Recovering from the impact of a long-term abusive relationship which had damaged her self-confidence and affected her mental health, Paula* was struggling to find friends and support her two children when she was referred to the Health Works for Cornwall programme.
Today she has a new job and new friends, and is enjoying the freedom the additional money is giving her and her children.
Part funded by the European Social Fund and Cornwall Council, Health Works for Cornwall is one of the many projects being delivered as part of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme. Led by Cornwall Council, the project aims to support 5,500 workless individuals who are facing health-related barriers to employment.
The project uses a range of collaborative and innovative solutions to help people break the cycle of ill health and/or reliance on benefits that can lead to issues such as low earnings, household income pressures, long term unemployment, poverty and debt.
These include helping participants with setting personalised goals and confidence building, identifying training needs and specialist support and developing employability skills such as mastering CV writing, application forms and interview techniques. They also help individuals to connect with their communities, meet supportive employers, and provide continued in -work support and access to financial support such as travel or childcare costs.
Paula was put in touch with Active Plus, one of the 11 local organisations supporting the Health Works for Cornwall project. Originally set up in 2011, the community interest company uses the skills, experience and expertise of injured military veterans to help build confidence, motivation and self-belief of participants, all of whom are from vulnerable or potentially vulnerable groups.
A former veteran, Paula had moved to Cornwall with her two children a few months previously. Finding it extremely difficult to cope with the aftermath of her experience with her abusive ex- partner, she was very shy and becoming increasingly worried about both her future and that of her children.
After attending a series of Confidence and Motivation sessions, Paula became more confident and began to bond with the other participants on the course. This led to her completing further Active Plus courses and workshops, begin to meet her new friends in a local café, and to talk positively with her one to one change coach about finding a job.
Taking part in a successful exercise in applying for a job in a care home led to Paula deciding to submit her application for real – the first time she had been able to contemplate work for 17 years. After overcoming her fears to attend an interview, she was offered and accepted the job.
It was while the future was looking much brighter for the whole family that her eldest son announced his decision to drop out from college. Instead of being thrown and leaving her new job, using the self-confidence she had gained from Active Plus Paula asked her change coach for help and advice.
As well as continuing to support Paula during this period, Active Plus worked with her son to help him identify his own dreams for his future. After hearing he had failed to obtain an English qualification he would need if he wanted to attend university in the future, his personal change coach supported him to make the arrangements to return to college and to successfully apply and secure a part time job.
Paula is continuing to work at the care home at the same time as actively seeking her next role and more responsibility. “The support our family has received from Active Plus has helped to change our lives” said Paula. “As well as having more money to spend, I have been able to use the coping strategies I developed with the support of Active Plus to handle issues which would have caused me great anxiety in the past.
* names have been changed