Fife Employment Access Trust

Fife Employment Access Trust

The vision: Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT) is to enable and support individuals to reach their full positive mental well-being in a culture where there is no stigma.

Our mission: Employing an inclusive, non-judgmental approach to prepare, support, and empower people with and without disabilities to flourish by managing their mental health for life – whatever life does, by:

• Working with others to eliminate the stigma on mental health in the workplace and communities.

• Providing service-users with strategies and tools to improve their resilience and employability

• Creating safe, nurturing, supportive and compassionate environments to encourage personal growth

• Developing strategic partnerships with complementary and diverse organisations that share our vision

• Supporting the welfare and continuous professional development of staff and volunteers so they may continue to provide exceptional services.

FEAT was founded in 1994 by a small group of people – some disabled or with experience of mental health problems – who were concerned at the lack of employment opportunities for disabled people and people with mental health problems in Fife. Today we have earned a reputation as a unique organisation delivering life-changing outcomes for people in Fife with wide ranging mental health difficulties. This position has been won through years of persistent effort, stimulated always by the desire each day to see improvement in peoples’ lives, in society generally and with the input of ideas and new ways of working to make each day an advance on yesterday.

The organisation employs 20 staff today and has gained and sustained a reputation for excellence in service delivery. The organisation expanded fairly rapidly from 2012 onwards, from delivering one major employability project to delivering 3, along with a number of other projects aimed at improving health and wellbeing. FEAT won the 2014 Fife Volunteering & Voluntary Sector Awards in the Partnership category and also made the final 3 in the 2014 Herald Society Awards in the same category.

FEAT subscribes to the social model of disability that emphasises the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers that exclude people from full participation in society and strive to:

• Increase the employment rate for people with mental health conditions in Fife

• Provide people with mental health conditions with a range of strategies and tools to enable them to successfully self-manage their conditions

• Educate the wider population about mental health and dispel the myths surrounding the subject, in turn removing stigma and discrimination

• Be an inclusive organisation that welcomes a contribution from service users and others with lived experience of mental ill-health.

Case Study: Developing a client’s appreciation and practice of Mindfulness are now central parts of FEAT’s eight week Employability course. The eight weeks of academic study and exercises necessary for successful employment are married to an eight week Mindfulness programme. This programme specifically seeks to enable clients to self-practice Mindfulness settling, grounding, resting and support. Clients are also introduced to developing self-compassion. Within the weekly three hour classes, a twenty-minute space is allocated to both discussion and meditations based on this Mindfulness programme.

The aims of introducing Mindfulness to the Employability course were to introduce clients to simple practices so that they might find relief from unhelpful patterns of thought and develop self-confidence via such interventions. The group meditations and discussions of the things arising from meditation for each client also create a sense of shared experience. This shared experience is essential for enhancing the group identity and facilitates a collective response to support each other throughout the challenges of the academic course. In the client reviews of the Employability course the Mindfulness meditations have been acknowledged for not only providing a place of peace, but also a tool for coping with negative patterns of thought and enhancing self-confidence. For example, a client RM had arrived at FEAT in April 2014 due to being with mental health illness and out of work.

In November 2014, Client RM was introduced to Mindfulness for the first time as part of Employability course. RM reported that she felt that through Mindfulness mediation she was better able to focus her mind on the academic tasks on the course. Through developing an understanding of her employability qualities, skills and values in the Employability course participation, RM also felt more confident due to the Mindfulness programme and so wrote an application for a job. RM explained that prior to going into the interview; she had use Mindfulness breathing to elevate the anxiety emerging from the anticipation of the interview.

In the actual interview itself, RM was asked to demonstrate specific skills to the interview panel. Again when faced with the anxiety of having to public perform, RM reported that by practicing Mindfulness breathing she was able focus her mind on the task and not become emotional hijacked by fear and anxiety. Throughout the selection process for the job, RM shared her experience with the group and the role that Mindfulness played in her success. Since RM was successful in her application for the job, she has continued her Mindfulness practice. In this way, an introduction to Mindfulness on the Employability course has been helpful in enabling students to find space from unhelpful patterns of thought, build self-confidence and focus attention when they are faced with emotional hijacking.

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