Catherine Eadie talks about how Work 4 ME learned from being funded through the Self Management IMPACT Fund for two projects.
Work4Me is a consortium cooperative championing the cause for self employment for people living with long term conditions.
Work4Me members comprise professional people from diverse industries who have come together to find a solution to their work/life balance.
Work4Me offer a range of services, provided flexibly.
Work4Me knew from their own experience and through regular meetings as a group, that the traditional ‘workplace’ may not be the solution to coming off benefits for people living with M.E and other long term conditions. They wondered if a mix of volunteering and coaching would be a good route to support people to understand their own capacities and routines, before embarking on self-employment.
“Living with long term conditions can be challenging, people often need more time, more support and more flexibility.” Catherine Eadie
Work4Me were delighted to receive funding from the ALLIANCE to test out their ideas. Initially they were over-subscribed with more people wanting to join the project than they had capacity to support. People had found other employability services to be less understanding of long term conditions and the implications, challenges and barriers for self employment.
“We empower people who’ve been told that ‘it’s never going to happen’ to realise that it is achievable, with the right support.”
Navigating the benefits system was a common challenge, with people unsure who to tell what, with confusing information surrounding what will happen to people’s money when they earn flexibly. Work4Me were able to offer that support to help people to navigate more effectively.
“Time was our main challenge, we were all busy working freelance with Work4Me and juggling supporting the project, but we all knew from personal experience why it was so important.”
The message people were getting was that working for themselves was not an achievable goal, but Work4Me were able to turn that around, turning an old way of thinking into a new one through a mixture of volunteering and coaching support. Work4Me see opportunities to continue to do things differently in Scotland regarding employability, and the evidence they have gathered could contribute towards that.
“Funding applications can be really time consuming, so we took advantage of the support from the Alliance to meet and have a look at things as we developed the idea. We didn’t want to waste time if our idea didn’t fit well.”
The project wasn’t for everyone, and Work4Me have reflected on their learning to clarify what support and services they can provide. Although time was a constant challenge for Work4Me, they delivered a successful project in just 12 months and found the ALLIANCE to be flexible and supportive throughout.