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Samantha Mullaney, Navigator Developer for the Brandon Trust, shares her story of how she helped one of her individuals on the GEM Project.

“After my initial meeting with J it was apparent that there were lots of complex emotional needs as well as a learning disability.

J was capable of many things in the past but slowly had lost a lot of those skills due to losing confidence in herself and by socially excluding herself from the community. This put increasing pressure on the family as J would seek constant reassurance and the adult attention she was lacking.

Between myself and her social worker we devised a plan and distributed what J needed support with between us. J also had expressed her wishes of moving out of the family home into supported living.

J started working with the enablement team and I started to support J in the community, re introducing her to the drop in service that she used to access independently and supporting her going to bowling and community social clubs.

I had to give her full support with this, as it soon became apparent how little J understood due to her being on the autistic spectrum and how disruptive she became when she didn’t understand; this was probably a coping mechanism that she uses to cover up her lack of understanding.

As I worked closely with J, I became aware of her attention seeking behaviour and her constant need for reassurance due to her lack of confidence.

Slowly we started to make progress, I was spending a lot of time with J, working on her skills and developing them further.

J loved to be helpful, so I got her making the refreshments for a local community group and joining in the activities. After a while, we applied to a local charity shop to offer her time to some volunteering. They were keen to offer J some hours and I offered to support J in the first instance. As soon as J was feeling confident and worked under her own initiative I would slowly withdraw my input. J very quickly settled in and didn’t need much of my support, as long as she knew I was nearby, this gave her the confidence to work independently.

During this time, her social worker had also found some potential supported living placements. I supported J in her assessment interviews with her social worker and in her mental capacity meeting.

Over time, as her confidence grew in her staff team and her new life she became a lot more involved with the community, spending times with friends and her volunteer roles. She finally felt confident and had the reassurance she needed from all involved that she was doing just fine.

This led to her biggest achievement to date. She finally felt confident enough to retake her driving test and she passed!!

J really has now found her place in her community and life and I couldn’t be prouder of J and how far J has come since our first meeting. What is also heart warming about this journey is J’s parents are now Mum and Dad and not J’s ‘carers’.

I would like to thank J for being my first participant on the GEM project and allowing me to be part of her amazing journey.”

Our Navigator Developer shares their experience of the GEM Journey

by Nikki Davies

Last week the GEM Project celebrated it’s one year anniversary celebration. Gloucestershire Gateway Trust are delighted to be managing this project, so took this opportunity to reflect and celebrate the success of this programme to date.

Since the launch of this project, GEM has engaged with over 500 individuals, supporting these people to help them move closer towards or into employment opportunities.

The event to mark this special occasion, was held at the Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham, filled with dignitaries, partners, businesses and individuals enrolled on the project.

It was designed to showcase the project’s achievements to date, as well as the results of the Monitoring and Evaluation team from the first year, outcomes of the project and an insight to the Participants Council, which has formed as part of this project.

The programme has helped move 108 people into job searching, 173 into further education or training, 58 individuals to gain a qualification and 81 people into employment or self-employment.

High Sheriff Andrew Tabor also took to the stage to present several awards to some of GEM’s Exemplar Employers; organisations who have gone the extra mile to support our GEM’s and provided an opportunity to help them move closer towards employment. These included Glevum Security, Waitrose, Specsavers and Stroud District Furniture Bank.

The event really showed that Gloucestershire has so much to be proud of and the dedication that all the partners, Navigator Developers and GEM team have shown to make the first year of the project such a success. A massive thank you to everyone who has supported this unique project and the GEM team look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

The GEM Project is jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund.

GEM celebrates it’s one-year anniversary

by Nikki Davies

Specsavers store on Cheltenham High Street have recently employed three GEM participants.

After hearing about the GEM Project through a partner organisation, Specsavers were keen to be involved in the programme, to help individuals signed up to the project back into employment.

The Lab Technician role, which Specsavers were looking to recruit for, was open specifically to GEM individuals, and after successfully completing the company’s interview process, three GEM participants landed the role.

They are involved in the final quality control check for the company, helping to clean the glasses before these are picked up by their customers.

The GEM Project would like to thank all the staff at Specsavers who have helped welcome these GEM participants into employment. It’s made a real difference to all of their lives and this would not have been possible without the support from Specsavers.

Specsavers recruit three of our GEM's

by Nikki Davies

The GEM Project has now launched its new GEM Exemplar Employer Initiative, awarding Stratstone Land Rover in Cheltenham the first of these accolades.

A GEM Exemplar Employer is an organisation that believes every person should have an opportunity to engage in meaningful work and goes the extra mile by providing an opportunity for people who are finding it difficult to enter or re-enter the world of work. This GEM Exemplar Employer award recognises an organisation’s commitment to the value of providing effective opportunities.

Tony Solomon, Opportunity Hunter for the GEM Project comments; “This is definitely an exciting time for the GEM Project; we are really keen for organisations to lead by example and be a part of something great in building a better community and business environment in Gloucestershire.

The Exemplar Employer Initiative creates the opportunity for employers to access a significant pool of talent which can ultimately improve business performance and bottom line results.

It’s really straightforward for businesses to be a part of this scheme, by simply providing an opportunity to one of our GEM individuals, anything from work experience to full or part time employment.”

Recently, one of the GEM Project’s individuals undertook a placement at Stratstone Land Rover in Cheltenham, supporting the Sales Executives with the photography required for each vehicle.

Stuart Curtis, Sales Manager at Stratstone Land Rover Cheltenham, comments; “Since Alex has been working with us, productivity has significantly increased, which has resulted in a higher number of vehicle sales and we’re now looking at offering him a full time position.

Without a doubt, I would recommend the GEM Project to any organisation. The entire process has been extremely smooth running, there has been brilliant communication with Reg Cobb, Alex’s Navigator Developer from Gloucestershire Deaf Association, and it’s enabled us to tap into a talented work force that we were previously unaware of, creating a solution which supports and suits both parties.

I feel we have built a great partnership and I’m really excited to see where this will lead moving forward.”

For more information about the project and Exemplar Employer Initiative, please contact Tony Solomon on 07387 100970 or

Our GEM Exemplar Employer Initiative has now launched

by Nikki Davies

Recently six GEM participants took part in a morning of mock interviews at the Waitrose store in Cheltenham.

The GEM Project had participants from a range of organisations, including the Stroud Valleys Project, National Star College, Open House, Gloucestershire Deaf Association and GARAS.

The morning mirrored the usual JLP interview process, with an application form being submitted in advance and then an individual interview as well as a group task. The activities were made as realistic as possible and, although there were no actual jobs available, all of the individuals reported that they found it to be an extremely useful process, with each person taking away something beneficial from the morning.

The GEM Opportunity Hunters were then able to provide detailed feedback to each Navigator Developer, so that they knew what they needed to work on with their individual moving forward, to enable them to make an even better impression in the future. This should now stand them in good stead when they have a “real” interview.

The GEM Team would like to thank Richard Martin, Partner Co-Ordination Manager at Waitrose, for his time, energy and enthusiasm in running the event and he has agreed to repeat the process in the Autumn. We will be announcing dates shortly, so if you think you would benefit from this opportunity and would like some extra support, contact the GEM team now to see if you’re eligible for the GEM Project.

Waitrose supports our GEM's with their interview techniques

by Nikki Davies

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