Terri, who works in Supported Employment, tells us how she has helped to support those experiencing employment difficulties during COVID-19.

I started with Thera East Anglia in 2014 as a Community Support Leader. But, in 2017, I heard about a new role being created to help pave the way for supported employment. For me, being an Employment Support Manager is about understanding how employment fits into each individual’s life. For the people we support, employment is not just about a job – it’s about people feeling valued, confident and fulfilled within a career and a social circle.

During the first few months of lockdown I kept in contact with people on the phone. With many people being put on furlough, employment at that time was difficult.  From August, in partnership with Unity Works, I set up a zoom employment group. Unity Works supported those who wished to take part and we ran 2x 40 min employment sessions over 6 weeks.

We created a safe space for people to talk about their feelings both positive and negative towards the current situation.

From late September I then started to meet people 1-1 again. But, with the second lockdown, we have moved everything back on-line again! One lady required some assistance to gain the necessary skills ready for a zoom interview. Beforehand I used zoom while she was completing the application forms. Then we ran some Q&A sessions around interview skills and how to present ourselves online.

I set a special challenge a few weeks ago for the group members in the second lockdown. For the members who are keen artists, I suggested they go on a walk around a chosen location and take photos of the buildings/nature etc. Once home they turned their photos into a painting. This helped to support each person to challenge themselves, whilst going out to get some well needed exercise!

Supported employment has been tricky and very start-stop recently. To anyone else struggling, I would recommend doing the different activities I outlined above to keep people entertained and feeling connected. We also ran a virtual bake-off last week which everyone enjoyed immensely!

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