Real-life stories

Louise Whittaker – Administration Assistant

Employee Louise Whittaker
Job Administration Assistant
Sector Education and training
Company Direct Training Ltd
People don’t realise how difficult it is to get back if you’ve been down at the bottom. It takes a lot of effort. If it’s a physical disability people often see it but they can’t see a mental disability – but it’s just as important for people to get back into work.

As a former teacher, Louise Whittaker enjoys working in a training company: “I do like the educational environment, and the people contact is great.”

Louise’s job at Direct Training in Bradford involves a lot of paperwork as well as some reception duties and meeting and greeting. She’s experienced stress and recurrent depression over the years, so the job offers about the right level of challenge for her at the moment: “There are plenty of chances to be involved and help people out, but not so much pressure as being in the classroom.”

Louise was on the ‘Horizons’ course at Direct Training, arranged through Jobcentre Plus, when the vacancy for her role came up and she decided to apply.

Employer's story

Direct Training is a family-run company with 37 staff, providing training in areas such as basic skills and customer care. Clients include a major bank along with Jobcentre Plus and other agencies.

Les Adams, Quality and Development Manager, says that everybody gets a fair play when it comes to working at Direct Training. “It just happened. The fact that Louise was on the Horizons course meant she was on incapacity benefit, but we don’t look at that as a barrier. We had a position to fit her.”

Flexible attitude

Direct Training have not had to make any major adjustments for Louise, aside from changing her working hours so she can leave earlier to avoid the rush hour and make her journey home less stressful, which the company is happy to agree to.

Les uses his own disability as an example of the company’s flexible attitude: “I’m dyslexic, and I’m a top banana in the company. I can’t spell for toffee but I’ve learnt all these support mechanisms.” Because quality is important to the company, Les has access to proofreaders in each of Direct Training’s centres. “When it comes to confidential company business the MD acts as my proof reader. The whole issue of my disability is just thought of as the norm and a regular process within the company.”

Message to other employers

“Disabled people are just as good as anyone else - sometimes better, because they want to show what they can do, they’re determined to achieve.”

Les Adams, Quality and Development Manager, Direct Training.

Employee's story

Louise started her career in banking before going back to college to do a teaching qualification. In January 2007, Louise took on three part-time jobs – two teaching posts and one admin role: “I thought that one way of handling the problems I’d had in the past was not to work full time. I liked them all but I had to keep switching heads - switching from one thing to another to another to another. I ended up getting quite stressed and poorly again.” By April she had to stop working.

When Louise did try to find an alternative role, her qualifications and experience made her seem a poor match for many of the posts. She describes “jumping through all the necessary hoops and second interviews only to be told that I was overqualified. But surely I wouldn’t have gone for it unless I was interested.”

Improved self-worth

Although she can find interviews difficult, Louise’s application for the vacancy at Direct Training was successful and she was offered the job. “I was just asked to pop in and have a chat. I think if you’re liable to get a bit stressed about things it’s helpful if you haven’t got time to get stressed. It was quite informal really and OK.”

Getting back to work has made a massive difference to Louise. “Before, I was just kind of existing financially. It’s silly things like being able to buy people Christmas presents.” But what’s even more important, says Louise, is that having a job has lifted her spirits and done wonders for her sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

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Louise Whittaker

Employer - Les Adams

Louise, at her desk working

Employer Les Adams talking