Hiya, I’m Alice and I have Aperts Syndrome. Many of you may recognise my face from my previous article I wrote for Headlines a couple of years ago. I wrote my life story, explaining what operations I have had over the past 19 years along with the good and the bad things that have happened in my life.
When I finished writing my story, I was still in a childcare course at Newbury College. My plan was to finish college in the summer, and by the September my aim was to be in a job, whether it be in a Nursery or primary school. I have wanted to work with children most of my life, so I didn’t have any second thoughts about it. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out to be quite so simple!
I left college in the May, and by the September I was still unemployed. I was still looking for a job in childcare, but by this time I had started to rethink my choices…did I really want to work with children? During my time being unemployed, I had gone to a local primary school to do some work experience. It was a primary school I went to as part of my course, so they were very happy to have me back! I only went two days a week, but by the end of the two days I was absolutely shattered! This made me rethink my career options, as I couldn’t see myself working 5 days a week, full time, within a childcare setting.
Between September and Christmas, I was looking for jobs on different sites, but wasn’t getting anywhere. Me and my mum decided the only option was to go to the job centre, as we thought they would be able to help me each week find work. I decided that I would like a job within retail, just to get some money in whilst I rethought about my career options. Finding work was a little harder for me, as due to me having a disability I can’t stand or walk for long periods of time. I also find gripping small things difficult. I also have hearing problems, which isn’t a big problem, but means using the telephone wouldn’t be possible! I signed up at the job centre in January 2014, and after taking down my needs/abilities etc., I was hopeful I would get the help I need to find a job!
Weeks soon turned into months, and I was still in the same boat. The job centre would give me different jobs to apply for, but because they didn’t know much about my condition, the job wouldn’t be suitable in one way or another. In the meantime, I would be finding jobs online that could be suitable. I would apply for them either online or by sending them my CV via email, and wait to hear from them. Sometimes, I wouldn’t hear from them at all. Other times, I’d be invited for an interview, but afterwards wouldn’t hear anything. Companies aren’t allowed to discriminate due to disability, but who knows!
Eventually the job centre gave me a contact details of an advisor at Enham Trust. Enham is a charity based in Hampshire, Berkshire, who help people with disabilities be able to do ‘normal’ things, like find work or be able to live independently. I booked an appointment with my advisor, Isabelle, and felt hopeful! After my first appointment, I felt positive that with the help of Isabelle and Enham, I’d eventually find a job, or some sort of work!
Isabelle was able to set up a two week work experience placement for me at my local Marks & Spencers in Newbury. This was through a programme called Marks & Start, where M&S work closely with Remploy/Enham to enable disabled people have an experience of work. I was nervous about starting a new job, but also excited that I was finally going to work and not sitting at home all day doing nothing!
I started my programme in July, and two weeks soon turned into six! I absolutely loved it at M&S, I didn’t imagine I would love it so much! All the staff are lovely there, I haven’t met anyone who isn’t so welcoming and lovely! They are all very helpful and they accept me and my condition. I don’t feel afraid to say what I can and can’t do – sometimes they tell me I’m pushing myself too much! I left M&S in September that year, after learning that there wasn’t a vacancy at that current time. I was gutted as I felt I was back to square one. A couple of weeks after, however, Isabelle called me to say M&S had offered me a job!
I am so grateful for Enham and Isabelle for finding me a job. Without them, I could potentially still be sitting at home, unemployed, getting nowhere! I would recommend Enham to anyone who is trying to find work. It just proves that people with disabilities can do things that ‘normal’ people do, whatever anyone else says! Hopefully I’ll be at M&S for a while, but whatever happens I’ll be happy I’ve worked for such a lovely company, and with such lovely people!
I'm pleased to say my contract is now permanent! I'm very happy at work and think this proves that people with disabilities can do it! I hope this is encouraging for some of you