For most of us we get our identity and status from what we do.  BHT Sussex’s Intern Programme was set up to prepare people with a history of homelessness, mental ill health or addictions to make that transition from unemployment into work.

Image of young manCharlie is a 32 year old white British male.  He was born with congenital hand deformities, as well as structural defects which cause lifelong incontinence issues. Charlie was bullied during his school years and began using alcohol and cannabis aged 14.  In his early 20’s he found employment as a telesales advisor and an early year’s child practitioner.  However, each job didn’t last more than 12 months due to his increasing substance misuse.

By the age of 25 Charlie was drinking on a daily basis.  He began selling cannabis and cocaine and was getting into regular trouble with the police for petty crimes.  Aged 29 he was sentenced to 24 months in prison for his part in an aggravated burglary.

Charlie began his drug and alcohol rehabilitation with BHT Sussex in April 2015.  Towards the end of his treatment he was accepted onto the Intern Programme.  The support he received during treatment had made a significant impression on him and he was highly motivated to use his experience of addiction and associated problems to help others in a similar position.  Charlie was hoping that a work placement would also improve his confidence which he described as “consistently fragile since childhood”.

Using our strengths-based approach, we matched Charlie to a new role within First Base, our day centre for homeless people, helping rough sleeping clients improve their work readiness.  Charlie had been a service user of the day centre a few years previously and this experience, along with his strong rapport building skills, ensured he felt comfortable going into the work placement.

Charlie’s early placement reports and reviews were exceptional and this continued throughout the six month placement.  Although all feedback was positive, Charlie felt as though he wasn’t good enough and was constantly concerned as to what others were thinking about him.  We focused our support and employability sessions around stress management, presenting with confidence and interview skills techniques.

Towards the end of his placement we supported Charlie in his application for a support worker role within the Lottery funded Fulfilling Lives Project.  He was shortlisted for an interview.

“I was so nervous going in I thought I was going to have a panic attack. The breathing and calming techniques I had been taught really helped.  The workshops really helped me to focus on my strengths and achievements and to be able to formulate that into an answer.  I’m gutted I didn’t get it but this whole experience has given me more confidence for the next time”.

Although Charlie wasn’t offered the paid role, Fulfilling Lives did offer him the opportunity to sit on their weekly service user panel, offering valuable insights into the project and this helped with future job opportunities.   Two months later an opportunity arose and this time Charlie performed a job winning Interview.

Through participating in the programme Charlie strengthened his desire to have more control over his own life and made a number of positive changes. He moved into this own flat four months into his placement, his first independent accommodation in many years.  He raised over £1000 for BHT Sussex by running the London Marathon.  He began taking Spanish lessons, has re-established positive relationships with his family and has become a sponsor to others in the 12 step fellowship.

“The Intern Programme has been such a great experience, I regularly recommend it to my peers.  It was much better than I expected, and I got a lot more out of it than I thought I would.  I’m now in paid employment!  Everyone was so nice and helpful.  Thanks so much”.

Note: The life stories shared in these case studies are real. The names and photos have been changed to protect identities.

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