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.
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.
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