Jermaine, who has a learning disability, has been supported by United Response’s Trafford Supported Employment service since March 2013.

Support staff kicked off the supported employment process by getting to know Jermaine – and vice versa. For the first three months, they met with him on a weekly basis.

Each week, United Response job coaches found out more information about him and his past employment experience, spanning what he was already good at doing through to areas where he might need extra support. They also talked with people who knew him well, such as family, friends and previous employers, to build up a clear picture of the support Jermaine would need.

Jermaine told staff about where he wanted to be in the future and staff discussed what support we could offer him to help him achieve his ambition of working independently. His job coach then drew up an action plan of the steps they would take together to move him closer to employment. The first was looking at what types of jobs Jermaine was interested in.

A people person

Jermaine is a very chatty person so he told us that he wanted to work with people in a customer-facing role. Since it had been a while since Jermaine had experienced work, he agreed that it would be a good idea for him to gain some experience volunteering before considering a move into paid employment. This would help Jermaine to build up his confidence and acquire any necessary workplace skills at his own pace.

After having worked alongside his job coach for a few weeks at a number of different places, Jermaine decided he liked the idea of taking a voluntary position at his local PDSA retail store. Jermaine was supported to attend an interview and subsequent work trial at the shop, and he was successful in joining the team.

Reasonable adjustments

As a result of his disability, Jermaine struggles with his memory. During his initial shifts, it became apparent to his job coach that he was having trouble remembering the daily jobs he had to undertake at PDSA. At first, staff provided verbal prompts, but then they discovered that a great way for Jermaine to become independent in his role would be to create a task list instead.

With support from United Response, PDSA made an adjustment for Jermaine so that when he came in each week, he would complete the same tasks each time. These were outlined on his task list, and when Jermaine had completed each one he would tick it off. This meant that he had a constant prompt to hand of what his next task was to be that day.

A second adjustment was also made for Jermaine in this voluntary role. He struggled with maths, understanding the till and giving change so, after a little exploration in this area, it was decided that till work would not be part of his job description. Although all the other volunteers did work on the till, the employer agreed that it was a reasonable adjustment for Jermaine not to do so.

After putting these small things in place, it wasn’t long before Jermaine was working away happily, completely unaided.

Volunteering: a stepping stone into paid work

Jermaine quickly became a reliable and hardworking volunteer at PDSA, and the other staff there speak very highly of him. He still volunteers at PDSA two days a week and really enjoys it there, but the experience and skills he developed at PDSA gave Jermaine the confidence he needed to go out there and gain paid employment.

Since then, he has started working in two part-time paid positions. He is an administrative assistant at care service provider SOS Homecare two days a week, and is a key member of our UR Consultants team. As a UR Consultant, he translates United Response’s easy read publications and provides local businesses in the Greater Manchester area with disability awareness training.

You can see Jermaine in action, appearing in this recent Channel 4 News piece on Easy News, which was aired prior to last month’s General Election:

Supported volunteering really can make a difference to the lives of the people with disabilities. Jermaine firmly believes that if he hadn’t been supported to volunteer, he wouldn’t be in paid work now.

Laura Cook, web and digital communications assistant.

If you want to find out more about our supported employment services across England and Wales, click here.

And employers take note: there are many business benefits to having people with disabilities as part of your workforce, and United Response can support you - and them - every step of the way. Find out more in our FAQs and on our 'How we work with employers' page.