An 'inspiring' man with learning difficulties has found work for the first time in nearly 30 years, thanks to the support of a local community initiative.
Gary, now 50, from Redditch, plucked up the courage to apply for a work placement at Starlight Café, part of the Starlight Centre in Charford, Bromsgrove.
His placement has been extended into the autumn and he is hoping for a permanent position helping out at the café, where he cleans and tidies, greets customers and serves food and drinks.
"It is my first job since 1989," said Gary. "I used to work in a garden centre but found it difficult and couldn't do it. But I really like it here."
Darran Moore, café manager, said Gary was a real asset to the organisation.
"Gary first came along to the craft group we run here, and asked if he could have a job. We worked together with him and his support worker from Worcestershire County Council and he started a voluntary position with us one day a week.
"He has really grown in confidence in the weeks since joining us."
The centre and café is owned and managed by Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT).
In four years, the centre has provided placements for around 70 men and women, many of whom have gone on to permanent full and part time jobs. The organisation works closely with Worcestershire County Council's Adult Services team to identify suitable participants – but on this occasion Gary took it upon himself to create the opening.
BDHT director Graham Anderson said he was delighted the organisation supported people in their quest for meaningful work.
"Gary told us he hadn't worked since 1989. This opportunity is improving his skills and confidence, and he is proud of what he is achieving. We believe that is worth investing in."
Councillor Adrian Hardman, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said the inspiring example of Gary's placement demonstrated, on an individual level, the changing face of Adult Social Care.
"People tell us all the time that they want to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. There has previously been a tendency in Social Care to do things for people and to them, which is not always in the best interest of their long term wellbeing.
"For many people, what they most need is guidance and support to tap into their own strengths and seek out the people, resources and services in their community which can help them gain or maintain independence for as long as possible. Gary's story is a perfect example of that philosophy in action."
You can view a short video telling Gary's story here: https://youtu.be/tCKNjrUQJMI