Mark Budda, Mike Mcgrory, Kieran Mutch and Mike Duxbury
Mike Duxbury knows all about overcoming barriers. Blind since the age of six, he showed resilience and determination to overcome his disability, graduating from university and going on to carve out a successful career.
But after he was made redundant in 2013, his enthusiasm and natural optimism began to drain away as his world slowly unravelled. Recalling the dark days of unemployment, he says: “It was incredibly depressing. I’d never been out of work before, but here I was, in my forties, having to face up to not having a job, being in debt and fearing I might never work again.”
Initially, Mike, 48, from Greens Norton near Towcester, threw himself into finding work, firing off 500 job applications in a year. “The result was just seven interviews, no job offers but some very interesting excuses for rejecting me,” he says wryly.
“At one interview I was told it would be too dangerous to employ me because the firm was located next to a main road! The sad truth is, many employers couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see beyond my disability.”
Believing he would benefit from specialist support, Mike’s local Jobcentre Plus referred him to Remploy and its lead employment advisor in Northamptonshire, Tina Tanner.
It proved a turning point, as Mike is happy to acknowledge. ”Tina is fantastic because she is so positive. We talked about my blindness during our first meeting but it never came up again after that. She gave me a lot of hope.”
“When I first met Mike, it was clear he had been though a tough time. He was depressed and deeply frustrated at being overlooked for so many jobs,” says Tina. “But I knew it was only a matter of time before his luck changed, because he had skills and abilities that employers look for.”
With Remploy’s support, Mike gradually regained his self-belief and confidence, which had taken such a battering during his time out of work. But his long period of unemployment only came to an end when Tina made an appointment for him to see - a dentist!
“I was interviewed for the role of personal assistant at My Clinique, a dental practice in Northampton,” explains Mike. “Luckily, I got the job and within a week I had been promoted to practice manager.”
Mark Buddah, owner of My Clinique said Mike’s ability shone through during the interview and he had no hesitation offering him a job. “Some organisations are reluctant to take on people with disabilities. But our experience is that having a diverse workforce benefits the business. It’s vital to look beyond disability and focus on ability.”
In addition to his new role, Mike is also spearheading Learn 2 Care, a recently established social enterprise aimed at helping disadvantaged and disabled people in Northamptonshire. The brainchild of fellow My Clinique employee, Mike McGrory (see below), Learn 2 Care has ambitious plans to create many new work opportunities in the area, starting with apprenticeships for budding car mechanics.
Says Mike: “My combined roles are keeping me very busy and I couldn’t be happier. It’s brilliant having a job again. My quality of life has been restored.”
When Kieran Mutch was told he had Asperger’s Syndrome, the diagnosis was more a relief than a shock.
“I was 19 at the time and had struggled badly throughout my time at school and college without knowing why,” explains Kieran who lives in Irchester near Northampton. “Being told I had Asperger’s answered a lot of questions for me.”
A year after the diagnosis, however, Kieran, now 24, lost his job as a store person at a recycling plant. It was the start of four immensely frustrating years of unemployment.
By the time he was referred to Remploy for specialist support with his job searching, Kieran was low in confidence and lacking self-belief.
“As well as my learning disability, I also had severe anxiety which resulted in panic attacks. The symptoms were very frightening,” he recalls.
Remploy provided Kieran with tailored, one-to-one support, including attending courses to help him manage his anxiety. Looking back, he says it was just what he needed. “I was very impressed with Remploy. There was never any question of rushing me into a job, which might have been unsuitable for me. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t going to be set up to fail.”
Now, thanks to Remploy’s support and his own determination, Kieran is back in employment and enjoying life to the full again. Recalling the time when he finally knew his life was back on track, he says: “Remploy told me about a vacancy for a cleaner at a local dental surgery and arranged for me to have an interview there the next day. When I arrived home from the interview I received a phone call telling me I had got the job. I was thrilled, over the moon.”
Tina Tanner, Remploy’s lead employment advisor in Northamptonshire worked with Kieran, helping him to navigate the bumpy road back into employment. “I explained very early on that I would be there for him, to give him the confidence to try something new,” she says.
“I encouraged him to think about the barriers that were holding him back and to carefully consider what type of work he would like to do.”
Kieran’s new role as a clinical cleaner at My Clinique, a dental practice in Northampton, requires him to keep the clinic spotlessly clean and sterilise the dental instruments after every appointment.
He says: “It’s an important job and one I love. The people I work with are friendly and very supportive. There’s no better feeling than having a job. I’m proud to be earning money again. When I was on benefits I felt as if I was a burden.”
Adds Tina: “Even though Kieran is back in work, support is still available from Remploy, if it is needed
“It’s wonderful to see him getting on so well. He has won the respect of his colleagues and his manager recently told me that he is such a good worker he has a job for life if he wants it!”
When Mike McGrory took his young son to the dentist three years ago, he could never have imagined how the appointment would radically change his life and bring him back from the brink of despair.
Mike, 50, from Cold Ashby near Northampton has a degenerative disc disease, and his disability was made dramatically worse when an operation to ease the chronic back condition went horribly wrong.
Since then he has had to rely on a spinal chord stimulator to relieve constant pain and his mobility is severely impaired. But, as Mike explains, that is only half of the story.
“Prior to the operation, I had my own health care business, but afterwards the severity of my disability meant I had to give it up. Within no time I went from having it all - a thriving business, lovely house, comfortable lifestyle - to having almost nothing.”
Unemployed for five years, Mike struggled to see a future - until the day he went with his son to the dentist.
“As luck would have it I got talking to Mark Buddha, owner of My Clinique dental surgery. He invited me to lunch to talk about some business ideas I had at the time and things took off from there.”
Mike grasped an offer to do some voluntary work for My Clinique, and was soon passing on many of the valuable lessons he had learned whilst running his own business.
“It was then that I mentioned an idea I had for creating a social enterprise that would provide opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people,” he says.
Mike’s passion convinced Mark the idea was worth pursuing and with his support the project has blossomed into Learn 2 Care, a fledgling not-for-profit company that is about to provide apprenticeships for budding motor mechanics in the Northampton area, including two Remploy candidates.
“I knew of Remploy because I had taken on some of their candidates when I had my own business,” says Mike. “I had no hesitation in approaching them again because I know they are professional and clear about what they can provide and, indeed, what they expect from an employer. In my experience, Remploy genuinely cares about getting disabled people into work.”
Tina Tanner, Remploy’s lead employment advisor in Northamptonshire says: “Mike has vision and determination. He has worked tirelessly to get his new venture off the ground and it’s been a pleasure to support him.”
Mike, who now has a permanent role at My Clinique as a business development and HR consultant, says his own experience of being out of work has driven him on to help others. “I want Learn 2 Care to be an organisation that champions disadvantaged and disabled people and provides them with sustainable work,” he adds.