The unsung hero who helps disabled people find jobs in Croydon

2018 National Diversity awards & Pride of Britain awards shortlisted nominee Nana Marfo helped one woman who had been unemployed for 10 years to land a job at Tesco in Purley.

A Croydon council worker who helps disabled people find and keep jobs has been nominated for a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain award.

Nana Marfo, 35, who has had his own struggles with employment due to a permanent breathing disorder and loss of sight in one eye, wants to prove disabled workers can become “superstars” in any team with the right support.

Among his proudest successes, he lists helping Nicola Edwards, 31, who he helped land a job at Tesco in Purley after more than 10 years of unemployment and supporting a man with memory loss to keep his job in the civil service.

Nana said: “I believe you can only make change if you are in the community, you cannot make a change from the outside.

“That’s why I want to pave a way for disabled people. I want them to be valued on their own merits and spoken to like they are part of the community.

“It’s very important for people to have jobs as it gives them a voice and autonomy. Besides, money makes the world go round. Everyone wants to be able to go into a shop and buy what they want.

“It also gives society a different view. It shows that disabled people are capable and willing, we want to contribute to society and not just claim benefits. We just need to be given a chance.”

While recognising that there is “a mountain to climb” when it comes to improving awareness and education, Nana believes that employers are slowly starting to come round.

“We have started a journey and Croydon Council have taken a massive leap to bring change into society and I hope this initiative rolls out over England,” he said.

“Croydon Council are very diverse and always trying to get others locally on board. I have come across employers who are a bit apprehensive before but with a little bit of education it’s not a problem.

“Employers often think about costs and ask how is this going to be a positive for their organisation but I think they need to scale back and look at the person and everything will fall into place.”

He is a huge advocate for Appa me LTD, a company that supplies in-work support for disabled people and is funded entirely through Access to Work at no cost to the employer.

One of his recent success stories, Nicola, is someone who has flourished thanks to the services it provides in her new job at Tesco in Purley.

He said: “I met Nicola in February and at the time the rejections of society and misunderstandings of people did make her feel down, which is natural. Today, though, she is all smiles.”

Having struggled at previous jobs due to her “emotionally unstable personality disorder”, which she said “distorts her thinking” and means she is “easily confused”, Nicola had been out of work for more than 10 years.

She said: “Before I worked in a shop where I did not feel valued and I was overwhelmed. I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could talk to and I had no support so when things got too much I had to deal with that on my own.

“I had a lot of issues with managers who were not treating me like they were treating other people, for instance by talking down to me and things like that.

“I wanted to find a job I could cope with to build my confidence and gain skills and because I had had enough of having to rely on benefits.

“In the end, I didn’t actually look at too many jobs, this was one of the first applications I did. I never would have been able to find it without Nana’s help, though, he supported me throughout every part of the process.

“When I initially did an application I misunderstood some questions so my application was rejected straight away by the computer but Nana helped me understand what they actually meant. He also was there in the interview with me to make sure everything was explained properly.

“I was overjoyed when I heard I had the job. Because I’ve not had one for over 10 years, I didn’t think I’d be able to find employment or anything like that.”

Nicola has been in her new temporary job for a few weeks and says it has given her more confidence and made her feel useful. She hopes to eventually be made a permanent member of staff at the Purley store.

She said: “I’m going out of my house more which before I didn’t because I couldn’t afford to. I’m interacting with people and more involved in the community, I’m making a lot of new friends.

“When I go into work people say hello and make me feel really welcome, they’re all really friendly.

“My best friend, who is like family to me, was really pleased and keeps telling me how proud he is of me.

“I find the work manageable and something I’m able to cope with, thanks to the support I’ve had during the first few weeks to help me get my head round it.”

In the long-term she hopes to get into screenwriting and Nana is helping her look into work experience at the BBC to assist in applying to university.

Nana himself is no stranger to struggling at work and left the civil service in April after an at times difficult 10-year career.

He said: “I first got involved in employment support work through my own personal struggles. In the past I have too had to overcome managers not understanding and assuming I was lazy or did not want to do my job. It was like knocking my head against a brick wall.

“I wanted to give back to the community and work in a field where I could inspire and empower people with disabilities. One of my biggest successes is helping a man with problems relating to memory secure a permanent position in the civil service.

“We had to explain his barriers because he could do the job but he would need in work support to sustain the role. It took about six months and a lot of passing the buck but with the support he needs he is now a superstar in the team.”

Councillor Alison Butler said: “Nana’s drive and positivity is inspirational, and he brings a very personal approach to help Croydon people with disabilities overcome barriers to get the fulfilling job they want.

“We all wish him the very best with this award nomination.”

Nana has been nominated for next year’s Pride Of Britain awards.

The supported employment team in the council’s Gateway division, of which Nana is a part, recently won an innovation award from BASE Practitioners for boosting disabled job seekers’ prospects.

 

Source – Croydon Advertiser . co . uk

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