Playing her part by caring for the vulnerable

Zoe Spence has come through her own personal struggle to rebuild her life and now she is urging her community to play their part in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-year-old Zoe from Belfast has been retraining to resume her career working in the care sector. She was supported in her search for employment after being referred to the Work and Wellbeing programme in Northern Ireland which is delivered by Ingeus.

“When my daughter is older, I want her to be proud of me,” explained Zoe. “I want my child to understand that her mother tried to help people and do her bit when we were all struggling to live with the restrictions and survive the pandemic.”

THE WAY FORWARD

The Work and Wellbeing programme runs across Belfast, Lisburn, Bangor and Newtownards. It is financed by the Department for Communities’ Steps 2 Success programme and offers one-to-one employability support to long term unemployed jobseekers and people with health conditions.

Zoe was referred to the employment support programme as she had not worked for four years while she took time off to look after her daughter. Her employment advisor, Laura Galway, helped Zoe to update her CV and highlighted her previous experience and qualifications gained in the social care sector. She also attended mock interview sessions and she was referred to a counsellor to improve her confidence and mental wellbeing.

Laura said: “I was able to link Zoe with our employer account manager who highlighted a number of suitable vacancies. Her interview went well and she was offered a position working as a care worker with a leading home care agency. We also organised an Enhanced Access NI check, a requirement for anyone who wants to work with vulnerable people.”

AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY

“I was feeling so nervous about returning to work,” revealed Zoe. “Now I want people to read my story and know that I have experienced some difficult times. When I was 13, both my father and grandmother died within 11 weeks of each other. After that shock, I didn’t seem to bother that much about my education and I eventually left school with nothing.

“When I was younger I drifted into various jobs and then I decided that I wanted to train and work in the care sector. I had to do something that was meaningful. I gained the necessary qualifications and I enjoyed my job in a care home, but I stopped working when my baby was born.

“Now I can’t wait to get started. I am being retrained concerning how we manage individual clients in their own homes when we are wearing personal protective equipment to stop any COVID-19 infection. Elderly people are feeling so vulnerable at the moment and care workers have such an important role to play to reassure clients that we can protect and look after them.”