Amanda Hobbs is the new Community Coach at Pluss’ Positive People in Cornwall. She lives in Saltash, not far from The Tamar, shares a house with her mum, loves the great outdoors and is known to most people as Mandy.
Mandy had been in the job for just three weeks when we met her – on a sunny, but breezy day in March – for a chat about her new role, in a café under the Tamar Bridge on the banks of the river.
Her first job was working in a travel agency, nothing like what she is doing now. But after 30 years she took the opportunity that redundancy offered, to reflect about her future, and decided she wanted a fresh start and a completely new career.
“I looked around for jobs to do and saw a role with Pluss. I applied and – as they say – the rest is history, so here I am!” she laughs.
Before Mandy left her job in the travel industry, she studied and obtained an NVQ in assessing. Between then and working for Pluss, she did some assessing and realised how much she loves working and supporting people.
“I love being able to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Which is really what led me to Pluss,” she says.
Mandy started on the Pluss’ Work Routes programme and loved it, but is now even happier being able to work as a Community Coach with the Pluss’ Positive People team in Cornwall.
“I consider what we do at Pluss Positive People as providing the stepping stones, getting people closer to work but taking things at a comfortable pace. Especially for those who don’t quite feel ready to move into work straight away.”
In Cornwall, Pluss Positive People’s support is delivered by a range of different partners. (Read more here)
Mandy’s role is to support them all, and offer some co-ordination and cohesion, to promote events and to find new participants.
“I spend most of my time getting out in the community, meeting with local groups and organisations and taking every opportunity I can to let people know about the support we can offer potential participants,” she says as she takes another sip from her sparkling mineral water, “and then I point them towards the most appropriate partner.”
A big part of Mandy’s job is to raise awareness about what Pluss Positive People can do to assist people on their journey, and help get them to a point where they feel ready to apply for a job.
“I think, in general,” she ponders, “some people think ‘what’s the catch?’. I think people see posters of things we do and don’t always realise we are a support service, and that the support we offer is fully-funded. It’s my job to reassure them there’s no cost attached – and that we’re not directly linked to the job centres.”
“Events like we’ve seen today,” (Mandy had just returned from a wellbeing taster session in Liskeard), “can really show people it’s not all about getting employment straight away. It’s about supporting people to be in the best possible position to move closer to that market. Health and wellbeing is so important.”
“Some people might see us putting on an art class, for instance, and wonder why that has anything to do with getting a job. But it’s about being able to unpick what each individual’s needs are.
“The person who comes to paint a picture might not have previously had the confidence to even leave their house. It might have been the first time they put themselves in a group environment, or that they didn’t know they had a creative side.
“It might simply be offering a safe space for someone to step away from the everyday problems they’re experiencing. One small step for some, but a massive leap for others.
As a train rumbles overhead and a large boat passes under the bridge on its way to the sea, Mandy reflects on what success might look like in her role as Community Coach.
“When you first meet someone you get a feel for where they are on their journey,” she says.
“Together, you identify the steps they need to take. Perhaps they need some training. Maybe it would be good for them to do some volunteering.
“If that person then achieves those goals, that’s amazing. That’s success.
“You have to look at it through their eyes, and if we manage to help them move just one step closer, then we’ve succeeded. Together.
“The more the participant puts in, the more they get out. We don’t do it all for them – we just give them the tools for them to do it for themselves.”
Away From Work
Where would we find Mandy when she’s not at work?
“Well I’d like to say, on a tropical beach somewhere,” she laughs, “but I’ve not done that for quite a while!
“I still like to travel, when I can, but I really enjoy getting out and about in this country. We’ve got some amazing places right here on our doorstep. And bizarrely, I’m quite an avid gardener – although I don’t really know what I’m doing – I have no idea what’s a weed and what’s a flower, but I love being in the garden.
“For me and my own mental health, that’s amazing. Yesterday, the sun was out, I was pottering around, mowing the lawn and tidying up – I just love it!”
Talking of mental health, does Mandy think it’s something that affects us all?
“Someone once said to me we all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health, it’s a matter of degrees,” she says.
“If you’ve a broken leg, it’s pretty obvious – but if something is broken inside of you, because of your mental health, it’s so hard for anyone else to see that. I think we all have to be mindful of that.
“Especially with what’s happened over the past couple of years (Covid), we all need to make sure our mental health is the best it possibly can be. We all need to let off steam and recharge our batteries now and then.”
“We all have different thresholds and what may seem like a minor problem for one person can be a massive barrier for another. We all need someone to give us the confidence or to help see things from a different angle and that’s exactly what we try to do at Pluss’ Positive People.
“Come and talk to us. Give us the opportunity to show you what you can achieve and how we can support you,” she says.
And what is Mandy most looking forward to in this new role?
“I’m looking forward to supporting all our partners, getting to know them and the services they offer, so that I can ensure participants are being given the best possible support.
“I’ve met a lot of the teams and it’s so obvious how much passion they have for the work they do. They really, really care. All they want to do is to help make changes to their participants’ lives.
“They are definitely all Positive People and I’m really looking forward to working with them!”
Contact Mandy: 📞 07765240785 🖱 firstname.lastname@example.org