Latest statistics published in March 2016* show that 503,000 people across the country have been helped into sustained employment by the employment support scheme, the Work Programme, since it began in 2011.

This support is delivered by hundreds of organisations across the nation, including Interserve Learning & Employment delivering the Work Programme in West Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

Interserve Learning & Employment works with jobseekers and local employers, helping people move towards and into work. The organisation has years of experience providing the support and expertise people need to find the right job, no matter what their personal circumstances are.

One of these people was Mark. Talking to Interserve recently, this is what he had to say about his experience:

How do you feel now compared to when you first started the Work Programme?

I feel great. I still have my bad days but now I know how to manage them. I feel my purpose has been realised; to help others to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel using my own experiences as relatable examples. Attending charity meetings has helped me with my condition because it has given me a sense of purpose. An example of this is when I would organise charitable events with my Work Programme team in aid of the local Prince of Wales Hospice.

What are you doing now?

I have just completed a training programme to help others, the Expert Patient Programme (EPP), and gained a certificate for this as part of my time on the Work Programme. I feel that EPP has benefited me so much and it has helped me to manage my condition, which is something I didn’t feel I would ever achieve and now it’s helping me to tutor others.

What would you say to someone at the beginning of their experience on the Work Programme with similar health conditions?

I would say to take part in EPP, to talk to the team at Interserve Pontefract and to get involved with Richmond Fellowship support sessions. These are the things that have helped me to be the person I am now. The Work Programme helps people to get back into the community, into society and, unbelievable to me when I first started, back into employment.

My Job Coach inspired me; she was always showcasing how well I was doing and telling me that I should feel proud of my achievements, encouraging me to push myself out of my comfort zone which has lead me to where I am now. I want to inspire others in the same way and if I can help just one person feel better and learn how to manage their health, I will have achieved something far greater than I would ever have imagined. I am now learning about Guided Imagery, which is another form of therapy which helps me to support my daughter too when she has panic attacks.

For personal reasons, Mark would like to remain anonymous and therefore his real name is not available. However his comments and story are a true reflection of a real experience on the Work Programme and how it positively changes people’s lives.