Dennis Cheetham says that working as a volunteer for the Chesterfield FC Community Trust has changed his life.
Dennis was introduced to the Community Trust by Dawn Attwater, who works as a community connector for Derbyshire County Council.
“Dennis was referred through social services because he wanted to do something in the community,” Dawn explained. “He wanted to try something different.
“Dennis needed pro-active support to explore community activities while being as independent as possible.
“We take a person-centred approach, linking people with learning difficulties to meaningful community activities, offering choice which will be sustainable as long as we monitor it and they are happy.
"It has to be right for the person involved. You can’t have it as an easy option and just going to a place to see how it goes. It needs careful planning with the person and their support network, built on trusting relationships.
“Dennis told me what he liked and didn’t like doing and what he wanted to achieve. He’s a big Chesterfield fan, so I contacted Peter Whiteley at the Community Trust to see if we could have a chat about some voluntary work in the HUB. We then had a chat with Peter, and Dennis had an initial interview a few months ago, followed by a trial.
“They were pleased with him and he’s been there ever since. It has changed his life and given him purpose. I can see a massive change in Dennis and the staff have been wonderful in supporting him.”
Dennis, who will be 65 later this year, explained the type of work he has been doing. “I wash up, help out in the kitchen, and serve customers,” he said. “I clean all the tables and things like that. I work on Fridays but I have done up to four days in a week when it's busy.
“I’ve enjoyed it and the most enjoyable thing about it is meeting people. It’s increased my circle of friends. I really like the job and I’m keen to continue. I hope it’s a long-term thing because it’s changed my life.”
Dawn is delighted that the link-up with the football club, via the Community Trust, has been such a success. She said: “It took a lot of work to ensure it was right for everybody here and I think it’s fantastic to see how this has changed Dennis’s life.
“It’s about being honest and realistic as they may not be able to take him on every day or he may be asked to work at short notice. The club has been honest because it may not be right for everybody. They’ve been great and monitored Dennis’s safety and wellbeing and have brought him back into the working world.”
Derbyshire Community Connector Service is run by Derbyshire County Council to help people with learning disabilities learn new skills and try new activities such as paid or voluntary work. Details can be found on a leaflet at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/communityconnector