Overcoming barriers following two decades of unemployment with support from Pioneer

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Since launching Work and Health Programme Pioneer in September 2023, we’ve been providing specialist employment support in Wales, London and Southern England to help people who have been out of work, including those who may have additional barriers, such as, veterans, carers, refugees or disabilities.  

In Wales, Mark, 54, joined WHP Pioneer in December 2023 after meeting the team and finding out more about the service at his local shopping centre.  

He had previous experience in the retail sector but had been unemployed for the last 20 years after leaving work to become a full-time carer for a family member.  

Since leaving employment, he was diagnosed diabetic and subsequently became a bilateral below-the-knee amputee. He was keen to get back into work but was unfamiliar with the recruitment process and felt people judged him for his disability. 

Reflecting on his struggles, Mark said: “People saw that I was a bilateral amputee and thought I would struggle to do certain aspects of jobs and that I wouldn’t be suitable for roles. I had quite a few people turn me down on that basis.  

“It made me very depressed because people just saw the disability as something that would stop me. They never asked me if it would stop me from doing the job, and as it stands at the moment, it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything that I’ve put my mind to.”  

Following an introduction to his dedicated Employment Advisor, Nicola Brown, they formed a close relationship and began identifying what steps Mark needed to take to find work:“When I first met Mark, he came in and he was very eager to find employment but he had a CV that was approximately 20 years out of date and was struggling to get past people’s perception of him as a double amputee.  

“I worked with Mark to identify the many transferable skills he had from working in retail and spent time getting to know more about Mark so we could find the right job for him.” 

Talking about the start of his employment journey, Mark said: “The only work experience that I had was in retail. I’ve not got any other work experience in anything else and that felt like another stumbling block.  

“My employment advisor, Nicola  supported me greatly and did everything in her power to try and find me a job. As soon as she asked me questions about what type of job I was looking for and what experience I had, she was able to see skills that I didn’t.” 

Mark walking down the street, we can see his two leg prosthetics

Despite his challenges to find paid work, Mark had always played an active role in his local community by volunteering as treasurer for his resident community group, helping to raise £120,000 to refurbish their local play area. After hearing about his contributions, Nicola thought a role in the care sector would suit his skills perfectly.   

Nicola explained: “In the beginning, Mark hadn’t even considered a role in care, but listening to him on the phone and the way he speaks to his father-in-law, the care and compassion he showed him, we knew that he’d be a perfect candidate to be placed in the care setting.” 

To support him moving into the sector, Nicola helped Mark to create a new CV, attend weekly Digital Skills classes and a Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults course, as well as receive specialist wellbeing support from our Community Partnership Network member, Centre of Sign, Sight, Sound (COS). 

Faith Perkins, Wellbeing and Training Officer at COS, said: “I’ve been supporting Mark to access training opportunities to enable him to move forward in his job role and help him to provide a better service in his current job role in healthcare.” 

After two months of support, Mark’s confidence had significantly improved and he was introduced to one of our employer partners in the care sector, Cera Care. Mark’s interview was successful, and he began working as a Support Worker in February 2024. 

To ensure that he would be fully supported whilst at work Faith helped him access support groups and services who were able to arrange care for his father-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. 

Mark and Cheryl at a desk, smiling

Since joining Cera Care, he has been working closely with his manager, Cheryl Tatler, who explained: I think bringing Mark in to join our team has been one of the best, best decisions for a while. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he is going to progress. We’ve already spoke about him going on to do in his level two in health and social care which we’ll support him with.” 

Reflecting on his experience with WHP Pioneer, Mark said: “When I found out I got the job, I was over the moon. I thought, now I am worth something and can make a change in my life, while helping other people as well.” 

“Maximus has changed my life completely. I went from being depressed to very happy in what I do, and I would recommend them to anybody. That’s the difference with Maximus, they don’t just get you a job and drop you, but they carry on with support and after care. They treat you as a person and go the extra mile just to help you with what you need.”  

23 May, 2024