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How local support programme changed my life

Pluss Positive People - Devon Video 31 March 2023

A programme in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset to help people with disabilities and other disadvantages to move closer to employment is being celebrated locally.

Positive People was set up to help people who may have been away from the jobs market for some time, supporting them to transition back into employment. One of those people was Torbay-based Nicola, who says she has been able to turn her life around, through the programme, which is delivered by Pluss, a Community Interest Company.

“When I came to Pluss Positive People I was feeling suicidal. I was feeling worthless. I was at a point where it was do something about it or I wouldn’t be here anymore,” she said. “I’d been in a 20-year marriage where I was mentally and physically tormented.”

“Coming to Torbay, for the first time in a long time, I was listened to. I didn’t know who I was, what my favourite colour was, I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like, but I knew I liked craft. I knew I liked to create, and I knew I liked to show and share the things that I know.”

Having been put in touch with this programme through the Torbay Community Development Trust, a Positive People partner, Nicola met with its staff who suggested a number of activities they provided to develop confidence, including craft activities.

“I was like, ‘craft, this is going to be amazing!’ This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for. I started going to the craft groups, and I absolutely loved them. I made friends, which I hadn’t had since I left my old town.

“Positive People have just changed my life. I went to a Co-Create event in Exeter and made a wallet out of leather. I now carry that wallet everywhere. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, and it was one of the first things I made. I then did a woodwork workshop, they let me loose with tools, that was so much fun!

“I also took part in a ‘Dress for Confidence’ workshop, through Torbay Community Development Trust. Now I know how to dress. For my shape, I’m a petite apple, and I’m so proud to know that. I now walk down the street with my head held high and say hello to people, because I’ve met friends. Before I’d walk down the high street and my head would be down because I didn’t know anybody.

“I didn’t trust anybody because of my past. Now it’s ‘Hi Nicola, how are you?’ and I reply, ‘I’m fine, I’m doing amazing’. It was a very lonely place before.”

Nicola has now trained as a peer, running her own craft groups and teaching and supporting others. She shares a secret that she’s learned during her journey:

“The biggest thing is, you’ve got to say ‘yes’, and take that chance, because you never know where you’ll be. Because where I was, I was ready to leave the world, and I’d been missing out, and now I’ve gained so much more that will see me to the next adventure.”

Nicola is a beacon of what Positive People set out to achieve. Helping those furthest from the labour market, to provide sustained, bespoke support to help them move to a more positive place and ultimately closer to employment.

Commenting on Nicola’s journey, Lisa Buck, a change coach for Positive People in Torquay, who worked with Nicola, said:

“It’s quite incredible how far Nicola has come. When I first met her, she would barely talk and today she is bursting with life. This is why I love my job and what makes being a change coach, supporting people to take small steps forward, so worthwhile.”

The Positive People programme comes to an end on 31st March and has been a great success in Devon. Overall, the support delivered by Pluss has helped a total of 657 participants into employment since it began in 2017.

Of these, 503 people were considered to be ‘economically inactive’ prior to this support, meaning they were not actively seeking employment, retired or students. Furthermore, 781 people were also supported to gain new skills and training in Devon.

Commenting on the success of Positive People, Emma Westcott, Pluss Operations Manager, said:

“We are so proud of the work our teams have down over the past five years, helping some of those furthest from the labour market to increase their confidence and move back into employment. We continue to have an unshakeable belief that every person has the capability to discover and realise their unique potential.”