Helping people to help themselves

With many thanks to Henry Smith Foundation for enabling us to run Eight Choices programmes benefiting 84 beneficiaries (aged 18 – 60 years old). between April 2018 – March 2019.

Many thanks also to other trusts part-funding this programme – Garfield Weston, Edwards Gostling Foundation, Santander and Archer Trust.

A support worker from the Job Centre said of her client who attending our recent Thornhill course said. “The transformation has been amazing, he is so much more positive and wants to do more things, he has enrolled onto an IT course which he would never have considered before.”

Relationships built during the course turn into support networks and friendships that last long after the course is finished.

One of the models that we use throughout the course is C.A.R.S.

C – Competence – helping people understand their strengths, skills and how to pursue their goals,
A – Autonomy – overcoming barriers, taking control and setting goals,
R – Relating to others – in a friendly environment through group work and community involvement
S – Self-worth – challenging negative beliefs and developing a healthy mind set.

Read some inspiring examples below.

C – Competences:
Within weeks of the course finishing, Angela has been offered her dream job as a Family Support Worker at a good Care Home.

She says, “The Choices course is brilliant, and you learn to look at things in a different light and become more positive and inspirational. I have learnt more about myself and other people’s reactions and why people say or do what they do.

It has made me more open-minded to think out of the box and how to become more positive than negative. It gives you some tools to promote yourself for CVS and jobs and opens up ideas of things to do. I have realised how many more skills that I have than I thought I had.

I was into sales – selling houses or double glazing but I haven’t worked properly for 14 years. In that time, I have I lost my mum, have had three spine ops, got divorced, been homeless. I was very lost before I came on this course, but I am coming through all that now.

I couldn’t go back full-time as it was 90 hours per week and those sorts of jobs aren’t an option now. I would like to become a support worker.

The trainers are brilliant trainers, very easy going, understanding and fun. If you want to do better and be more positive then I would definitely recommend the course. The best bit has been opening your mind to things and learning to think in a different way.”

A – Autonomy

JP has now been offered a job in security with a number of stores. He says,

“Before I came to the Choices course, I had suffered from agoraphobia for 16 years and wouldn’t go outside. It started when I was 19. I had a donor kebab but got food poisoning from the salad. I was on my own; choking, dizzy and starting to go black. At around that same time, I lost my aunty to a brain haemorrhage, my nan to pneumonia and then two of my best friends died in a car crash.

When we did the ABC theory (activating event, beliefs and consequential behaviours) at the course I realise that my agoraphobia started off with a fear of food, then germs and then it progressed more. it has helped put it into perspective and how it gained momentum.

I was always an outgoing person before then and then I just stayed indoors within four walls as that’s where I felt safe. Played the computer mostly but I’ve also been trying to learn more and get as much information as possible. It was my outlet to the outside world.

Since the course I have made some giant steps. The very first day was hard but the group was great, and we all helped each other. Because of my fear of germs and vomiting, I couldn’t eat when I first came here but on the second week, I had a cup of tea. The third week I had crisps and fourth week a sandwich. The course has been very different and has helped me a lot.

I wanted to train to be a security guard, but the training was in Bristol and I have never left Southampton. Because of the course, I was able to go and secured a job as a security guard at Tesco’s and Boots.

I have been on benefits up to now. but I’ve never liked it and always wanted to earn a living. I am also making plans to do a holiday in the UK. I have always wanted to go to Spain, and I am planning to do that in two years’ time. I’ve never been able to make plans before.

My biggest fear about going on the course was that I would be judged but I never once felt that I was judged. The group has gelled so well. It’s been fun and everyone has helped each other. I was also scared of the group activities but doing them has helped me because it has given me more confidence to talk to other people like when I went to Bristol for the training.

It was really helpful just learning to speak in a group which I hadn’t done before. My parents have seen me from the start and saw how bad I got, and they are extremely happy now. My partner and children have also noticed a huge difference in me. She loves the changes in me and I can get involved more.

I had been stuck before the course and it has really helped to push me along and given me a clear path.”

R – Relating
Since the Central Hall, Southampton Choices course, Elliott has come out of his shell and has got a job as a driver for a plumbing company in Winchester.

He had been suffering from social anxiety and found it difficult to interact with people, spending a lot of time in his room at home playing games. During the course, he recognised his key strength was driving and with the ability to communicate more freely he felt able to apply for interviews.

Post course
‘I’ve got a job! I’m more confident and socialising more now. Hearing other people’s stories helped me realise that I’m not on my own and my life is not that bad in comparison.

My parents have noticed a change, I’m more talkative with others and I’m not using the X-box so much and I’m socialising more.”

Elliot socialises with two other SAFE candidates on a regular basis, playing Dungeons and dragons requiring face to face interaction with others rather than playing on his own.


Since the Thornhill Course in January 2019, Richard has been offered a permanent job at Oasis Down to Earth Farm in Green Lane, Millbrook. Part-time to start with, Richard will be caring for the animals and doing some gardening.

He said, “Until this course, there were things I hadn’t talked about it, not even to my family. We were complete strangers at the beginning and within a day I started talking about it. It made me feel a lot better. It is not good to keep it to yourself and it was good to talk about it.

My confidence is better. I have been talking about some things that I haven’t talked about to other people such as my car accident in 2016. I was riding my bike to work when a car care overtook a van, hit me and sent me flying. I still have whiplash. I had nightmares that first year and wouldn’t get on a bike for a year. I couldn’t cross a road. It affected me mentally, but I forced myself back on a bike and have been cycling since.

I am going to go back to volunteering at the end of March. I like gardening work and working with animals and would like a mixture. Mucking out and cleaning one week and another week it is gardening.

The best bit for me is the manual. Yesterday was Interesting also. I got up and had to present for our group about marketing our product. I had to be confident about what we had to say about it. The throwing the ball exercise was fun.

The course has been very good. First, I have met some nice friends and found it really enjoyable. The group activities are fun also. I have recommended to course to others at the job club. There was a row of us at the job club and 8- 10 of us said how good this course was. I am very happy at the moment.”

Our outcomes remain consistently high across all participants and are detailed below:

AreaAve scores on first day Last dayChange% improvement% people improved
Job search goals12.6417.44.838%84%
Less anxious12.66.32-5.9-35%84%
Less depressed14.58.1-6.2-31%81%
More Confidence11.515.64.1234%81%
More Self Esteem12.617.85.2447%82%

Hard Outcomes:
So far 51% of candidates have gone into employment, training or work experience so far. We anticipate that this figure will rise as we continue to monitor their progress.