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Story 8 - Supported Employment

In looking for an employment opportunity for Barry I initially researched the possibility of attending McIntyre's, the one sheltered employment situation in town. I brought Barry for a visit here in 1995 and he was vehemently opposed to it. His feelings did not change over time. His family and his advocate were also opposed to it and so I did not pursue it. This meant that any employment solution would have to be tailor-made for Barry.

During 1998 I approached the all the employment organisations in Rathnew and also everyone who was working in finding supported employment opportunities. None of them were able to help me to find a suitable job for Barry.

I approached a small dairy with a proposal for doing voluntary work, and the response made me realise just how difficult it was going to be to find a ‘real’ position for Barry. At this point I thought of approaching the Polytechnic and went first to the Printshop, where I met a very positive reception.

I can’t say that he loved the Printshop, but he did a good job there and it gave him an idea of what he was capable of. People were friendly with him and they made sure that he was included in tea breaks and had enough work to go on. They had an awareness of the boredom factor also and gave him long enough to get into a job, without numbing him with boredom. Barry himself actually realised that he didn’t get bored and that this kind of work seemed to be suiting him. Mike, the supervisor, made a point of saying that Barry had all the requisites for the job. He was careful and precise and listened closely to the instructions. I extended the job for Barry once the initial contract had finished, they were very amenable, after all it was only twice a week for 4 hours at a time and lunch and tea breaks came out of that. Towards the end I approached Mike about turning it into a supported employment opportunity, we would pay half the minimal wage and they would pay the other half. Mike did not feel that he had that leeway in his budget, so I went looking for the next job.

Almost as a last resort I went over to PLSA, student association. They could not have been nicer. It was hard to pin down exactly what Barry would be doing, but I came away with the feeling that we could work something out. He started there in October and instantly felt at ease in the relaxed office. There was always something happening, and these were the student types that he identified with most closely. He was given the job of helping Theresa with the notice boards.

By coincidence Theresa and Barry had met at a party, which he had gone to with Magda. There was instant electricity and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ they were having an affair. This gave an extra dimension to his work! Theresa was an impeccably spoken Brazilian, with a very passionate approach to life. She took Barry on as a project which lasted a couple of months, before Barry broke it off. His theory seemed to be something like, ‘If I can have her then she musn’t be what I am looking for. If I can have her, then maybe I can have any woman I want. I’d like to keep her until I can find the perfect woman…..etc’. Theresa allowed herself to get hurt in the process, but was incredibly kind along the way. I began to realise that Barry could draw this altruism from people, even when they were not being paid, but he had absolutely no appreciation of what he was doing. It was nearly two years before he expressed any regret for this episode.

PLSA has continued to be an important part of his life and he has been working there for almost a year now. They agreed at an early stage to employ him on a supported employment basis. Most of the support I have given has gone into an attempt to get them to be harder on him: it is not OK to be late for work; it is not OK to ask for extra holidays; it is not OK to sit around and drink coffee all day. Increasingly they seem to understand what I am saying, which is basically ‘give him an inch and he will take a mile’. He has gone out with them on occasion (and got sloshed with the boys and ended up in the gutter on the way home, or wandering through building sites totally lost), and there are a couple who have asked him out several times to play pool. He works there from 11-3pm on Monday and Wednesdays.

Barry has done well here. He still has the job of maintaining (putting up and taking down posters) a circuit of notice boards, which always remains the same. At the end of this year he is no longer completely dependent on the facilitators for a social life, since this has happened quite naturally as one of the outcomes of his work. Eventually he even asked one of his workmates to come and live with him.

Stories summary

The stories told above are essentially about how he achieved some kind of work life in the end. There were other threads alluded to such as the way that he was gradually beginning to develop a real social life. At the time when the stories started each day was a unique and different event in Barry's life. There was no predictability and no sustained effort at anything. By the time he had finished the letter box I had recognised the need for regularity and rhythm in his days and at this point I instituted a weekday timetable. It has taken well over a year to begin to get this established, but it is gradually getting there and most days he now knows what he is going to be doing once he gets up. This is a major gain in the area of 'knowing how to go on' . It has also been the most effective way of bringing his actions into relation with others.


Next page: The literature of occupation




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