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Month: May 2012

The Secret to Self-Respect

Posted in Employment Support, Flyinglady Training, Personal, and Uncategorised

One of my favourite TV Shows at the moment is The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4.  After a long day, I love to watch as the latest millionaire leaves behind his comfortable lifestyle and goes in search of people in need of help.

I’ve recently watched a repeat episode which particularly struck a cord with me.  It featured John Elliott, a self made millionaire and life long supporter of the Conservative Party.  John travelled to Kensington, Liverpool which is an area known for high unemployment.  He desperately wanted to find people in need of his help but this proved difficult.  Why?  Because as he looked around, there was no shortage of jobs available for people to apply for.  The high unemployment rate wasn’t down to a lack of jobs – they were there in abundance.  John met various residents of Kensington but none of them seemed in desperate need – the state were taking care of their basic needs.

It seemed like John would be the first Secret Millionaire not to part with any cash.  He was reluctant to give away money unless he was sure that it would make a real difference.  Then he met a young couple with a baby.  They were up to their eyes in credit card debts and living in rented accommodation.   The husband was working 12 hour days driving a taxi to pay off his debts and provide for his family.  He didn’t come home until he’d earned the money he needed.  Though struggling and in debt, he wasn’t afraid of hard work and was paying the price for racking up so much debt.  Finally, John had found a family that he could help.  But he didn’t do the obvious thing and pay off the credit cards.  It would have been all too easy for them to just build up further debt.   Instead, he gave them a deposit for a house of their own.  They could get a mortgage and finally start enjoying the rewards of working hard.

John also befriended a young refugee who had been granted leave to stay in the UK.  He was a qualified accountant but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t find employment and so spent his time volunteering instead.  John decided to help him but not with a hand out.  He gave him a job in his company.  This gave him so much more than a handout – it gave him his confidence and self-respect.

I had to admire John’s approach.  He didn’t want to find problems and then throw money at it.  In his mind, that was pointless and a waste of money.   Although he had over £60 million, he didn’t want to see his hard earned fortune wasted.   He wanted to enable people to solve their own problems and give them their self-respect in the process.

I also agree with John Elliott’s stance.  In my time supporting disadvantaged people into employment, I saw many people who were desperate to work.  If I’d given them a handout, they wouldn’t have accepted it.  I also saw an equal number of people who were fairly comfortable on their state benefit and so had little interest in “rocking the boat” by finding a job.  If they did look for work,  they were only interested in jobs for less than 16 hours a week so that they could remain on state benefit.   But this approached failed to give them any pride or the self respect which John valued and rewarded.

The programme inspired me and made me more determined than ever to develop Flyinglady so that we can eventually set up employment support programmes to help people who really want to find work.  I think if there were more John Elliotts around, encouraging and supporting people to stand on their own two feet,  we could reduce the JobCentre queues.

My Winning Founder Story

Posted in Disability Awareness, Employment Support, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Personal, Starting Flyinglady, and Uncategorised

I recently entered a story writing competition with the Entrepreneur’s Circle about why I founded my business.  I am delighted to say that I won the competition – my submission follows:

I was suited and booted and ready to impress.  It was my second year of my Business Management degree at Oxford Brookes University and my third year would be spent on a paid work placement.  I’d managed to bag an interview with a small marketing company near Oxford and the job sounded perfect for me.

The interview went really well and I came out feeling fairly confident – this could be the one, I thought to myself.  A few days later my confidence was in tatters as I read an email from the MD of the company.  He stated quite bluntly that he couldn’t possibly employ me as his clients wouldn’t be able to communicate with me.  Why? Because I have cerebral palsy and subsequently, a speech impairment.

He hadn’t faulted my skills or my abilities compared to other candidates.  That was his one and only reason for rejecting me.  I was fuming!  I know my speech isn’t that difficult to understand as I successfully communicate with people on a daily basis. I knew I couldn’t just let this go so I sat down and composed a polite reply.   I told him it was a shame he felt the way he did as he’d dismissed a huge asset to his team.  I continued that there were many ways of communicating with clients and that if every employer were to have his views, I would sadly remain unemployed.  My aim wasn’t to get him to change his mind but to educate him.

The experience made me realise the extent of discrimination that disabled people face and I knew I wanted to do something about it.  I eventually secured a placement working for a charity which supported disabled and disadvantaged people into work and training opportunities.  It was a rewarding role and upon graduating, I returned to the charity and became a senior manager.

But still the discrimination was apparent.  One day I took a phone call from an unemployed client looking for some help.  He had the cheek to ask me why someone like me with cerebral palsy could secure a job whilst he remained unemployed!

As my role developed, I undertook a qualification to become a trainer and I started delivering sessions to both clients and employers.  I realised that far from being unable to understand me, people responded really well to me and I had a talent for teaching.  I was able to share my personal experiences and inspire others. I felt comfortable and confident in the classroom.

Being a small charity, I eventually felt there were no more opportunities for me to develop and I was bored in my role.  I always embrace a challenge but I was no longer being pushed to my potential.  So I took a leap of faith, handed in my resignation and Flyinglady Training was born.

I now specialise in Equality and Diversity Training, as well as employment preparation training and although I only started up in January, I’m passionate about making a difference for other disabled people who may have had similar experiences and also helping employers to realise the benefits of a diverse workforce.