Too scared to go to work

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Wendy Oglesby empathises with people who want to escape the welfare trap and come to her for help. She has been there herself.

Four years ago she was on benefits and desperate to get back to work after raising four children and separating from her husband. "I suffered badly from depression," she said. "I had no confidence."

Today she is a different person. She works full-time offering adult guidance at a community regeneration project in Port Talbot, South Wales.

Wendy, 46, was helped back to work by the charity Shaw Trust. "They helped me financially, until I got my salary," she said. They made sure I had the right training and there was constant support. You could phone up any time."

Crucial to Shaw Trust's approach are personal advisers, who continue to support clients once they are in a job. "In some instances we have had to help people through the front door of the factory because they were scared to go back into work," said Julie McKenzie, the charity's employment manager for Wales. "One client back at work phoned us from the toilet: he was worried because he didn't know where to go for lunch."

After an assessment, clients are assigned an adviser who helps them make an action plan. This looks at their health problems, interests and educational needs. They are helped with any training and the adviser works with them until they feel ready for work. The charity also offers motivational training and programmes to help people manage their disability or illness.

Shaw Trust works with agencies, including charities such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Citizens' Advice Bureau. It also offers vocational courses through FE colleges.

It helps financially with job start grants, expenses and advice on benefits. And, when all the preparation is done, it sends out CVs to companies.

It will support clients as long as it is needed. Clients are asked how much help they think they will need - it could be telephone support, weekly or even daily meetings.

Ms McKenzie says such support is vital and can't be provided by employers alone. "Would an employer have time to provide that level of support? And would you go to your prospective employer and tell them: I have had a nervous breakdown - will you still take me on?"

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