Afa secured employment despite living with schizophrenia and a complex criminal record

A complex history

Afa* was referred to Workwise by the Auckland Lotofale Pacific Mental Health Service. He was on probation when was referred. Afa has a complex criminal record and has been living with schizophrenia for many years.

Afa was reserved at our initial meeting. He only said “yes” or “no,” instead of having an effective conversation with me. After that initial meeting, I had a discussion with my team leader about Afa’s employment support needs so that we could establish the next step. My team leader suggested that I include Afa’s key worker or community support worker for further one-on-one meetings with him.

After a few meetings, Afa was able to identify what his motivation for getting some work would be. I found that Afa was keen to move on from his current situation, as his family feels ashamed about his criminal background. Also, he wants to have his own life, as his brothers have.

Afa didn’t have any employment history, apart from doing compulsory work through the probation programme. He was very confused about what he could do.

He also has a low education level, having left school when he was 15 years old.

An employment support plan

Together we put together an employment support plan that included the following:

  • helping Afa to build up employment goals and exploring his employment preferences – as a result, Afa decided to apply for casual general labourer roles
  • helping Afa to make a full statement about his criminal record
  • supporting Afa to approach employers
  • educating Afa about how the employment journey works, developing answers to the possible interview questions and creating a CV and cover letter
  • frequently liaising with his key worker and community support worker
  • identifying the employment challenges that Afa faced in his job search
  • celebrating achievements that Afa has had
  • developing strategies for Afa to ask for help.

Building a relationship

Within a few months, I have built up a good relationship with Afa, and helped him to identify one main barrier to his job search – that he relies on transport support to attend meetings and job interviews.

To help Afa to move to independence, I had two sessions with him to teach him how to catch the bus. Also, I worked with his key worker to help him to get an ‘AT HOP’ card. After those jobs were done, he got used to catching the bus to come to see me. Afa is getting more and more engaged through one-on-one meetings, text messages and phone calls.

A new role

Afa finally gained a casual general labourer role at the Labour Exchange through the approaching employer’s process and started his new role at the beginning of March 2020.

Afa told me that he is happy with his new role. He says he feels he is being looked after at his new workplace.

Since Afa started in this role, I normally contact him once per week, as he requested, to see if he needs any help in relation to his employment support. It is fantastic to see him gaining more happiness. Afa told me that his team leader added more work hours for him, and he continued working for four days after the COVID-19 lockdown.

I have had a few great conversations with Afa on the phone during the lockdown. Afa sounds very positive and happy. He told me that he is keen to keep up his employment journey. He said he wants to gain a permanent job for the next step, as he thinks that it would be wonderful for him to have a permanent job with a regular income.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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