Sunday, 29 June 2014

Skillstep: Week 5

I have finished another week of Skillstep, and I'm now nearly at the half-way mark of the course! As always, I wanted to blog about what progress the group and I have made in our vocational and computer sessions this week for you to read. Information regarding Skillstep can be found at the bottom of the post.

During Maureen's session on Tuesday, we delved further into our short-term personal goals that we briefly looked at during the end of last week's session. We identified our goals using the SMART targets - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic / Relevant and Time-Bound - and also looked at our past achievements to help build our self-confidence for accomplishing future goals. We developed an action plan with four easy steps to pin-point the activities we need to undertake in order to attain a personal goal. Towards the end of Tuesday's session, we discussed as a group some metaphors to describe the obstacles in our paths and how we can overcome them. In forthcoming sessions, we will be looking at mind-mapping for personal growth and development.

On Wednesday, the group and I were visited by Fiona James - a Crime Reduction Specialist based at the Salford Crime Prevention team, within Greater Manchester Police. She has worked in the police force for 28 years, and it is her job to reduce crime happening in the first place; though it cannot be prevented completely, the amount of crime itself can be reduced in the local area. Fiona can be heard every Friday, at 11am on Salford City Radio, giving crime prevention advice and tips on The Safety Factor.

After giving a brief overview of her job and the work she does, Fiona talked about the after-care that she and her team provide to recent victims of crime in Salford and also provided statistics to show that domestic burglaries are actually going down in recent years - around 4 or 5 each weekend, and some weekends there will be no cases at all. This could be due to a number of reasons - the first being that a lot of members of the community now have better home security - helped by the GMP's recent work with Salix Homes and City West. Another factor could be that criminals are now more focused on fraud in the online landscape.

We were given some general safety advice and tips - such as always double-checking at night that windows and doors have been closed properly, especially during the summer months concerning the downstairs windows, when moving to a different part of the house. Safety advice was also given regarding cash points, using the internet and mobile phone safety.

In the afternoon Julie Parrish, our Skillstep Co-ordinator, discussed the Access to Work scheme with us; what it is and how it works. It is a government-run programme, delivered by Jobcentre Plus and introduced in 1994, helping those with disabilities, health or mental health conditions to overcome barriers when moving into or retaining employment. It is a flexible programme that focuses on the needs of the individual and their circumstances. It is required when the employee requires support or adaptations, which an employer is legally obliged to provide under the Equality Act of 2010.

Julie explained the eligible criteria for help, reasonable adjustments, cost sharing, how to apply and the types of support available - such as special aids and equipment, travel to and in work, a support worker, communication support, mental health support service and so on.

On Thursday, during Linda and Neil's IT session, I completed some extra assignments - having completed the Level Entry and Level Entry 1 tasks over the past month - which are used as examination pieces, weaving together all of the skills I have learned on the course so far using assistive technology in Microsoft Word. I found it easiest to work from Braille worksheets and to then follow the instructions to complete the scenarios. Even though no extra accreditation is given for completing the extra assignments, I was rather enjoying them by the end of the session and found it quite therapeutic! I had tried the audio cassette earlier in the session but had a few issues with only having the audio in one ear, as I have hearing problems, so switched to the Braille format instead. I'll be continuing the assignments next week and will then move onto Braille spreadsheets - if possible!

At the weekend, the Skillstep group and I met up in the Manchester city centre for a meal and some drinks afterwards. I had a really lovely time being with the group in a social setting and would love to meet up again sometime soon!

You can find out more about Skillstep by clicking here and can register your interest to the course via e-mail.