Dave's Progress. Chapter 86: Making Changes for a Brighter Future? If only they'd let me!

As you who read this blog may know, I have been on the lookout for some form of part-time work. Having worked voluntarily for over 3 years now and having experienced probably 5 years of good mental health, I feel it is time for me to branch out and move on. This is not to say that I would entirely give up my voluntary work, but that I may want to do something else in conjunction with it.
I have also said in many blogs that I have often found a lack in mental health services for people in my position. There seems, at the moment, although I know efforts are being made, a lack of provision for those like myself who have been unemployed for a long time through their ill health to help them back in to work.
So, as help does not seem to be immediately forthcoming from that quarter, I decided to look to some local mental health charities to see what they might be able to provide.
Having acquired some literature from two such places (I will avoid mentioning any names here), the outlook seemed promising. One charity offered an 8 session "in to work" course. "Take the right steps to work- The Right Steps to Recovery", the blurb on their leaflet announced. The course, which it said, ran "throughout the year", offered "motivation, employment opportunities, benefits and finance advice, social skills training and general guidance and support". Well, this seemed to be exactly what I needed. After, possibly, 13 years of being unemployed, I surely could not be expected to just jump back in to work without any help, and this seemed to be the sort of help I needed. So, I rang the charity in question, only to find that the course was no longer running. After a brief conversation, they re-directed me to an organisation called "Jet Business" which offered similar courses. However, "Jet" are not, like the charity in question, conversant in the needs of those who have experienced mental ill health. So, I decided that some more searching may be needed.
The result of this was that I found another charity, also based locally in Stoke-on-Trent, that, according to their web-site, offered a "supported employment programme" or SEP. The programme was said to offer help for those who had been long-term unemployed due to their mental ill health, so I seemed to fit the criteria perfectly. It, much like the other course, offered work training programmes, support with benefits, portfolio building and, in some cases, work placements. So, I quickly got on the 'phone to enquire, at which point I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the charity ran a supported housing scheme, but not a supported employment scheme. I explained that the information I had gleaned was on their internet site, to which the lady to whom I was speaking promptly said, "yes, but that's for people who have been mentally ill". I explained that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, to which she then replied that I would have to be a "customer" of the charity in order to enroll. "So, how do I become a customer?" I asked. "I'll send you an application form in the post", she replied. So, so far, so good. Only thing was, that when I received the said application form , it was an application for employment with the charity, not to become one of their "customers". So, I rang them again. Again the same rigmarole about having to be mentally ill, with me again explaining that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Again the person I spoke to seemed unsure as to whether this SEP even existed, finally stating that places were only available by referral, and that I could, if I wanted to, use my employment application form to apply for "relief" work, something which I had not wanted at all. So, after this not entirely enlightening conversation, I was left slightly dumbfounded, and it was clear that neither of the charities I had spoken to, despite advertising otherwise, were not offering any help for people like me to return to work.
This, I feel, begs the question, if such charities are not there to help people like myself, just who exactly are they supposed to be run for the benefit of. Indeed, I am slightly angry at the fact that both these places did not seem bothered about, or even want, my "custom", despite my diagnosis and clear suitability for such schemes. In fact, I think that too often, those with diagnoses of mental illness can ghettoise themselves and portion themselves off from the rest of society. I mean, even I can't get in to these places, it seems, and I am "one of them".
So, the only option left for me seems to be the dreaded job centre. At least there, I know I should be able to speak to a Disability Employment Adviser or DEA, who should be able to give me the advice and support I need. I had hoped that making changes for a brighter future would be endorsed and helped by such charities, but it seems that in this case I was wrong.
That's all for now from your normal, average, paranoid and delusional man.


klahanie said…
Dear David,
I have read this posting and your frustration and bewilderment is plainly evident.
It does make you wonder why you bother when you get such a run around. I have the utmost admiration for your perseverance in your ongoing attempt at obtaining paid and meaningful employment.
It is a real shame that those who should be helping you seem to be not that bothered. At least, daunting as it might seem, you still have the option of the dreaded Job Centre and talk to a DEA.
I have had dealings with certain charities who profess to want to help. I hate to be cynical, but some are more interested in obtaining funding than actually being of much help. I know from experience, and one charity in particular, shall be left nameless.
I wish you well and let us hope that something transpires that is to your satisfaction.
With much respect, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your comment and indeed, I know, of course, of your own tribulations in this area. It is very frustrating, as you say, that those who should be out there to help seem "not that bothered". In fact, I have felt increasingly annoyed, particularly at the latter charity I mentioned, who seemed to try their very best, by putting so many barriers in my way, to almost put me off pursuing any involvement with them. If this is the sort of help we can expect, then is it any wonder that many of us remain socially isolated.
Anyway, I'm sure I'll get over it, but thanks again for your concern, my hairy, happy(?), hippy, hermit friend.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
P.S. I have checked out the web-site you referred to in your email, and unfortunately could find little to do with mental health on there. It all seemed to be about physical conditions. The addition of your blog, then, might be appropriate.
bazza said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
bazza said…
Hi David. Sadly having read your post and Gary's comment, this seems familiar territory to me.
In my job as a business adviser I help people start businesses. Many of those who come to see me are sent by the Job Centre who later appear to put obstacles in the way of them starting up!
Occassionaly they have formerly been on Incapacity Benefits, often due to depression or other mental issues (they volunteer this info: I never ask). The benefits have been removed and they are 'forced' to seek employment/self-employment to gain JSA.
In my view they are usually not able to cope and should never have had their benefits removed. This may have the effect of prejudicing employers against anyone tagged with mental illness issues.
It's grossly unfair but that how it is.
David said…
Dear bazza,
Thanks for your own insights in to such situations.
The very reason I wanted to go to such charities for advice was to avoid the pitfalls you describe. It is a shame, then, that even they seemed to make things difficult from the outset. Anyway, I have now contacted one of them via email and described what happened when I spoke to them on the 'phone in the hope that they can, if nothing else, clarify things for me.
Thanks for your continued interest, bazza. Your comments are always welcome.
Yours with All the Best,
joanne fox said…
I'm sorry to hear you had such a poor response. I think that some of the mental health charities do really useful work, but services seem to vary a lot between different areas. Hope you fare better with the Job Centre.
David said…
Dear Joanne,
I would like to say that mental health charities do indeed do a lot of good work. After all, I have been working voluntarily for a mental health charity for the last 3 years, and I know we try our best to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. So, it was just a little perplexing to get such negative responses from other local charities. Having now written to one of these charities about my difficulties, they did, at least, respond with a full-page response. Unfortunately, it still didn't seem to correspond with what they had offered on their internet site. So, as you say, I hope to have more joy at the job centre, although job centre and joy may be an oxymoron.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

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