My job is to find work experience placements with local employers for people with learning disabilities at The Grange in Bookham. We work with over 30 employers – from Polesden Lacey and an NHS office to charity shops and Waitrose.
8:30 Arrive at work and deal with my emails immediately. The people I work with are so keen to get work experience and I don’t want anything to go wrong with their placement.
9:00 Lucy arrives punctually in my office for her lift to work. She’s smart and professional-looking in her uniform and name badge all ready for her work at SABP NHS Foundation Trust. She is one of very few people we support who has progressed from work experience to a paid job. She works on reception and is doing really well. She brings a brightness and an enthusiasm for work into the office. It is always lovely to see her and it sets me up on a high for the day. One of the many reasons I love my job!
9:15 Lucy and I drive to Lucy’s work place at SABP NHS Trust. We chat easily. Today we talk about what it means for us both to work. Lucy mentions for her it is working alongside a supportive team and feeling a sense of achievement. We realise we have a similar outlook on our passion for being part of a team in the work place. We arrive at SABP and I watch Lucy walk through the doors. I feel enormous pride observing her achievements and independence in fact pride is an everyday emotion for me in this work.
9:30 I take Jamie to his volunteering role at Polesden Lacey National Trust property. He is a long serving and dedicated volunteer in the Visitors Service Centre at Polesden and is enormously valued as part of the team there.
He chats enthusiastically about his position at the visitor’s reception desk. He has recently extended his Monday morning session in order to work a whole day instead of just the morning. He feels he will get more out of the role if he works a whole day and is looking forward to sharing lunch breaks with his girlfriend Jess who also volunteers at Polesden on a Monday. He looks to me for reassurance but, actually, he has sorted this all out himself and is self-sufficient and independent within his role as a volunteer. I assure him that he is capable and competent.
10:00 I spend time at my desk making sure that paper work is up to date. It’s really important that I am aware of any changes to people’s circumstances and health needs. Risk assessments, emergency contact sheets and personal information needs to be constantly updated and talked through with the people we support plus employer’s liability insurance documents need to be current. I have over 30 placements currently running so this is a never-ending task! It’s a big responsibility making sure everyone is safe in the work place, minimising risks whilst promoting independence.
Keeping in close contact with employers is also an important part of my job. I make sure they feel supported and that they give feedback on how the person is doing in the work place. If things are not working as well as they should, then I need to act quickly to rectify the situation. It’s vital that people get as much as possible out of their work experience. My aim is for everyone to reach their potential.
13:00 the return journey with Jamie from Polesden Lacey. I really love a chat in the car with people. It’s a safe place for people to share how things are going for them. Jamie mentions, on this particular trip, that he wouldn’t give up his job for anything in the world. When I ask him what he loves about it he says, ‘the people are friendly and we all have lots of laughs together’.
13:30 I take Julia for a taster session in a cafe at a local elderly people’s centre. One of her goals is to be a waitress so she is considering trying out a role where she can practise the skills needed. On the way Julia tells me about her morning in the office at Leatherhead Theatre where she volunteers every Friday. She made them a poster on the computer for an upcoming coffee morning that they are holding. Work satisfaction for her is having a job to do and feeling pleased when she has accomplished it.
At the day centre, Christina, the manager, shows Julia around and explains to her what the role entails. As we leave, Julia expresses her concern about the job as she doesn’t know anyone at the centre or how to do the tasks there. I remind her that she felt the same way when she started work at the theatre but soon got used to it. She agrees she has grown in confidence and now feels part of the theatre team.
Julia’s situation made me think again how scary starting a new job can be for anyone but how exciting and rewarding it can be too. Not only do we learn new skills and meet new people, there’s also a sense of purpose and value.
I am hugely grateful for my role as Work Experience Co-ordinator at The Grange. Each day is uplifting, rewarding and fulfilling. I believe that everyone, however much support they need, is entitled to have the opportunity to experience the benefits of being in the workplace.