I am 39 and I am employed by The Co-operative. I think it’s much better to be employed than unemployed, because you feel pride, dignity and respect.
The Co-operative took me on as a paid employee on 14 July 2009. This was the happiest moment of my life – I finally felt that a store had accepted me for who I am.
Before working at The Co-operative, I had just one paid job in a pet food factory where I was only given very few hours. I had no routine in my life. I had done lots of placements, but I was always faced with the same dilemma – at the end of the placements there wasn’t any paid work.
Then last January I was referred to Mencap through the New Deal for Disabled People programme. Mencap helped me to write many letters asking for vacancies or even work trials. We also made phone calls and visited plenty of locations. Eventually they found me a work placement at The Co-operative, which led to my current job.
At the moment I work 16 hours a week. I am a shelf replenisher. I also have some experience in price coding and rotating stock and I help out in the warehouse with deliveries as well. I worked with my store manager and a Mencap education and employment co-ordinator to plan my induction and training. As part of this I joined a school trip to the Co-operative farm at Goole. I had a friendly welcome from Linda and Rebecca [staff at the farm]. Linda showed us the radishes and cucumber plants – I was surprised to see how they were grown – and Rebecca showed us the fresh wheat flour. I hope I will visit the farm again.
At work I am treated exactly the same as my colleagues, which I prefer because I want to fit in rather than being the odd one out. What I like best about my job is that it enables me to be independent. I am not much of a spender; I prefer to save money. I am hoping to buy myself a new iPod and a TV and DVD player. I enjoy buying my family things – I can finally give back to them after all these years.
I still receive support from Mencap’s employment service. I get regular phone calls and visits. If there are any issues I know I will receive all the help I need. In time I would like more training, eventually till training. One of my ambitions is to increase my working hours to about 30 hours a week. One day I would like to work in other Co-op stores.
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