“Hi Elsa!” The calls ring out as Elsa Jones walks down the street in Llanidloes. Clearly well-known in the community, Elsa has a learning disability and has been volunteering at the Severn Hospice charity shop in the town for the past four years. Now, following work placements and job coaching through Engage to Change, she has been successful in her application to become an Ambassador and promote the Engage to Change project across Wales.
“I enjoy going out to work. It gives me confidence, meeting people, socialising, and I enjoy keeping busy,” says Elsa. “I really enjoy it so much.” At the charity shop she spends her time at the shop serving customers, dressing mannequins, sorting donated items and putting them out on the shop floor. “I always like to make sure it’s presentable.” One of her favourite aspects of her work has been the opportunity to learn new skills and to develop her existing ones, such as time management and money handling.
Elsa particularly enjoys the social aspect of being at work, and she feels that her social skills have improved through her work. Chatty and happy to make conversation, Elsa has endeared herself to many a customer. As shop manager Issy Evans says, “She remembers things about people, and she remembers their names. She’s not afraid to approach them and she’s not nervous, she’s got a really nice way about her and she livens the place up.”
Since joining Engage to Change in August 2017, Elsa has received support from her job coach Angharad and employment co-ordinator Bethan from Agoriad Cyf, delivery partner on Engage to Change. With this support she currently works at the Buck Tea Room in Caersws serving customers, washing up, cleaning and laying the tables, and making drinks. “My job coach is Angharad and she is brilliant,” enthuses Elsa. “She comes out to the work placement and sees how I’m getting on, and also Bethan.”
Earlier this year, Elsa was excited to receive news about a new opportunity that would allow her to meet even more new people, travel around Wales, and develop her skills – the role of Engage to Change Project Ambassador. The role involves promoting the project from the perspective of a young person who has been through the process themselves. Following an application and interview process, Elsa was one of the successful candidates and joined the project’s first set of ambassadors, employed by project partner and self-advocacy organisation All Wales People First.
With a smile, Elsa expresses how happy she was about her new role. “I was very pleased that I got the job. It’s a good experience meeting and socialising with people, and talking about the programme.” At two June events in Holywell and Cardiff, Elsa made her debut alongside her fellow Ambassadors, presenting awards and greeting attendees to the events with delicious chocolates created by Harry Specter’s, a company staffed by people with autism. Elsa herself was also an award recipient as one of the project’s young people of the year.
At these events Elsa had the opportunity to meet and hear from others like her who have experienced the Engage to Change project. She’s looking forward to attending more events in the future in her capacity as Ambassador, and hopes to increase her hours of work at the tea rooms and in the charity shop. “On the programme the people who you meet are really friendly and you get to learn about their recent and past experiences. It’s so nice to hear that people are working really well and enjoying the programme and learning new experiences.”
Learning Disability Wales received a £10million grant from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Getting Ahead 2 programme to boost the employment prospects of young people in Wales with a learning disability and / or learning difficulty, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Getting Ahead 2 is funded with money that has been dormant in bank and building society accounts across the UK for 15 years or more.
Would your organisation benefit from a work placement? Get in contact with Engage to Change who support young people with a learning disability and/or learning difficulty, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to get into work placements.
To find out more about Engage to Change, visit engagetochange.org.uk or email email@example.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @engage_2_change and Facebook @engagetochangewales.