Following two breakdowns, Mary Smith, 53, found herself in the care of Rotherham’s mental health team. Mary had been out of work for six months when the team decided she was in a stable frame of mind and was ready to move on; her confidence was shaken and she needed some careful support to help her feel better about life. They found her support through the Rotherham Social Prescribing Service and because Mary was concerned about employment, she was referred to Computers Within Reach in February of this year.
Computers Within Reach are a skills provider, employment specialist, and UK online centre based in the ex-colliery town of Dinnington in South Yorkshire. Their involvement in the Reboot UK programme is mental health focussed. It piggy-backs on the Rotherham-wide social prescribing programme which was already referring individuals to them, but allows individuals to be supported for longer and in their own homes. This is a crucial aspect of the support, because a number of individuals referred to the programme have limiting conditions which lead them to be housebound.
Computers Within Reach first visited Mary at home, and helped her to set goals for her future learning. In this early conversation, Mary identified that she wanted to learn about computers. Mary says: “Although I’d been using a computer in my previous job, I could only really use them for tasks. I had lost a lot of my confidence and I just wanted to go back to the start and learn from the beginning again.”
Computers Within Reach set Mary up on Learn My Way, Good Things Foundation’s online learning platform. Mary says: “Having my own account meant that I could ‘have a play’ in my own time.” It was an unpressurised and informal way to learn, and soon Mary had made her way through all of the modules. She says: “I think it’s very good if you want to start from scratch. The computer was a boost for me. I found some modules quite easy, and that helped to boost my confidence.”
After a while, Mary was happier leaving the house. She started to attend Computers Within Reach’s centre in Dinnington, where she received one-to-one job coaching, particularly focussing on skills for job interviews. This was ideal for Mary, as she says: “I always fluffed the interviews. I didn’t do very well in them.”
Specific job support was what Mary needed, and returning to work was always her end-goal. Now, she is back in work and she says: “Whilst I’m in work, I’m in good health.” The computer support Mary received from Computers Within Reach gave her the specific skills that she needed to apply for jobs, and helped to build her confidence.
She says, “I needed something to get me shored up in relation to computers. Reboot UK allowed Computers Within Reach to give me the careful attention and support that I needed to rebalance myself. Without getting on the computers and using them, I would have felt underprepared for moving on with my life. Learning how to use them helped me to feel more prepared and more on the ball.”
“My health and wellbeing has improved enormously, especially in terms of the ability to get myself together to get to interview. The team at Computers within Reach really did keep me afloat.”