In their words
Kenneth is a young man with learning disabilities – autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Kenneth lived with his adoptive parents and attended school in England until his family moved to Northern Ireland to pursue better progression opportunities for him.
Kenneth finds it extremely difficult to make sense of the world around him. His ability to communicate was diminished due to his lack of confidence, self-esteem and being bullied at school. He began a course in catering in a further educational college and, while the course was developed for those requiring extra support, he found the whole experience “challenging, upsetting and frustrating”.
Kenneth’s parents contacted BCM (Belfast Central Mission) after he began to slip away from leading any kind of ordinary life. It was here that he was fortunate enough to meet Sharon, his support worker. Sharon had previously supported one of our past trainees and knew about the support that Dr B’s Kitchen provided.
Kenneth was referred to Dr B’s Kitchen and undertook a work sampling period. He preferred what Dr B’s could offer him over his current training and, while the transition was stressful, his parents and Sharon supported him and he began a full-time training place in the summer of 2015.
Kenneth found that the practical, hands-on method at Dr B’s suited his learning style, having previously struggled with the academic classroom setting at college. This new style of learning was challenging and included practical demonstrations, discussion and doing the job in a supported work environment. By working on his Personal Development Plans, it was agreed to take his training in the direction of Kitchen Portering.
Kenneth found that this role suited him – he received lots of praise for his great work, and his confidence and self-esteem increased. He gained enough experience to study Essential Skills, which he had initially avoided due to not feeling confident or relaxed in a classroom setting.
Within a year, Kenneth had achieved EL1 in both English and Maths while passing both Food Safety and Health & Safety at level 2. He also achieved some units toward NVQ level 2 Diploma in Hospitality.
Staff continued to work closely with Kenneth to further build his confidence and self-esteem, addressing a range of areas including personal safety, employability skills and developing coping strategies to keep his anxiety levels down.
Kenneth soon began a work placement at The Clayton Hotel, Belfast. Dr B’s Employment Support Workers worked closely with the identified staff mentor to develop tasks that he was comfortable with. As tasks were added, a job was created for him and he quickly became a valued member of the team, enjoying his work and making friends.
Within 13 months of joining Dr B’s, Kenneth was offered full-time employment. Despite struggling with further education and negative past experiences, he was now entering paid employment with relevant qualifications to help him progress in his chosen career path. Outside of Dr B’s, Kenneth was also working closely with his support worker from BCM.
Kenneth is now living independently, with minimal support and regular contact with his adoptive parents. He said: “So much good things have happened in my life. I am really happy and enjoying life.”
When asked if he could have achieved all this without Dr B’s Kitchen, Kenneth replied, “Never! Dr B’s was the best thing to ever happen [in] my life – I have everything I ever wanted and so much more. I am so proud of myself.”
He added: “The Clayton Hotel is the best place to work. I love working here; I like the staff and work hard. I will always be grateful to Dr B’s for all they did for me. I now have a fantastic life thanks to their support.”
In their words - from employers
Throughout the work placement, I found Dr B’s true to their word in supporting me as an employer alongside the trainee. This very honest and focussed approach enabled us to address the real issues faced by the trainee and left me with the confidence to offer the young person employment. Head Chef, Greenmount College
My staff had no experience of people with learning disabilities. Lots of reassurance and support to myself and my staff from Dr B’s at the initial stage of the placement was invaluable in making a success of the placement where everybody benefited. Restaurant owner, Bangor