A County Durham mum has spoken of her growing confidence thanks to the support she has received to take steps towards employment.
Samantha Howe is taking part in the L!NKCD project, a partnership programme delivered by Durham County Council’s Employability Durham and housing solutions team, alongside Karbon Homes, Livin’, Changing Lives, Bernicia and Northern Learning Trust.
The £3.33 million employment programme, which is part funded through the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-20 European Structural Investment Funds Growth programme in England, gives support to residents over the age of 18 who have concerns stopping them looking for work.
It involves the council’s employability team offering one-to-one tailored support to residents, aiming to give people the confidence to continue their journeys towards employment and gain skills they can re-use later in life.
Samantha approached the team during the winter lockdown, having not worked for ten years. With a young son in nursery, the 35-year-old was unable to apply for jobs and needed further training to fulfil her goal of being a carer.
Although she couldn’t take part in face-to-face appointments during the pandemic, a mentor regularly supported her over the telephone and distance learning was identified as the best route for Samantha, allowing her to study around childcare commitments.
Samantha said: “I was struggling to look for work while caring for my son at the same time. As soon as I started working with my mentor, Sophie, she helped to make everything easier to manage. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything that I needed to do, we planned a number of goals that I would be able to achieve in the space of three to six months. That included exploring childcare options, access to learning and completing the training I needed.”
Samantha was offered a refurbished laptop to complete her training and she was referred to the council’s Care Academy to gain qualifications and links to local employers.
“I have had so much moral support to help me complete my initial training through home-based learning during the lockdown,” explains Samantha. “I have now achieved qualifications in dementia awareness, safeguarding, how to use PPE and fire safety, to name just a few, and I feel a lot more confident in looking for jobs which fit around my childcare needs.”
Samantha is now completing further training to be able to work with end-of-life patients and will start applying for jobs next month, when her son is back in nursery.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “I am delighted that Samantha is feeling more confident about applying for jobs. She has worked so hard to gain additional skills and qualifications whilst caring for her son, and doing so during an already challenging time.
“The L!NKCD project is one of many employability programmes that we have to support people into work and training so I would encourage people who are anxious about looking for work, or those who might not feel ready to do that, to get in touch with us. Whether you have young children, caring responsibilities or health conditions, we can help you overcome any barrier to training, education and employment. We are here to help so please access that support.”
Further information on the L!NKCD programme and other employability programmes can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/employability
Residents can also email email@example.com or call 03000 262009.