Work4ME research, transcription and proofreading services

Our research, transcription and proofreading services are thriving and have grown from a one-woman micro-business to now providing work for three members of Work4ME.

Typist typing on a laptop keyboard with pen and paper in shot

Helen Rice started the service in 2012 as a way of working flexibly from home and utilising her academic background. She began by providing transcription services for independent researchers at Stirling University and undertaking academic research projects. Her services also include data analysis, facilitating focus groups and conducting one-on-one interviews. Her client base grew quickly and she was able to expand the service by bringing in Holly Scott and Gail Richardson who work independently but collaborate on larger projects.

Having varied professional backgrounds, the three have a strong foundation in academic and business writing requirements and have undertaken projects from Heriot-Watt, Stirling, Birmingham and Kingston Universities as well as Glasgow School of Art. Charities such as Scottish Autism, Pain Concern and a number of social enterprises and consultancies such as Abianda in London regularly make use of their services.

Clients can share documents, audio files and/or video recordings via a secure, file-drop service and receive a well-constructed and edited transcript by electronic mail in return. The Work4ME team work closely with clients to ensure that transcripts are tailored to their exact requirements.

The service is seamless, simple and always delivered by agreed deadlines.

You can contact Shona Sinclair for more details via shona.sinclair@work-4-me.co.uk.

Barriers to Engagement in Volunteering

Following the programme to help people explore the volunteering landscape, we wanted to understand the lack of uptake as we had only been able to recruit five participants, where we had intended to recruit twelve. So we decided to explore the possible reasons through action led research.

We had anticipated this project would be more challenging than our previous projects but we came across some real and significant barriers to people engaging with the project. We still felt that volunteering is a valuable route towards work for people living with long term conditions, however, as there are possibly challenges for people doing this, we have sought to explore these in more detail with a view to improving the pilot scheme for future projects.

Challenges faced by volunteers with long term conditions

The challenges highlighted by the research are:

  • The fluctuating nature of long term conditions making it difficult to commit to regular activity.
  • The difficulty in managing communications around expectations, fluctuations and reasonable adjustments.
  • The financial impact that taking up a volunteer position might have.
  • The lack or perceived lack of flexible volunteer opportunities.
  • Increased expectations/competition for volunteer roles.

Despite this, there was a belief shown that volunteering can be a valuable route toward work for those living with long term conditions, despite the barriers, though clearly it is not suitable for everyone. For some volunteering is also seen as a means to continued professional development, a healthy life balance and progression towards wellness by using it as a means to continue building themselves up.

The future for Volunteering into Work programmes

The research has also helped us understand areas we could focus on in future programmes around Volunteering into Work such as:

  • Advice and support on how to seek out appropriate opportunities
  • Role play activities on how to communicate about your condition, your rights and managing role providers’ expectations i.e. how and when to engage in those uncomfortable and challenging conversations
  • Guest speaker success stories – how they did what they did
  • Advice on how your benefits might be affected and the right questions to ask the DWP

Read more about the Volunteering into Work – Barriers To Engagement Research (PDF)

Work4ME Exploring Volunteering Project Evaluation

The Exploring Volunteering Project

Work4ME has now reported on its recent project, “Exploring Volunteering”, which was funded by the Health and Social Care Alliance.

The aim of our project was to deliver a mentoring programme for volunteers, developing an approach that combines emotional and practical support for those ready to consider volunteering in their community.  We wanted to recruit people with long term conditions particularly affected by fatiguing, fluctuating and relapsing symptoms.  We wanted to provide “facilitated groups” which would offer the opportunity for people to build their self-management skills, share with others their journey and support them go about finding volunteer opportunities.

We wanted to use our members who are experienced professional facilitators, mentors and have experience of volunteer support.  They all had lived experience of being in this position as volunteers themselves. We wanted to use the experience we have built to date of providing less structured support to members who are in this transition period and whom we’ve not been able to engage some of the other programmes that Work4ME has offered so far.

Project Feedback

Some feedback from the project included the following-

  • “I found the mentoring side of things positive.  I have also become involved in a project via my mentor, and hope that this improves my confidence and opportunities. Having my mentor to chat with was great for me.  I would consider joining another project related to this, especially with a mentor to support me”.
  • “Having had a mentor before for other things, this has shown me that having someone in that role is key to me making changes in my life.  This is more important due to my cognitive difficulties so I am thinking how I may be able to arrange something like this in the future and the project has helped me think about this.  My confidence in my skills has increased abut also I’ve been able to make reality checks on my stamina etc.”
  • “The assistance of my mentor was invaluable in helping me to investigate the projects (volunteering opportunities), sign up for them and carry them out.  Having the support and structure of a mentor has been reassuring and has given me confidence to pursue things I might now have done otherwise.  The project has been of great value to me personally”.
  • “It’s made me think about following the lived experience of others to become self-employed”.

Project Reports

Full details for the project are attached here.

Download the Exploring Volunteering evaluation report (PDF, 1MB):

Download the Exploring Volunteering project appendices (PDF, 1,1MB)

We need a person centred approach to employability support

The Scottish Government’s paper requesting consultation and discussion around employability, labour and workplace policy has provided us with an opportunity to speak up on these issues. In light of further devolved powers, the potential for progressive change has never been more realisable. At Work4ME, we have submitted our learning with other concerned enterprises and put forward the facts as we know them.

The document suggests that the Scottish Government may have an enlightened approach to dealing with workplace issues for people with long term conditions. Of particular concern to Work4ME members are those people who are currently receiving benefits but who want to work in some small capacity. Due to the nature of their condition, their capacity for work fluctuates and, as such, leaves them having to make a fixed decision – either for or against work – with no recourse to moving back and forth as their condition dictates. This consultation offers hope that there may indeed be a more inclusive, flexible and person centred approach to helping people in these circumstances get into or stay in paid work.

Designing a welfare system that helps people focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t do would go a long way toward getting the best out of the individual, benefitting the wider society and enhancing social cohesion. We would like to see a system that is based on the needs of the user and has the ability to respond to their shifting requirements. We are after all, only human.

In Steve Hilton’s recently published book, “More Human – Designing a world where people come first”, he talks about how governments and organisations ought to create customer and social policies that are designed in human scale and that can relate to the individual, the person, the human. As humans we need to live in an environment and in a community that understands, reacts and responds to our needs. When an environment is designed in human scale, with us at the centre, we thrive: if the design is not person centered we become overwhelmed and withdrawn. We become outsiders, do not engage, contribute or thrive.

In many ways the current benefit system alienates people who are sick by curtailing their input into society and threatening to withdraw vital support if they get better – even a little better. This all or nothing, boom or bust approach is cruel and does not address the low-grade, fluctuating nature of many conditions. It breeds a culture of fear and distrust in which people become timid and risk averse. If the system encouraged bravery and stretch while still providing a clear cut safety net, it could help many people become more well, stay well for longer and operate at a level of capability that could be maintained for long periods. Not everyone will strive for this, but those that can would.

In the three years that Work4ME has been in operation we have not met a single individual that does not want to work in order to better their situation, develop their skills and improve their self esteem. The risk though is in losing the support we need to function at all. There are solutions but finding them means working with each person as an individual to carve out a route through the personal and environmental battlefields in order to find a progression that suits them and a solution that is sustainable. We need to come to terms with the fact that every solution, every win-win, every successful end game is person centered.

As one of many groups and organisations working to improve peoples lives around employability we are well placed to advise on research and policy. Through our peer support programmes we have tapped into a well of people hoping to be able to self manage their conditions and get back onto the horse, be it in a part-time, freelance or self-employed capacity, the drive is there but the support and reassurance is vague and tricky. Let’s hope that through this engagement with the policy makers and system designers we can ensure that hope itself is something we can craft together to effect enlightened, human scale policies that support one another to thrive. The alternative is unsustainable.

Sonia LastSonia Last

Member of the Work4ME Co operative

Work4ME at Everyday Self Employment Symposium

Work4ME was invited to present at the recent City University London, Leeds University and University of Leicester: Everyday Self Employment Symposium. This one day symposium, which took place on 30th October 2015, explored sociological debates on self employment.

The presentation covered:

  • the history of Work4ME
  • its structure as a social enterprise co-operative company
  • the route that members take to get into self employment
  • our online support hub The Base
  • income streams
  • an example of a successful business
  • quotes from members about how Work4ME has helped them.

Please view the Work4ME Presentation here (PDF).