Faith, focus and funding – Faye’s supported employment story

How do you support someone into employment when it’s a struggle for them to leave the house?

Faye (not her real name) is autistic, and the level of anxiety she experiences means she finds it difficult to go out of her home. So how was Paula Dowding, Supported Employment Officer at Discovery, going to support Faye into work?

If you relate to this issue or are a keen people-problem solver, get ready to be inspired! Because that’s what Faye’s story is all about. 

First, Paula looked at what Faye liked to do.

It is easy to see that Faye is a talented artist. There is nothing more she loves to do than put her headphones on and lose herself in her artwork.

So, Paula supported Faye in getting a Young Enterprise grant to set up a home studio and channel her artistic gifts into designs. She started with ten Christmas card designs – in November! So, the heat was on that winter to get them to the printer. 

Did Faye manage it? Of course!

“Not only is she talented, but she’s fast too! Things that would take you or me weeks to do, take Faye minutes! So when the cards came back, the smile on Faye’s face made it all worth it. I truly believe with a bit of help Faye can realise her dream, anything is possible, you just need to believe!”

– Paula Dowding, Discovery, Supported Employment Officer.

Next, it was time to get the designs out into the world.

Time was ticking to find shops for Faye’s Christmas cards. Two vendors later, the designs sold, and Faye expanded into Valentines, weddings, Easter, and birthdays, using canvas and selling prints too! 

shop window displaying an easter card of a person we support

Faye may not yet supply the shops in person, but she has made incredible progress. Where she used to spend all day in her bedroom, she now clocks into work each morning by going out her front door and into her studio through her backdoor. 

Structure is Key

This new-found structure and separation between work and home has helped Faye become a professional business owner. She now finds it easier to put regular daily hours into work, even if it is at home.  

Now that Faye’s world is expanding

Faye felt that having a purpose for leaving the house would help her anxiety levels decrease, so Paula supported her in applying for a Small Sparks grant to buy a camera – and have a literal “focus”!

Now Faye leaves the house to take photos and comes home to paint them. As a result, she has started doing wildlife photography- and the next step is her first art exhibition in the library!

Faye takes commissions and is a great cartoonist too – she’s designed three comic books and is now looking for a publisher

“Since I been painting these painting it has opened my eyes that I wanted to be inspiration for those who suffer from special need can do anything they want in life. Years ago a woman told my mum I can’t do a lot in life but when I see what I have created I feel like I have proven that woman wrong. I think I always wanted to be an inspiration for my art but I also do art to make people happy, like my hero Dav Pilkey”

*Faye- not her real name

To summarise, the three steps Paula used to support Faye are:

  1. Faith in the person-centred approach – what did Faye like to do? 
  2. Focus on structure – a daily routine creates healthy boundaries and support.
  3. Funding for expansion – looking at the next steps so Faye can see her progress and continue to grow.

We mean business

Supported employment isn’t just about finding a job; It is about supporting someone to share their talents with the world.

Paula Dowding holding smiling at the camera flowers

“To see Faye coming on in leaps and bounds is fantastic. Her designs are now on Etsy and the high street, and she has her own registered company and trademarks. Faye is a talented and prolific painter who can turn her brush to anything. I get inspired just watching her, and I can’t wait to see what she produces next!”

-Paula Dowding, Supported Employment Officer at Discovery

Small Sparks grants are part of Discovery’s Community Fund, reserved to help autistic people and people with learning disabilities make their dream a reality. So, if you are (or know) someone who would benefit from a Small Sparks grant, apply to ignite your idea here. 

Or, if you are (or know) someone who would benefit from Supported Employment, find out more here. 

Finally, if you’d like to spend your days helping someone #GetMoreFromLife and making a difference in their world, you can apply to become part of the thousand-strong team across Somerset here.

The Dimensions group (which Discovery is a part of) has been officially accredited as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute for two years running. Additionally, this year, we received a “Wellbeing” award and a “Great Workplace for Women” award.