Ryan Roberts, 22, from Abergele was supported into employment by the I CAN Work programme in early 2020.
After studying Games Development at Coleg Llandrillo Menai, Ryan, who sometimes struggles with anxiety, says he hit a ‘brick wall’ when he tried to enter the world of work.
“I submitted dozens of job applications but had no luck and no responses” he explained.”
“I’d hit a brick wall. It was upsetting and I wondered why nobody was giving me a chance.”
Determined to improve his job prospects and build new skills, Ryan began volunteering with Llandudno Junction based Crest Co-operative.
“I completed over 100 hours of voluntary work and it helped me to build my confidence, learn new skills and get experience in retail and stock control”
Ryan was then referred to the I CAN Work programme, where he was given intensive support from RCS Employment Specialist Lorraine Ann, to find and prepare for suitable paid employment.
In January, he was successful in securing a job with the League of Friends at Glan Clwyd Hospital on a 20 hour permanent contract. He has continued to receive support from the I CAN Work programme throughout his employment.
“We looked at different jobs that I could apply for based on what I’d like to do and what I’d be able to do, with my skills and experience. I was also supported to undertake an anxiety management course, which really helped me.
We also had a number of mock interviews to help me prepare for my interview. As a result I felt really well prepared and it helped me with my anxiety.
My main duties are ensuring that stocks are high, making orders and helping with the running of the tea bar.
I’m really enjoying the job and the routine it gives me. Being in work has made me more confident and given me something to look forward to everyday. I meet new people every day in work, which is exciting.”
Daniel Davies, a 27 year old trained chef from Prestatyn, experienced anxiety and low mood from spending five months out of work, after bullying in a previous job affected his mental health. His life took a new turn when the jobcentre referred him to support through RCS, where a dedicated I Can Work employment specialist helped him to find work with the catering team at Glan Clwyd Hospital
“My confidence and anxiety were shot after receiving a number of knock backs and I felt like giving up. But my I CAN Work employment specialist was amazing and helped to boost my self-esteem by sending me on a confidence boosting course.
She was very proactive and understood what type of work would suit me, rather than pushing me towards any old job.
Daniel took on the role at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd working on the Covid-19 wards just before lockdown was imposed in March. It wasn’t long before he contracted the infection himself. But after the “worst weeks” of his life fighting the illness, he returned to work because he says it “gives him purpose.”
“The programme has helped to give me a more positive outlook on life. I’ve joined the gym and started to love and care for myself again. I believe I CAN Work can help you no matter what your issues are.”
‘Rhian’ self-referred onto the I CAN Work project following a number of difficulties at work which had been having a detrimental effect on her mental health.
She had worked in the same job for a long time, however within a period of 18 months she had several negative experiences with her management resulting in being signed off due to work-related stress; she felt as though she couldn’t return. ‘Rhian’ expressed that she wanted support to resolve the situation so she could go back to a job that she loved.
One of the main barriers ‘Rhian’ was facing was a lack of communication from her employer, which was increasing her anxiety and stress. A joint meeting was held and a plan was made to help ensure she was redeployed so that she could complete shifts better suited to her needs.
Over a period of two months, there was limited communication or support from her employer, despite phone calls and emails being sent. ‘Rhian’ then decided to reach out to her union for support. They attended a meeting with her management and ‘Rhian’ asked them to start the procedure to redeploy her; it was agreed that this would happen.
Over a month later and even with involvement from I CAN Work, there was no indication that the process to redeploy ‘Rhian’ had begun. I CAN Work decided to contact the organisation ‘Rhian’ was due to be deployed to and senior management directly for advice. I CAN Work were informed that they had not received any information from ‘Rhian’s’ employer and so there was no record of her starting redeployment. This caused further stress for ‘Rhian’ and she returned to the GP to obtain an extended sick note.
Following a further 2 weeks of phone calls and emails, I CAN Work were informed that ‘Rhian’ would be redeployed. ‘Rhian’ is now successfully redeployed and works at locations and times that suit her and is much happier.
When asked about her recent experience with I CAN Work, she said:
‘I had everything against me, my bosses, my age and lack of support from my union and my biggest problem was getting someone to believe me and how it made me feel. You did believe me, and I’ll always be grateful. Thank you to you and I CAN Work, my life has totally turned around for the best.’
A new sense of direction
Meet Darrell. He was unemployed and stuck in a bit of a rut. Yet within a few weeks, he was volunteering, and a few weeks later, during the start of the COVID crisis, he was offered a paid position. How did he turn things around?
Darrell received free support from the ‘I CAN Work’ team. He acknowledges that,
“It’s difficult when you’re unemployed, as you get into a negative way of thinking. My experience with I CAN Work has given me more of an idea of what I want to do. I was feeling a little bit lost and stuck before. Having a point of contact, someone to keep you on track and to give you support is really beneficial.”
I CAN Work helps people with mild-moderate mental health problems to find and remain in employment to support their recovery and improve their wellbeing. The programme, which is the first of its kind in Wales, is delivered by Betsi Cadwaladar University Health Board, in partnership with charity, CAIS, and the Rhyl City Strategy, with funding from the Welsh Government.
Darrell was given advice during the application process and importantly, motivation to apply firstly, for volunteering and then for a job.
“My key contact at I CAN Work kept nudging me along as I hadn’t been in work for a while and was in need of a confidence boost and a direction“.
In terms of advice he would give to others, Darrell says, “If you’re not working, I CAN Work is a very helpful service to give you pointers and motivation to apply for different jobs.” Darrell now has a much clearer idea of what direction he wants to take; he even had the realisation that the paid role was not for him, and the courage to turn it down. He is now being supported by ICW to apply for other jobs.
“ICW has helped me work out what I want to do. It is a really good service. If I hadn’t had help, I would still be looking and now I can use my experience as a talking point and back up in interviews”.
Going above and beyond
I spoke to Elisce on the phone on a dismal Friday morning. She was upbeat and confident. Her voice was strong and she had lots of positives to say about her situation. This was not always the case. Elisce has had to overcome anxiety and confidence issues to get to this point. The support she has received from the ‘I CAN Work’ scheme has been essential, both on a practical level and in terms of emotional support.
“They helped me get my interview, and then got me to Liverpool for training. It was the first time I’d been away from home, and there I was, on my own, in a hotel room in the middle of a city, surrounded by people I don’t know. But my I CAN Work key contact was always at the end of the phone. I was not on my own. She gave me lots of reassurance and confidence. I always had someone to reach out to by phone or email, if I needed it.”
Elisce is now working for a telecommunications company in an office administration role. She likes the team she works with and is more than capable of doing her job. She was unhappy in her previous company, and her counsellor at the time referred her to I CAN Work. She says she was surprised how quick the process was to set up and was impressed with the people she met from I CAN Work.
“They all seem to know how to support you in the right way. I spoke a lot at our first meeting, they were getting to know my background and me as a person; they took my experience into consideration.”
RCS are now setting up free counselling for Elisce outside of work to continue to build her self-belief and overcome her anxieties.
“The support I get from my key contact at RCS is amazing. I can’t fault her. She is always there for me. Thank you.”
Having struggled with anxiety and depression, Terri knew that going back into work would help but the coronavirus pandemic descended and it felt like a difficult time to be looking for work. Having been unemployed for 6 months, Terri wanted a small part time job to ease back into the workplace having previously been made redundant after 20 years in the same job.
“My key worker at I CAN Work helped me to do a more targeted CV for the roles I was applying. I had applied for the same job twice before but without success. I honestly believe the more targeted CV helped me secure the role”
Terri was a little anxious about managing back in work but was reassured that his key worker was at the end of a phone and would be checking in regularly to provide continued support.
“The job has given me purpose and it feels good to be earning my own money. My self esteem is better most days although I still have my down days. I feel without help I wouldn’t have gone into work and can’t thank you enough for all the help I CAN Work has given me.”
Sandra Steps Forward
“It’s been extraordinary. The commitment, the insights, the ongoing encouragement. I can’t praise I CAN enough. The way I’m encouraged to see my potential and move forward. I’m dyslexic and had help with my CV. We were able to highlight skills I didn’t even realise I had. I can’t thank them enough. Thanks for sticking with me”
Sandra has been supported by the I Can Work scheme for the last 12 months. She has an MSc in Counselling from Bangor University and developed the steps4ward perception change program bringing together academic knowledge with life experiences. She has been busy working in temporary jobs whilst looking for a career position in mental health and counselling that will make best use of the skills from her Masters degree. She hopes that taking her driving test early next year will make a big difference to the jobs she can apply for across North Wales.
In terms of advice she would give to people who may be considering contacting I CAN Work, Sandra says, “Access the support as soon as you can. It’s not just about getting a job, it’s about bringing your awareness to what you are good at, boosting your confidence and increasing your feelings of self-worth. Showing you that your skill sets are still valued and that you can make a difference; helping you believe, when you’ve had a dip, that you can still more forward.”
I CAN Work helps people with mild-moderate mental health problems to find and remain in employment, to support and improve their wellbeing. The service is fully funded and offered free of charge. The programme, which is the first of its kind in Wales, is delivered by Betsi Cadwaladar University Health Board, in partnership with charity, CAIS, and not for profit organisation, Rhyl City Strategy, with funding from the Welsh Government.