Lets get back to finding SJ a job or at very least training for a job.
Firstly, let me point out that Pippa is officially unemployed, yes, after two years training as a hairdresser and passing her qualifications, plus taking on an additional qualification for male hairdressing, the company that employed her decided to make her redundant. They could not afford to keep both apprentices on so decided that Pippa was the one to be made redundant. At eighteen this is a very hard blow to moral. But she has been lucky to get some work at the local working man's club, behind the bar, she still has to sign on, although now get's no benefit as she was honest with the benefits people and declared that she was working, took her wage slips in and then eight weeks later they told her she was not entitled to any unemployment benefit. But with the support of the family she is able to make ends meet. I do wonder what would happen if SJ was in the same situation. That is if she was ever lucky enough to find employment in the first place. How would she feel if she was asked to leave after two years? I would think that it would be devastating for her. It takes her long enough to get to know people anyway, and she can be so easily upset. To say nothing about what it would do for her self esteem and self confidence. With people being made redundant on an almost daily basis, I am surprised that there is not a government counselling strategy in place......oh there is! Will come to that later. I hate to think what will happen to people who are just leaving school with no qualifications and no family to help them.
I can relate to little qualifications and no family support, I was nineteen when my Mum emigrated to Australia. Newly married with a six month old son, working full time in a solicitors. No child care rules and regulations, no checks on who would look after your baby, no government funding to support your child care costs! Jobs were not in line with today's male/female equation either. It was hard but the main difference was that we did not want a fancy house with 42" flatscreen Bluray or whatever television, we didn't have Sky or Wii or X Boxes. We were glad to have food in our stomachs and a warm house, but I believe that our self-esteem, self worth and our self-confidence was much higher, even if our expectations were less. I was thrilled to live in a three bedroomed council maisonette. Luxury! All the furniture, twin tub washing machine and a cooker inherited from my Mum or Mum in Law. The best of it was putting down "carpet" in the spare room, the "carpet" was made up of squares that had come out of the samples books that carpet shops carry around to show potential customers. In those days they used to throw the sample books away so you could pick them up for free. Very Bohemian, at the time we didn't know about recycling, we were clearly ahead of out time. Well, truth is we were just poor and it seemed like a good idea. We had what can only be called a unique look. Hoovering was a bit of a problem as they all had to be hoovered individually! At least if one wore out before another you could replace it easy enough!! I remember the look of horror of some of my neighbours when they came round and saw it! Makes me smile now. But it kept the room warm and looked slightly hippyish which appealed to my wild side. Laugh, I'll say, we had plenty to laugh about then. This present climate of frugality is no stranger to me. Although I don't want to go back to pig's trotters as was on "Come Dine with Me" the other night!
Anyhow to continue with SJ and her quest for work. To recap.....we are trying to find work for SJ by attending an assessment at the job centre with the Disability Employment Advisor, (DEA)
Prior to this assessment we have been to an organisation called St Loye's Foundation who support and train people with learning difficulties with a view to finding them suitable employment. Eureka one cries, just what I am looking for. You might think that this information would have been forthcoming from the jobcentre, but no. When I did ring up the jobcentre and ask about this particular organisation I was told to visit first, so we did. We had a lovely day in Exeter, in August, and found out that what they offered was a 26 week residential course from Monday to Friday in, amongst other things, IT, plus they incorporated basic English and Maths, into the curriculum. SJ had a look at the photos of the accommodation, which are just like real student digs, with her own flat and own bathroom, supported 24/7. We had a walk around the training centre, chatted to the people who teach the students, went to meet another support group in the same building who suggested a leisure activity in Exeter, provided by the ROC group, discussed how after 26 weeks if they could not place SJ with a job, then she might be able to have another 26 weeks training, was told about the people who they approach for employment opportunities. They told us they had space for students both on the IT course and in the flats. Perfect! What do we do next? We go back to the jobcentre for a referral. So I phoned up to explain to the DEA that we had made the trip and loved it, we were told that the next thing we had to do was to sign up to Pathways to Work, a government scheme specifically for people who have disabilities. It says on the direct.gov.uk website that it is "specifically tailored for each person taking part in the programme". Sounds good. Let's do it.
The jobcentre allocated the next stage of the Pathway to Work to a "provider", this may be a voluntary or private sector organisation, I would be interested to see how many of these "provider" services are voluntary. Sorry, momentary lapse of cynical head. Anyhow they offer 'work-focused interviews' in the first seven months of a claim, you will usually be invited to six work-focused interviews, a 'condition management programme' to help you better understand your disability using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, there are a number of other services, WORKSTEP, residential training for disabled adults, work preparation programme, etc support in getting into work, writing cv's, training for interviews, etc., Great. So of we go.
The adviser from the provider organisation, not voluntary, interviews SJ and asks about her disability, what qualifications she has got, what she has done so far, what she would like to do, what she can do, did she like St Loye's etc, all the time ticking boxes in a questionnaire, SJ signs said form with tick boxes on, after about an hour, throughout which time I have been present and have answered on SJ's behalf or acted as go-between if there was anything that either SJ or the adviser needed to be clarified, the interview is finished and we are told that a referral will be sent to the DEA at the jobcentre, the DEA will then call us in for another interview and assess SJ suitability for a place at St Loye's. We had the original meeting at the provider on 22nd September the interview for the DEA at jobcentre was on 27th October.
We go to the DEA interview on the 27th October, and another assessment, as the actual referral for a place at St Loye's comes from the DEA. When SJ is asked what she most liked about St Loye's she said she liked the flat. My heart sinks, this is not what the DEA will want to hear. When the DEA asks what she would actually like to do as a job, SJ says she would like to collect glasses. I make an involuntary inward groan, while still smiling gamely at the DEA. I know what she will say next. Sure enough they cannot waste money on SJ if she would rather collect glasses at the local pub. SJ has been asked a question and has given an honest answer. Oh what a brilliant world it would be if we could all do the same. The DEA continues, "it will be harder to get a job for SJ in the present climate, we have to show that the money is going to be well spent, it is very expensive going on a residential course, and I have to justify the money spent"? "I have to be sure that she will get a job"?
I cave in, "What would you suggest"? So we go down the road of a more formal structure of working at a pub, training at Wetherspoons is what the DEA suggests. She will contact another 'provider', I am to go and ask the landlord at the local pub if he is willing to train SJ in the meantime. We go to see him, he is great. SJ is keen, when asked what is her favourite food, SJ replies, "Everything"! I can vouch for that. I contact the DEA, yes, the landlord has agreed to do some taster training sessions, in the kitchen, around the bar, in the restaurant area, there is no need to provide a 'provider' as there is only limited room and the landlord and staff are prepared to train and support at the same time. He also suggested training at a well known hotel in the area, isn't that great?
The DEA says, "Okay, let's make another appointment"!!!!!
DEA "So that we can talk it over and make sure this is what SJ wants."
Me " But you suggested it to us. It was your idea. Please not another appointment, just go ahead and book some training."
DEA "Oh it's not that easy, I have a paper trail to follow, SJ has to sign the forms saying that she agrees to my referral, there may not be any suitable places, I have to find out, we have to make sure that we can get the right support, from the 'provider', it will cost more money than usual because we have to have support".
Me "You don't seem to have a very positive attitude"
DEA "I don't like your tone"
Me " I am not happy with your negative attitude"
DEA " I never promised you a place, I never guaranteed that you would be able to get training from Wetherspoons. Do you want to make an appointment?"
Me "I never asked you to guarantee, or make a promise, I just want you to give her a chance"
It is now November and we went to St Loye's in August. I am tired. SJ is bored, but determined to work in the pub. SJ sent off her cv to a hotel chain. Hopefully they might have some training soon.