It’s no exaggeration to say that getting her first job was a dream come true for Tilly Woodley. The 21-year-old from Blackbird Leys, Oxford, who has a learning disability, works as a kitchen assistant two days a week in a care home.
Tilly never thought she would find paid employment, let alone a role that she so thoroughly enjoys. “When they offered me the job I was really, really shocked. I was speechless,” she says. “I really like it here and feel very happy and settled.
“I do all sorts of kitchen duties like washing up, peeling potatoes, prepping food and sandwiches. Sometimes, I help serve the residents and that helps me build up my confidence a bit more by talking to them. They are all lovely people.”
Her job success is all thanks to her own determination plus help from Oxfordshire County Council’s Adult Social Care team at Oxfordshire Employment – a service that is in the running for a prestigious national award. It has dedicated employment advisers who support people with long-term health issues or disabilities to find and remain in employment.
Tilly is one of its many success stories. She found her perfect job through a Supported Internship Programme – a partnership between Oxfordshire Employment, Mencap, Activate Learning and Abingdon and Witney College.
Tilly works in the kitchens at MHA Brookfield Care Home, just a short stroll from her family home in Blackbird Leys.
Oxfordshire Employment’s team contacted Home Manager Christine Hamilton who felt the principle of helping people like Tilly into work chimed with her charitable organisation’s core values of being a person-centre for both residents and staff as well as forging links in the community.
“It’s been such a positive experience,” says Christine, who has been at the 66-bed care and nursing home for the past 18 months. “I would recommend this partnership to any employer in the county. We’ve taken on another intern as well as Tilly and I hope her story will inspire others to take part.”
Tilly spent 10 months taking part in a supported internship – three days a week in the work environment and one day a week at City of Oxford College.
She recalls: “I had to learn all sorts of things on my course like health and safety and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). It was quite a lot of work. But I enjoyed it. When I came to Brookfield I was quite scared and nervous to start with. But everyone was very helpful and supportive and I was able settle in really well.”
Her advice to other young people like her about Oxfordshire Employment and internships is: “Go for it. Give it a shot and see how you settle in. Don’t be scared. You’ll settle in quickly. When I get up in the morning I’m excited to go to work.”
Will Gardner, Manager at Oxfordshire Employment, says: “Our Partnership with MHA has been fantastic and marks the start of a new ‘Pathway to Care’ initiative which aims to support people furthest from employment as a result of disability, or a health barrier to start a career in the care sector. We’d welcome the chance to work with other providers in the sector: if you can help, please get in touch.”
Oxfordshire Employment has been nominated for an industry award by the national trade organisation BASE (British Association for Supported Employment).