Katie Fraser, from Hertfordshire PASS, tells Disability Horizons how they work to help disabled people get into employment and live independently.
Hi, I’m Katie Fraser and I’m a Work Experience Co-ordinator for a charity in Stevenage, Hertfordshire called Hertfordshire PASS. It is a user-driven charity that aims to enable disabled people to live independently by helping them get into employment as well as assisting them in being effective employers of their own care staff.
We have two main projects: WorkABILITY and EmployerABILITY. WorkABILITY helps young disabled people to become more attractive to an employer gaining work experience and doing apprenticeships. We are currently in the process of setting up a user-driven Work Club, which will involve inviting visitors to share their experiences of work, and also complete work preparation activities, such as writing CVs, filing in forms, etc.
During July and August we also run a summer work scheme called Summer Job Forum, which I organise. This provides users with a greater understanding of the reality of work. Although we use creative mediums, such as theatre, dance and singing, to bring in the element of fun!
Although we have run this summer session before, but we thought merging the Work Club and Summer Job Forum together would offer users a more rounded experience.
While WorkABILITY helps young disabled people aged 16 to 25 to be employed, the EmployerABILITY side of things, helps them to be an effective employer of their own care staff. We encourage users to give advice and support to other users using their own experiences. This helps others in knowing what to expect when employing Personal Assistants, from filling in paperwork to managing their time. Two of my colleagues, who currently employ their own assistants, are teaching our young apprentices, who in turn have apprentice PAs, so that everyone involved can learn how to help support each other in the best way possible.
The unique way we do this is learning by experiences, and it is our user-driven ethos that sets us apart from other disability organisations that may also help disabled people in and around Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas.
I really enjoy my job and the satisfaction of helping other people. I find the new challenges, that every day brings, a positive thing as it really helps to open my eyes to the experiences of those around me and encourage me to work harder for our users. There is a lot of hard work, but we all try and help each other.
I love organising the summer event and finding new visitors who I believe can learn a lot from the sessions. I am most proud of the work we recently showcased in the User Driven book 2, something that we give out to all our users. I also am proud when I have completed a massive piece of work and can see the end result having a positive effect. This is what drives me in my job.
When I am looking for encouragement in my job, though, I look to the inspiration of others who have achieved so much in spite of any disability, to those who have a unique way of keeping positive. Actor Mat Fraser is one such person. When he visited the office in August 2009 he discussed how he believes it’s important to smash down barriers, something he certainly has done. This phrase stuck with me, and whenever a problem arises I do persevere until I get the result that I need.
Mike Adams, the chief executive of Essex Coalition of Disabled People (E.C.D.P), also inspires me. When I was attending their LeadingABILITY course to learn about being a disabled leader in early 2010, it was his session that I most enjoyed. It taught me how to effectively help people by becoming a better leader and fully representing an organisation. But most importantly I was reminded that confidence in yourself and drawing on the skills and advice of others is what helps you to be effective in the workplace and at home.
By Katie Fraser