Ben: Employment

Ben_contentBen, 36, has spent most of his life in specialist services. He attended a special school from the age of four, moved to an independent specialist college at 18 and then into residential care at 20. Ben has a severe learning disability and epilepsy. He finds it difficult to communicate and presents some behaviour that others find challenging.

In 2007, Ben moved into a single occupancy bungalow as part of a programme that enabled people to move from residential care to their own tenanted accommodation. Through person-centred planning, Ben demonstrated his happiness with his new living environment and began to show a keen interest in finding paid work.

The people working with Ben started to think about how they could re-structure his support package to help him gain paid employment. The staff had a good knowledge of Ben's skills and preferences; he preferred working on a one-to-one basis, avoiding crowds, and liked to work outside on tasks involving lots of physical activity.

The employment service approached employers and found three who were willing to 'job-carve' in order to create employment for Ben. Support staff who already knew Ben well, helped induct him into each job.

Ben has now been in paid employment since July 2010. His first job was three hours a week. He then started his second job, working three hours a week throughout August, and in September, began working a 10 hour week. He is working as a gardener and his tasks include mowing, weeding, planting and digging. He earns above the minimum wage, and Linkage is now working with Ben to sort out his finances with his new earned income and his benefit entitlement.

For Ben, the impact on his life of moving into his bungalow and into work has been incredibly significant. As a result of the changes to his life, his challenging behaviour has reduced in frequency, his epilepsy appears more controlled and his relationship with others has improved. He appears happier, more relaxed, more able and willing to communicate and more in charge of his life.

Rex G. Richardson, Director of Care Services for Linkage says:
"Ben's success has led to a general reappraisal of the expectations we hold for all the people for whom we provide services. Opportunities in employment can be found for persons with the most complex difficulties. We are delighted for Ben in having a job, and proud of our relationship with his employers."

Ben's sister says: "The progress he has made has been quite remarkable. Moving into his one bedroom bungalow has built his self-esteem beyond recognition. Now he has moved into paid employment with support from the staff. You can see how proud he is of this achievement and a spinoff is that his challenging behaviour has reduced. I believe he is much happier and fulfilled."

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This story is an extract from "Getting a Job, getting a life and getting it right: Six ways to support young disabled people into work" by Nicola Gitsham, Helen Sanderson and Linda Jordan with Jaimee Lewis and Freya El Baz, 2011.

The story was developed by Ben's staff team and SHIEC (Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for people with Complex needs). Read more about SHIEC.