Phillip, aged 51, from Widnes.

Learner with WEA 

Phillip attends WEA’s Include IT Mersey class in Runcorn.  He told us ‘I was really close to my dad who died when I was 13 years old.  This destroyed who I was and unfortunately I turned into a drug addict for 32 years which ruined every part of my life.  I have a really vivid memory of when I was child thinking ‘ I wonder what I’ll be doing when I am 50 years old?.’  Do you know where I was?  Locked up on remand in HMP Altcourse!  This made something inside me click and I realised I couldn’t carry on ruining my life.  I was homeless with nothing.  Fortunately Nightstop (a Homeless project) looked past the wreck sat in front of them and gave me a room in a shared house. This has led to me now being drug free and starting to rebuild my life.  I am so grateful for what Nightstop have given me that I am doing a 222 miles sponsored bike ride in March to raise money to help people in the same situation that I was in and try to repay what I have been given.  I love bike riding, it is therapy for me.  The date I have chosen to do this bike ride is the date my dad died so I can try and put this behind me.  My aim now is to get my own accommodation and spend the rest of my life in peace now that I am finally free of the madness I spent so much of my life living in.  My life now is just concentrating on my amazing children who are doing really well in life despite having a father who messed up badly.  And despite everything they still love me and that is all what matters to me now.’

Phillip started the course because he needed some structure and stability to his week.  He liked the idea of a relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to move towards his own personal goals.  He got on well with the group and felt supported with the bike ride and moving forward in his life. “I am focused and determined to move forward”.  The course has allowed Phillip to complete a Food Hygiene Certificate and plan his route for his sponsored bike ride. He has been able to complete posters to promote his event and produce a sponsorship form.  In summary, the Include IT Mersey course has allowed Phillip to move forward towards his goals at his own pace. Phil now volunteers in the community kitchen at CGL Widnes. He is going to complete his level 2 Food and Hygiene in Catering Certificate and Barista training. Phil is moving forward and is an inspiration to everyone.

Unfortunately, since meeting with Phil to write up his case study, he has had a bad accident resulting in a broken shoulder. His charity bike ride will likely be postponed. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Lesley Ann, Age 37, from Wirral

Learner with WEA

Lesley heard about the course through Tomorrows Women – a fantastic project based in Wirral that supports women through a variety of different interventions.  WEA are in the second year of running the Include IT Mersey course at this venue.

She started the course because she needed help to get where she needed to be to gain employment, her biggest wish. She got support to do a CV, write cover letters and practice interview techniques. She liked the course and continued to attend because as well as gaining IT skills, she was gaining life skills and confidence. Additionally she made friends and has a better social life.

In the time while Lesley was on the course, she gained the skills and the confidence to sort out her debts, secured a good new home, a new job and ultimately a better life.

Lesley told us that she didn’t have a good start in life. She’d been out of work for 10 years, had a lot of mental health problems and  losses in the family which all seemed to have lead to a break down. However, she says she is now very happy, has a lot more confidence and as a result of the course is currently in full time employment and working with debt advisors. She feels she has got her life back!

Lesley states “Since starting the course my life has gone so fast paced into a better lifestyle, I couldn’t have done it without Gill’s (tutor) help and support. I have better confidence a better life and am not looking back. 2 years ago I lost everything and turned to alcohol and drugs. I’ve come so far and I am so grateful for all the support.”

Julie, Aged 53, from Runcorn

Learner with WEA

Julie attended a course in Castlefields Community Centre.  In the past Julie has been a Complementary Therapist, a Clinical Hypnotherapist, a Spiritual Medium and a Reiki Master among delivering other complementary therapies.

Julie came along to the Include-IT Mersey course to improve her chances of gaining employment and the skills to consider starting her own business.

Julie told us “I was given support from a lovely, friendly group.  Everyone was supportive of each others journeys.  There was a relaxed, safe, fun environment and you learn best when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself.  I found the course informative in a relaxed atmosphere.  It gave me the permission to widen my horizons and think bigger.  The tutors were incredibly welcoming and inspiring encouraged me to think ‘outside the box’ and that all my goals are achievable.”

While on the course Julie achieved a City & Guilds Online Basics certificate.  The course gave her more confidence to apply for jobs and she is employed now as a Care Worker.  The course has also inspired her to set up her own business as a Holistic Therapist specialising in Medium Healing as well as to take up further learning.  Julie is also doing an online course in counselling.

Helen Barker October 2019

Vera Keating, Aged 56, from Kirkdale

Learner with Rotunda

Vera recently returned to the UK after living in Cyprus with her 3 grandchildren of whom she has guardianship.  Because of this, Vera wanted to learn IT skills as she wanted to be able to help the children learn, not just learning about computers, but also using these skills to help teach the children other related topics such as English and maths.   A friend of Vera’s who works at Rotunda College told her about the Include-IT Mersey course.

Vera told us “The advice was brilliant, the tutor asked us about what we really needed before we started the course.  Throughout the course, there wasn’t a question that I wasn’t comfortable to ask.  It gave me the confidence to learn new skills and I was encouraged to practice them.  I’m not scared to use a computer any more.  The course has given me the confidence to help the grand kids.  I now know how to do email properly and add attachments.”

One of Vera’s main aims moving forward is to learn how to teach.  She has worked for 35 years as a hairdresser.  Rotunda College gave Vera the opportunity to teach a basic hairdressing course.  It was her first time teaching a group of learners.

VOLA’s Quality Manager went along to visit Vera at a lesson in Rotunda where she was teaching a group of learners how to put long hair up into a bun.  She was delighted to see an interactive and vibrant class with everyone having the opportunity to have a go with the long-haired learners doubling up as models.  Vera certainly is a natural tutor.

Rotunda is supporting Vera to become a qualified tutor.  Vera told us “I couldn’t be more grateful to Rotunda.  I have had more opportunities opened up to me, and they slot into my daily routine with the kids.”

Valerie and Trevor, aged 57 and 58, from Wirral.

Learners with Age UK, Wirral.

Trevor and Valerie are childhood sweethearts who met when they were 15 and 14 in school.  43 years later they are still together having been married for 34 years and raising two boys (now 33 and 31).

Their first child, David, has had additional needs from birth and was diagnosed with ADHD as well as an eating disorder in his early years.  Trevor has been his main carer throughout his life and until July 2019 the family have claimed income support.  Valerie was also the main carer for her Father.

A recent reassessment of David’s benefits meant that he lost his DLA and therefore Trevor was no longer able to claim Income Support for the family.  Trevor has had to claim Universal Credit and this had meant a big change to the way the family live.  Their younger son has also recently moved back into the family home.

David has found himself a job and is working in an industrial laundry.  Despite a rocky start, he has settled into the job, thanks to a supportive employer, and enjoys the regular routine that suits him.

I met with the couple in December 2019 and on speaking to them found that despite these big changes, Trevor and Valerie have met the challenge of their new benefits regime without complaint and despite it being a very scary time for them, without any reservations.

Trevor told me ‘I was worried about the next steps, because I haven’t worked for so long.  I didn’t understand Universal Credit.’  Valerie added ‘We were backwards and forwards so many times to the Job Centre that our heads were spinning.’

They were referred to the Include IT Mersey course by their Job Coach at the JCP.  Up until this time, Trevor had barely used a computer.  They have one at home which he used for YouTube and Facebook, but that was all.  The couple still withdrew their benefits in cash every payment day and paid all of their bills in cash.

Trevor needed help doing a CV and the JCP advisor phoned Age UK Wirral while they were there.  They had missed the first session but the Adviser managed to persuade the tutor to take them on in week two rather than wait for the next course.

Trevor said ‘Val is more laid back than me, but I was so panicked in case I couldn’t find the Johnson Foundation that I came down on my bike first to find it.  I tried to find it on google maps but I wasn’t confident I had the right place. I had to go through it all again when we needed to go to Meadowcroft on the Thursday.’

Both Trevor and Valerie told me that they found the course really rewarding.  They do a lot together, so being able to attend and support each other was great.  They both found the course useful as well as giving them confidence, using email for example, or short cuts on the keyboard.

The couple have set up their first Direct Debit and are saving money by doing this alongside going paperless.  They have used their bank card for the first time to pay bills.  Alongside this, they are both learning more about their phones and how to download apps that help them to budget their finances.

They have also enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and feel a lot more like part of society and being active citizens.

The couple found their tutors to be very supportive, patient and enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the sessions.

The couple’s main motivation for attending the course is to be able to get jobs that will enable them to have a bit more money to spend on the family.

While attending the employability skills sessions with John, the couple were able to discuss their personal strengths and weaknesses and discuss how what they perceived to be weaknesses can actually be positives.  For example, Trevor told me that he thought being fastidious and pedantic was a weakness, but as he has ambitions to be a painter and decorator, this is actually a positive.

Val said ‘I didn’t think I had any skills, but when asked to think about it realised I’ve been a mother, a carer and a gardener.’

Valerie would love to work in a café and Trevor would like to work in construction.  Trevor is doing a course to get his CSCS card to support this and Valerie has an interview as a domestic this week.

I wish this lovely couple the very best of luck!

Janette, aged 56, from Kensington.

Learner with Everton Development Trust (EDT).

Janette was born in Liverpool and has lived here all her life.  She attended Notre Dame School in Everton where she successfully gained her O’Levels.  After leaving school Janette went to work for the Civil Service as a clerical worker and among other things was based for 12 years in the Artificial Limb center in Mill Road.  After being made redundant she took some time off to care for her Mum, but it was after this time in her life when she found it difficult to get back into paid work.

I went to EDT in Everton to meet with Janette and to listen to her story.  Janette told me

‘I attended a job club at Blackburne House and was told I needed to get better IT skills and that would help me to get a job.  Also, part of my role as a campaigner is to produce posters and leaflets.  I didn’t really fancy doing it, and I didn’t think that I would be able to do it!’

As well as volunteering her time to support people with mental health issues, Janette also works with organisations that campaign for peace.

Janette enrolled at EDT initially on an ECDL course.  It soon became apparent that she needed to learn the basics first and so after chatting to staff at EDT was advised to do the Include-IT Mersey course.  She started back in January 2019 and liked that she could drop in when she was able to and with what fitted around her lifestyle.

‘I didn’t have a great experience at school and this made me afraid to ask for help, but I liked that this didn’t feel like a formal classroom.  It’s a very friendly place and I don’t feel stupid.  I felt relaxed and comfortable attending.  Bernie and Peter are very patient and having the 1-2-1 support is good as I am able to work at my own pace, especially as I don’t pick things up quickly.

I think it is especially good for older people and I have recommended the course to some of my friends.  It has made me feel more confident, given me a routine and structure to my week. I have also met new people.’

Janette told me that she surprised herself by sticking it out.  The course has made her feel more confident in her own abilities and she feels good when she achieves the little things.

Outside of the course, Janette has been able to apply the skills she has learnt to her voluntary work as a campaigner for peace and also has been able to support her parish with IT tasks such as producing certificates.

‘I definitely feel more confident and less phased about applying for a job.  I have started to apply for jobs in admin and reception work.’

I visited Janette at EDT one Tuesday afternoon in October and I asked her what she was working on today, she told me ‘I am doing a table of nuclear weapons test ban treaty countries to use in a meeting!’

Saima, aged 50 , from Wirral

Learner with WEA

Saima started the course in April 2019. She was struggling in the UK as a migrant worker because as a qualified doctor in India her qualifications were not being recognised here in the UK. Here’s her story.

“I was a qualified GP and junior resident in Gynecology in India. My family migrated to the USA but my sister invited me to live with her in the UK and this is how I came to be in this country.

I have been coming to Tomorrows Women Wirral to access their services. The Include IT Mersey was advertised on their website.  I contacted Gill and had a chat with her before meeting up to discuss the course to see if it was suited to my needs before I enrolled.

I needed to improve my IT skills, I wanted to know about online shopping, Facebook and other social media. I was aware that social media could be used for job search and I wanted help with looking and applying for jobs.  It was important to me to learn how to stay safe online.

Gill also referred me to the National Careers Service.   It has been hard to find out what my qualification enabled me to do in the UK and during the course this has been cleared up by the General Medical Counsel.  I have been helped to write a cover letter and tweaked my CV as well as getting guidance on interview techniques.  I began to feel more confident with job searching and I have since been invited for two interviews.  I was struggling to even get interviews before.

I like the project and I love the people on the course.  It has given me confidence, friends and structure to my week. I have learned about life in the UK in general and what other support is available to me.

My church has invited me to be a volunteer. I now work with the under privileged in my church and at the local hospice I am supporting women and babies on the Premature Baby Unit. I felt really isolated before, now I feel more confident generally and I have more friends”.

Since the interview, Saima has been offered a job as a GP in a Medical Centre in Birmingham.  She is deciding whether relocating is advisable or whether to wait for something close to home and her support network. 

Stephen Jacobs, aged 45 from Liverpool
Learner with Everton Development Trust (EDT)

Stephen hadn’t worked since 2010 but was desperate to get back into employment having worked for 23 years prior to this. His main experience was in construction and warehouse work, so he started the Include-IT Mersey course in order to improve his IT skills in the hopes of gaining employment in office-based work – as he says that heavy, manual work is becoming difficult for him as he gets older.

“This course has been a great help as I hadn’t worked for years. After getting help from staff and improving my CV, I have finally got a job again!”

Stephen made fantastic progress while on the course, so much so that he went on to start his European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) course, which is Level 2 in IT with Everton Development Trust (EDT). Stephen’s confidence was very low when he first came to EDT but this went from strength to strength as the course progressed.

Following his successful completion of the Include-IT Mersey course, Stephen has found full-time employment at HS Barrier Coatings who are a subcontractor based on the Cammel Lairds shipyard.

George Shaw, Digital Champion Volunteer from Halton

George has been volunteering as a Digital Champion with Include-IT Mersey for over a year. He was initially enrolled onto an Include-IT Mersey course after finding out about it through the job centre. He wasn’t sure if he would like it as he had attended courses in the past where he felt there was no support and no one to help.

However, George found this course “so good and with there being other volunteers to answer questions, I really got into it”.

George has volunteered in various roles since he was 17 so naturally, on completion of his course, he wanted to give back and therefore became a Digital Champion. “In this particular case, I knew what it was like to not to be able to ask questions and so am glad when people ask me for help and know there is someone there to answer.

When I wasn’t well a little while ago I went a bit quiet and stopped going out socialising but now with the volunteering, I’m doing all sorts of different things to help people. I’m out and about. It’s literally got me going again”.

The volunteering hasn’t just impacted on George’s social life either; he’s now able to impress his family with his I.T. knowledge!

“The granddaughters think I’m fantastic as they thought older people couldn’t learn new things, especially their granddad, but when I go in and show them something that I’ve learned, they go wow how do you know about that”!

The Include-IT Mersey course covers basic I.T. skills such as how to use email, using the internet and social media and employability skills such as writing a C.V. George assists the tutor to provide one to one support to learners:

“The people really seem to come out of themselves. It’s not just the computer part that’s of interest; it’s all of it. The course keeps learners more involved in things they are interested in, for example, one lady wanted to learn about the history of Widnes railways so we researched this together online.

George has seen the positive impact the course has made on the learners as well as benefitting him by helping others: “I think the most important thing is making the learners feel comfortable. It really helps with their confidence and this in turn helps me as I know I’ve got that person over a bump that they’ve been stuck on. They’re made up and I’m made up.”

Adele aged 48 from Wirral

Learner with WEA

“I’m from Liverpool originally and came to the Wirral for work. I previously worked as a market trader on a family stall and have all the patter. I have also been a café manager and a care assistant.  For family reasons we sold the stall and I do miss it. It used to be a great laugh.”

Adele has suffered with severe health issues.  “I’ve beaten cancer three times been a victim of domestic violence. My calcium glands were removed and I struggle with joints since my chemotherapy, some days I really struggle with mobility.”

Due to the difficulties Adele had been through in her personal life, she became an alcoholic and this resulted in a conviction of drink driving.  “The Judge in court told me to enrol on the course at Tomorrow’s Women Wirral.  I was terrified; I didn’t sleep at all the night before.  I went into the group with a friend and that helped, I met Gill and enrolled.  We had lots of breaks so this really helped too.

It’s chilled and not a bit like school, there is no pressure and people learn at their own speed, everybody supports everyone else and we do chat sometimes which is great.  It’s boosted my confidence as well as given structure to my week.  Its kept me motivated and I’ve made some great friends.”

On talking to other people in the group, it turns out that a local judge is a massive fan of Tomorrow’s Women Wirral and of the Include IT Mersey course.  Adele isn’t the first woman that she has instructed to attend the course as part of the terms of their sentence.  Adele also said that the course has helped her to keep compliant with her sentence.  Moving forward Adele would like to study IT skills up to A’Level with Wirral Adult Learning.

“The course has a positive effect overall and the banter provides much needed cheering up when I am having a bad day.”

Esadig (Sam) Bashir aged 53 from Wirral

Learner with Age UK Wirral

Sam is originally from Sudan and has lived in UK for 29 years.  Same has 5 children aged 17 to 23 and these include 2 sets of twins. Here’s Sam’s story:

“I came to the UK from Sudan 29 years ago and arrived in London without being able to speak a word of English.  It was Hell!  I struggled to get work and decided I would give it 6 months and if it didn’t work out for me I was going straight home.

I had a friend who lived in Chester who invited me to come and visit.  During this time, I met a woman who became my girlfriend and she helped me a lot.  She helped me learn English and helped me to get work and a place to live.

I started off working in the kitchen of a posh French restaurant in Chester called the Mill Hotel.  I was working as a kitchen porter, but wanted to earn more money, so I asked the Chef what I needed to do to become a Chef and he told me to go and study.  So that’s what I did!  I enrolled at Liverpool College and became a Chef.  I was lucky because I was able to go beck to the Mill Hotel as a Chef and worked there for many years.

Meanwhile, I met my wife, married and had children.  Being a Chef means working long hours and these are mostly evenings and weekends, this became difficult once the children came along.   I decided to become a Door Supervisor to earn better money and worked in clubs as security.

Working in clubs on the doors is not without its problems, it can be difficult at times.  I have been subjected to racism on occasions, but I challenge it.  One time an incident that involved the police lead me to talk to the individual involved rather than press charges.  After talking to this man, I dropped the charges and we became very good friends to this day.

After a time of being unemployed, I realised that I was not going to get any work unless I learned how to use a computer. I knew I needed IT skills, I had never used a computer, but I didn’t know how to go about it.  My Job Coach told me about the Include IT Mersey course and I enrolled on the course at Birkenhead Library.  I couldn’t sleep the night before.  I was so scared I was shaking.

I went along, and Lynne calmed me down and put me at ease.  She taught me how to concentrate on one thing at a time, not to be overwhelmed, to take small steps.  She is a wonderful lady.

I am enjoying the course very much.  Lynne is very patient with me.  It has opened my mind to different things; I have developed new skills and have a better chance of getting a job.  I have had good support from Age UK Wirral.

Moving forward I hope to go to the local college and continue to improve my IT skills.  I will renew my Security Licence with SIA (some of this is done online) and go back to security work”.

Dawn Bailey
Learner with Age UK Wirral 

“I chose the Include-IT Mersey course to help me learn about computers and to gain some confidence. Tutors are very patient and extremely helpful. The course put me on the road to becoming a volunteer at Age UK Wirral and has built my confidence in using IT” – Dawn Bailey, Age UK Wirral

The course tutors have made this a truly great experience – learning while having fun in a non-judgmental environment!

“I needed to join the rest of the population in becoming IT literate. I heard so many positive comments about the course I realised it was exactly what I needed. The course content has all been beneficial, but for me the social aspect of learning has been the best part! After spending so many years as a carer, it can be daunting to step out into a learning environment, but the course tutors have made this a truly great experience.

Jean Kelly, aged 54 from Runcorn
Learner with Halton Borough Council Adult Learning Centre 

Jean had never used a computer before this course, and her confidence and self-esteem were low. Jean was scared of using her husband’s work computer in case she would break it or lose any of her husband’s work. Jean said she did not believe in herself and she was “too old” to learn.

Jean was given a personalised lesson plan which outlined her objectives for each session and a challenge for her to complete. Also, a list of tasks was provided for her to take control of her own learning and be able to evaluate what she has done and achieved.

“Absolutely brilliant. Great group, great tutor. I felt 100% supported to learn and looked forward to every class”

Jean was given individual support with the help of Include-IT Mersey Digital Champion Annette Summer, and has enjoyed working in a small class and having some one-to-one support to help her remember demonstrations that she has observed in the lesson.

Jean has completed all the Learn My Way modules and passed the City and Guilds ICT functional skills exam at Entry Level 2. She has also gained a City and Guilds certificate in Employability Skills at Entry level 3.

Carl, aged 53 from St Helens 
Learner with Helena Partnerships and St Helens Chamber

Carl came to us at Helena Central in September 2017 primarily looking for work but recognising he needed help with is IT skills. Carl has a variety of health issues but was really keen and motivated to get back into work.

Carl needed a little support through the the programme as it became clear that once he got the hang of the Learn My Way system he was determined to work out for himself how to improve his skills.

Carl successfully completed the Include-IT Mersey course with Helena / St Helens Chamber in January 2018 and found that his IT skills have improved as a result of this course. Carl applied for a Facilities Assistant position with Carlisle Cleaning Services whilst he was undertaking his Include-IT Mersey course and was invited to an interview in early January 2018. Carl was successful at his interview and was offered full-time permanent contract on the 21st January 2018 and signed off Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)

“I am really pleased with my new job and can’t thank Andy and Mike enough for their help and support these past months”

David Houghton, aged 60 from Liverpool
Learner with Granby Toxteth Development Trust 

David was a full-time carer for his partner until their PIP Claim was rejected and David had to register for Job Seeker Allowance (JSA). David has no formal qualifications or computer skills, but had employment experience in construction.

“I really enjoyed it. I got a lot of useful information on how to get a job, basic IT skills and an updated CV!”

David’s confidence about using technology has soared. He is now the proud owner of a tablet computer that he uses daily, and has achieved his City & Guilds online basics certificate and is actively looking for work.