European Social Fund (ESF) case study - Cedar Foundation - Inclusion Works 3

The Cedar Foundation’s work is aimed at adults with physical disability, including complex congenital and acquired disabilities; brain injury; diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or long term health conditions.

Inclusion Works service

Inclusion Works is a person-centred service supporting individuals to design their own programmes around their needs and aspirations, building confidence and independence to meet their employability and inclusion goals. The project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014–2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Participant's story

This participant was busy studying for her A-levels and hoping to go to university when she was involved in an accident leaving her with a traumatic brain injury which prevented her from going on to further her studies as planned.

Focus on getting into work

After years of rehabilitation she now lives independently in her own house. Her focus was on getting into work with support from The Cedar Foundation, funded by the European Social Fund and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

She joined Cedar’s Inclusion Works programme after being referred by her Occupational Therapist from the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team. Up to this point she had taken part in two voluntary placements, both of which had proven valuable in supporting her recovery. She felt, however, that she would like support to plan her next steps to reach her full potential for work.

Setting objectives and strategies

After meeting her Cedar Case Officer they quickly agreed an action plan that included identifying a number of new voluntary placements to test out work options. As she had previous experience of retail from part-time jobs she had while at school she felt this was an area where she would like to gain more experience. Together with her Case Officer, she set the objectives of returning to paid employment (through some trial voluntary placements) and engaging in community activity to build her employability skills. During her time on the programme, she also learnt new strategies such as stress management, memory processing and fatigue management, and gained accreditation in OCR Life and Living Skills.

Securing work placements

The participant’s Case Officer secured work placements for her in a local boutique and in a retail outlet. This involved the Case Officer meeting with both businesses ahead of the participant beginning work to discuss her specific support needs, objectives and limitations.

The Case Officer explained,

“It is my role as Case Officer to ensure the participant knows what is expected of her in terms of starting times, presentation, codes of conduct etc. Also, I make sure she knows what her duties are and who she should go to if she is unsure of something in the workplace. I carried out a risk assessment in each placement and also helped her to familiarise herself with the floor plan (in the retail outlet) as it is quite a large building. Both businesses have been very accommodating to her needs and have put solid and practical processes in place to support her development.”

The participant described her experience of the project and its impact:

“Before I started working with Cedar I had no confidence. I was very shy and didn’t like speaking to new people. I was happy to let other people speak for me. Now I interact with customers and feel comfortable answering their questions, or going to find out the answers if I don’t know. I carry out a range of tasks such as setting out stock, helping with deliveries and assisting in the fitting rooms. I enjoy getting to know other staff members and customers in both shops. I lost touch with a lot of my friends after the accident as they went on to university and work life so as well as helping me to develop, the work placements have also helped me to meet new people.”

The boutique owner said,

“The duties in our shop change every day and the participant adapts very well. She is a natural stylist, creating outfits for display mannequins, and she is able to add suitable accessories. She interacts well with the customers and gives good advice as needed.”

Meanwhile, the retail outlet manager commented:

“We’re committed to supporting people who face barriers to work, through training and work experience placements in our stores and offices, and we’re really proud to be working with a partner like the Cedar Foundation. Since the participant joined us she has been a great asset to the team. She has really grown in confidence and is great with customers – we’re lucky to have her!”

Keen for her story to be shared, the participant would like other people living with the effects of a brain injury to know that there is hope after discharge from hospital. The co-ordinated approach taken by Cedar and the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team has meant that it has been possible to harness support from local businesses who have not only provided much appreciated support, but have also benefitted from the relationship with the participant and Cedar.

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