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Serco supports employment in West Midlands: Rowena's story

Published: 19 Dec 2014

Rowena from Burton believed she would never work again due to her drug addiction and depression. With help from Serco's Work Programme subcontractor, Learndirect, she is now working as a waitress at a local pub.

Latest labour market statistics, published on 17 December by the Office for National Statistics, show that the total number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in the West Midlands has fallen by 4% on the month. This is the 21st consecutive month there's been a decrease in these figures, and shows the positive impact that employment programmes, such as Serco's delivery of the Work Programme, is having on the local community.

Learndirect, one of Serco's expert welfare-to-work providers, works with jobseekers in Burton to help them into employment by providing support with access to local jobs through links with employers in the region, confidence building, CV and interview preparation, plus additional tailored support depending on each individual's circumstances.

Moving from unemployment into work can be life changing. Rowena Jeffrey, 42, from Burton, thought she would never work again due to her drug addiction in the last ten years, depression and low self-confidence.

When she was referred to Serco's Work Programme in May 2013, Rowena had progressed to a methadone programme. However, attempts to move Rowena forward did not seem to gain much momentum initially, largely due to still living with an addict and using illegal drugs to alleviate feelings of stress and insecurity.

Even though Rowena's adviser, Joshua, was struggling to get her to engage on the programme, he never gave up on her and encouraged her to start a self-affirming daily journal which she sustained. Gradually Rowena gained qualifications in customer service, IT, maths and preparation for employment. They are also having discussions on improving her housing condition.

Rowena said: "The team at Learndirect, especially Josh, have worked so hard to build my confidence. A year ago I thought my world had ended, I had my face to the floor and my self-confidence was at an all-time low, but with the help of the team I have completely turned my life around. I have gained qualifications and I no longer use any recreational drugs."

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Rowena also benefited from support in organising a very successful enterprise event by taking full responsibility for stocking and running a tuck shop, with a view to starting her own spiritual market stall selling candles, gemstones, essential oils and incense sticks.

Joshua said: "Rowena's personal development has been gradual and sustained since September, and although she continues to struggle with her addiction, she has made significant lifestyle changes and can now see a clear promise of a new way of life."

Rowena was over the moon when she secured work as a waitress in a pub last November, giving her a new start and keeping her busy enough to stay away from hard drugs. Rowena will be signing off benefits during the Christmas period, something which she didn't think possible before.

Rowena added: "The best thing about Learndirect in Burton is the welcome I get from everyone in the building; I no longer feel alone, these people have become as close as family to me, I can tell them anything, I feel I can do anything.

"Starting work was a huge challenge, but it's the best thing I've done. My manager is a great support and regularly tells me how well I've settled in - but I know that without the encouragement I received from the team I probably would never have come so far."

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