James was unemployed for about 15 years and a service user with a drugs agency for about 18 months. He became interested in doing voluntary work for a drugs agency but nobody would take
him on. He feels this was because he still had a court case hanging over him. He had previously been arrested for deception, for which he was eventually found guilty and given two years probation. Sitting in his prison cell, following his arrest, he began to question what he was doing with his life. That was when he decided to look for voluntary work. Someone mentioned Thames Reach to him: he contacted the employment team and started volunteering 2 ½ hours a week. He enjoyed this and kept asking for more opportunities. He went to help other projects over Christmas and then Cabbages and Kings57 three days a week. In all, he volunteered for just over a year and was encouraged by his supervisor to consider going for employment. He applied for a Thames Reach traineeship, but didn’t make the shortlist, which he puts down to a badly prepared application. He continued volunteering in one project two days a week where, because of his experience, he was acting like a volunteer support worker. He applied for another couple of Thames Reach jobs – he was
shortlisted for these but did not get either. He took the first rejection hard, but the later ones werenot so bad. In the end the opportunities of a traineeship and employment came up at the same time. He did two weeks induction for the traineeship but was then offered his current support worker job.
Were there any negative consequences with Thames Reach as a result of his CRB record? James felt not: he had a special interview with someone in HR and the details were talked through, but the people already knew him and he felt that it was not a problem, even though his offence was deception. He feels that Thames Reach have stuck by him and that he will do everything he can to be the best for them. He feels like he is part of a family.
What about staff reactions? Generally these have been good. He feels that a very few people may have felt that he is “getting in through the back door”, but this has not been a problem. He’s pleased that his three-month probation review was very positive, even though he was given some things to work on. His aspiration is “to do Jeremy’s job” (Chief Executive) and he definitely wants to get into management.
James felt that those with service user experience sometimes had an advantage in spotting things with clients – for example, with those who are not taking their medication: “you know the signs”. Whilst this can create some tensions with other staff, it can be very valuable as part of a team approach.
Is burnout a problem? James felt it definitely could be. He explains that in the beginning he was too enthusiastic and that his manager had to tell him to slow down. “Pacing is important: I went mental for the first few months – I wanted to do everything!”.