Long-term unemployed boosted by ‘life changing’ device loan service
A scheme which loans laptops to the long-term unemployed has been described as life changing by those it has helped end years of being out of work.
The digital device scheme has ended a mum-of-five’s 20-year wait back into employment, another woman’s 15-year wait for a job, as well as helped a former security guard get his first job since he quit to become a full-time carer.
The programme is run by Communities for Work Plus (CfW+), an employment support service for people who are in or at risk of poverty and who face barriers stopping them taking up training and employment.
The Welsh Government-funded project provides support to help build confidence, gain work experience, learn new skills or write a CV, and can loan out equipment like Chromebooks to search for and complete job applications or educational courses.
Sireena Jones, 45, said she had “hit rock bottom” while struggling for money and confidence at the same time as being a full-time mum, but is now delighted being back on her feet after turning her fortunes around.
The mother-of-five, from Penrhys in the Rhondda, was on Universal Credit and looking to get back into work when staff at her local job centre in Porth put her in touch with CfW+.
She said: “I was out of work for 20-odd years. Before that I was in a packing factory in Pentre.
“I’ve got five kids. My oldest is 25 and my youngest is 14. I started struggling financially and my confidence started going and I basically just hit rock bottom. I wanted a change and wanted to get back to being me.”
After CfW+ loaned Sereena the Chromebook, she completed five work-related online courses on subjects like employability, customer skills, and working with IT over 12 weeks, before being helped to search for jobs online.
“It was simple enough, and loaning the laptop made me more technical to be honest, because before then I didn’t have a clue,” she said.
“If I was ever getting problems I could speak to someone over the phone who could explain things to me, because this was going on during the pandemic.”
Near the end of 2021 Sireena successfully applied for a job at the Project Red recycling centre in Llantrisant, where she is now a valued full-time member of staff.
She added: “Since I started working it’s really boosted my confidence and I’m enjoying being back working. It’s really changed me for the better.”
Anna Constantini, 36, from Swansea, hadn’t worked for 15 years due to suffering from anxiety, but benefitted the device loan scheme after summoning the courage to go to her local CfW+ centre in Swansea in February 2021.
“I knew something needed to change, I just wasn’t living,” she said.
Anna didn’t have access to a computer to complete training courses or search for jobs online, and so CfW+ loaned her Chromebook and her personal mentor Lorraine Hodson helped her register for Security Industry Association (SIA), CCTV, first aid, manual handling, and fire awareness training.
Anna passed all of her training before successfully applying for a job as a security support officer at Swansea Civic Centre.
She said: “Having a job that I enjoy and people that I like working with has made it so much easier to cope with the anxiety I suffer with, it gives me something to get up for every morning. I can now support my two teenagers and give them something to be proud of.
“If it wasn’t for the digital device scheme and the help from CfW+, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Kyle Toogood, 32, was another who found it difficult to get back into work after he had to bring an end to his own security firm three years ago to take over caring responsibilities for his grandmother.
But after the caring arrangements changed, and keen to support his own two children, Kyle decided to look for new work only to find lacking a laptop was a huge barrier.
Kyle, who lives in Merthyr Tydfil with his partner and children, said: “Trying to struggle on benefits with two children, it was difficult.
“I didn’t have £500 I could just pull out of my back pocket and say I’ll have that laptop or PC.
“Because I’d been out of work for such a stretch, I started going down a dark hole thinking that I couldn’t access jobs.”
But after contacting CfW+ Kyle said the experience of completing training courses and attending job interviews led to him successfully gaining employment at Merthyr Tydfil’s Kepak meat packing factory.
“To be able to loan a Chromebook and access courses from the comfort of my own home was brilliant,” he said.
“I had a few setbacks, but knowing I had that support behind me gave me the confidence to keep looking for and applying for jobs. CfW+ is phenomenal.
“My biggest motivation is to look after my kids.
“Now I’m hoping to progress within the company. I’ve got the work ethic and I want the responsibility.”
Click here… for more information on the digital device scheme and Communities for Work Plus.
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