Breaking down barriers and building up confidence

18 Apr 2018

An unemployed man from Liverpool has been overcoming anxiety and stress by learning digital skills for work and health at his local Online Centre.

Paul Lavin, 49, moved from Manchester to Liverpool following the breakdown of his marriage. This triggered anxiety and depression for Paul, but he tried to get on with life - continuing to commute to Manchester every day for his job as a baker.

Paul began struggling with the commute due to his mental health issues, and then, unfortunately, he was made redundant. He visited his local Jobcentre Plus for help finding a new job and was told he needed IT skills - something he hadn’t needed in his previous role. They suggested he go along to his local Online Centre, Kensington Community Learning Centre.

Paul says: “I hadn’t been in a learning environment for a long time, so when the Jobcentre suggested I go along to a class, I was really nervous, especially because of my stress and anxiety.

“At first I didn’t really mix with the other learners. I just tried to keep my head down and get on with learning how to job search and use the Universal Jobmatch website. I wanted to keep the Jobcentre off my back.”

Debbie Derbyshire, the Lead IT Tutor at Kensington Community Learning Centre, wanted to help Paul become more confident and overcome his conditions. She recommended he start the City & Guilds accredited Online Basics course on Learn My Way and try to get more involved with the rest of the class, which Paul eventually agreed to.

Debbie says: “Having previously declared anxiety and stress problems – I thought it would be useful for Paul to become familiar with the health resources on Learn My Way. Paul was also needing to register with a doctor in Liverpool following his move from Manchester. Paul describes himself as shy and nervous and the thought of having to approach a surgery directly had resulted in him putting this off on numerous occasions. The option to do this online was, therefore, a great help to Paul.”

Paul says: “I thought maybe learning more digital health skills could help in the future as I wasn’t registered with a GP. I hadn’t seen a doctor since I left Manchester! Debbie guided me through the courses and carefully explained the things I didn’t understand. This was really helpful.”

Paul soon began searching for health information on his own. He says: “I have been researching GPs that are close to where I live and I will be making an appointment to get registered. I also hope to be able to book an appointment or order a prescription online - with a little help of course! I never thought that I’d be doing any of this at my age.

“Developing my IT skills at KCLC has given me more confidence. It has made me more aware of the services available online and I also feel that I am mixing more with others. I feel much less anxious and stressed.

“I have got the City & Guilds qualification too and I’m thinking about working towards another qualification. My biggest achievement so far though, is that I now feel more confident walking into the classroom and I will sit and have a conversation with people rather than sit alone.

Paul continues: “Because I’ve been coming to the classes and learning all these new things, I feel that my stress and anxiety is decreasing as the weeks pass.

“I would strongly recommend online health tools and getting along to their local Online Centre for people who have the same conditions as me. It all sounds scary and much more complicated than it actually is, but once you get going, it’s easier than you think.”