job! I can do that! Part 2
Part II: Ben’s Story – Tolerance and PAT
Tolerance and other Voluntary Work
If I have got my sums right ‘Tolerance’ came into my life round about time I was still at Shelley High School. It was created out of one of the summer school play schemes that Kirklees used to run. We had such a good time one year that this particular group wanted to see more of each other to socialise and do other projects.
We began as a small group of people, calling ourselves the Deighton Group. As the local PHAB group was shutting down, the group got a lot bigger and we changed our name to ‘Tolerance’. When we began appearing in local media and were becoming more well known, a local development officer organised us into a fully-functioning group. I was asked to be co-ordinator, a job which I did for 7 years. Gemma Blagbrough was my second-in-command and transport secretary. With the help of the local development officer, we applied for funding for a variety of projects. As co-ordinator for the group I found myself doing a lot of the admin work, filling out funding forms, writing newsletters, doing radio and newspaper interviews, and going to various meetings to ask for money to get projects started.
As a group we were also asked for our input on various Kirklees projects, including: helping set up a summer play scheme called Some Artistic for Everyone (SAFE); being a member of the Single Regeneration funding bid team; and being a member of the Disability Rights Network (DRN) Executive Committee which helped run the group and organise their yearly Day of the Disabled event.
Two of the main projects that we secured funding for were the Tolerance video, which this blog helps to celebrate, and a team-building event at Dukes Barn. All this work with the Tolerance Group was very useful in getting me my first job.
PAT – not my girlfriend, but the Positive Action Training scheme
While I was still with Tolerance I was offered a placement working with the Local Primary Care Trust (PCT), working on their newsletter. My Mum and I had a discussion about the possibility of finding paid work, but it was not an easy task. I had thought about it, but I had to consider who would pay my transport costs, plus any building I would work in, would have to be disabled friendly, and the work place would have to be a short distance from home.* In addition, I had never written a CV or a job application in my life before and my handwriting was not very legible.
My Mum had spotted an advert for a job in the paper with the council. It was for a scheme by the name of Positive Action Training (PAT) and she thought I should apply for it. I was nervous to say the least, but I made an appointment with Worklink, who helped people with disabilities to find work. I explained to them about my handwriting, but they told me that I could word process my job application and my CV, so my handwriting should not be an issue. It was that simple; problem solved.
My Mum helped me to put together my first job application for the role of a Funding Officer and to my surprise I got an interview! I did not get the job in the end, but it was a good experience. Another PAT job came up again some weeks later and I decided to give it another go. This one was for a Clerical Officer at the Carer’s Gateway/Working in Partnership Team and using the same job application and CV, I got another job interview.
As part of the interview I had to do typing test, answer the phone, and answer some questions. It was at the interview that I met someone, who has become a good friend to me. She took me through the typing test and put me at my ease. With the typing test done, I had to answer the phone to somebody who wanted their transport sorting out. I found this quite straightforward, as I had done this many times with Tolerance. Finally, it was the questions and after a few nervous moments at the start, I soon settled into my stride. I know this is a funny thing to say, but as soon as a left the room I knew I had got the job and two days later this was confirmed with a phone call. A couple of weeks went by before I started as I had to sign a contract and meet my new employers to discuss reasonable adjustments. I also wrote to the PCT thanking them for their offer of a work placement, but that I unfortunately would not be able to take it up.
I started my paid work placement with PAT on the 3 September 2001. The first thing I did was a short induction course with my fellow trainees, who were a very nice bunch of people and I saw a lot of them over the next year. A week later I went to my first Carers seminar, where I was introduced to my first of many line managers. The original plan for my placement was that I would split my time between the Working in Partnership team and the Carers Gateway, but it did not work out like that. Instead, I started working for the lady, who had taken me through the typing test at my interview, doing all sorts of jobs which I really enjoyed. These included: sorting out transport and care cover; sorting our catering for a range of events; sorting out the Gateway database; dealing with members of the public, both face-to-face and over the phone; as well as sending out Gateway newsletters and carers packs.
I liked working with this lady and she trusted me to do things by myself and to stretch myself to get out of my comfort zone and learn different things. We also use to chat a lot and have a good laugh. Once we thought someone had a left a suspicious package outside of the building, so we rang the police. While we waited for them to arrive, we hid behind a door, looking at this package. It turned out that it wasn’t a bomb at all; just a bag of clothes that someone had left behind. We laughed a lot about that and other things, and when this lady left Gateway for another job, things were never the same. I got another line manager and I felt I was not trusted as much. I felt that I did not do as many interesting things and I was quietly moved upstairs, spending most of my time with the Working in Partnership team, although I was asked to help out with the Gateway phones when they were short staffed.
I enjoyed my time with the Working in Partnership team as well, and I had two good bosses, whom I both liked and whom both supported me very well. I enjoyed doing the Kirklees website consultations, handing out publicity materials, and writing reports. During my time in this team, they decided they wanted to retrain me as a Development Officer. My week was once again split between the Working in Partnership team and the Social Service information point in Huddersfield, where I learned about customer care. I also got a pay rise.
It was during this time that the most stressful part of my placement occurred, because the firemen decided to go out on strike. I had to use a lift to get to my place of work, but if there was a fire I would be trapped upstairs. A fire officer came to see me and asked me some questions about what I would do in the event of fire. A report was written, which Kirklees or someone in management did not like, and arguments were going on behind my back about me. The stress of all this was getting to me. First of all I was moved downstairs to the Carers Gateway office, doing work for the Working in Partnership team, but I was miserable and then I was moved to the Social Services Information Point (SSIP) in Huddersfield until the fire problem was sorted out. Unfortunately, this would later come back to haunt me, but more of that later.
While I was at the Information Point, I made myself useful by providing help and advice to the public on: the Blue Badge scheme; certain benefits; and the Kirklees Passport Scheme; as well as running the Shopmobility Service; giving payments to clients who needed essentials like food/gas/electricity; faxing and photocopying referrals to the different care teams; and dealing with phone calls from the public.
When the escape issue was sorted out I moved back to the Working in Partnership team and back to my normal work routine, although I had another line manger. By now I was coming to the last 6 months of my training now and my PA and I had to attend sessions on how to apply for jobs when the placement ended. I had already started to apply for new jobs, including one with the Information Point, and a couple through the councils redeployment unit, but to no avail. Little did I know then what a hard slog getting a new job would prove to be.
* Kirklees Council now offers a grant called Access to Work from the Department of Work and Pensions, which can pay for a disabled persons transport costs and for any reasonable adjustments. Find out about the Access to Work scheme.
Part II: Gemma’s Story – Volunteering
Tolerance was one of my first experiences of volunteering, and people soon noticed how bossy I was and used it to their advantage. Volunteering in Tolerance definitely helped me to gain employment, and created some lasting friendships. I continued with volunteering when I was in employment, both with Tolerance and other organisations. Now I run Jigsaw Enterprise Training and I encourage others to do the same, even hosting volunteer market places to link people up to suitable volunteering opportunities. I even gained a Gold Award for Community and Volunteering from Millennium Volunteers. Volunteering is good for your CV, helps you to be more positive, increases confidence and independence, and helps you to gain skills and experience in different vocations and career areas.
My job within Tolerance, as well as being a committee member, was as transport co-ordinator, which meant organising transport for our many adventures, some of which, were more problematic than others.
Jigsaw Enterprise Training is currently seeking funding for various different projects, which will be recruiting volunteers. For more information, please feel free to contact us.