Ray Humphyres, from Scawthorpe in Doncaster was in a dark place and he didn’t know how to get out.

Like many others, his mental health had been badly affected by lockdown and other restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ray (50), who has slight learning difficulties and depression, felt isolated, stressed and lonely. He felt he had no future and had begun to harm himself.

Ray was referred to Aspire to Be, a specialist service managed by Doncaster Deaf Trust that helps adults with learning disabilities and difficulties gain life skills and employment.

Aspire to Be works with referring agencies such as local authorities, housing associations and job centres to provide people with a holistic programme incorporating education, employment and employability sessions alongside health and wellbeing support.

The service provides a range of sessions including on topics like CV writing, interview techniques, job search activities and work experience opportunities, as well as fitness, healthy eating, budgeting and confidence building.

“The programme dealt with me as an individual, helped with my confidence and encouraged me to look at what I was doing to myself,” Ray said.

“There was no pressure but each appointment I had small actions to complete prior to my next appointment. It gave me things to do so I did not focus on the bad stuff. Aspire to Be challenged me when I felt low. They made me look at the positive things in my life and helped me deal with solving problems.”

When the second lockdown arrived, Aspire to Be made sure Ray continued on the right path.

“The staff at Aspire to Be listened to me and did not judge me. Lockdown was a scary time for me but they kept in touch and gave me the confidence to step outside when it came to an end,” he said.

“The programme was very flexible with my support. I have been on other programmes before and just felt like another number. With Aspire to Be it was welcoming and felt like coming to see a family.

“The focus was not just about work, it helped with my other problems too. It changed everything for me and made me feel like I was worth something.”

Now working as a hygiene operative at an energy company, Ray has turned his life around.

“I cannot tell you how happy I feel. I am more confident and I leave the house smiling,” he said.

“I have joined a few social groups and tell the staff how good Aspire to Be are all the time. I now have a future to look forward to and a job I love to do where I feel supported. I have even been given extra duties and more hours.

“I would not be here if it wasn't for Aspire to Be. I feel like I have my life back.”

Gez Naylor, work and wellbeing coach at Aspire to Be, said: "What a wonderful transformation for Ray! When Ray first came to us he was low in confidence, lacked motivation and had no positive outlook for his future and had become very isolated. With our support, Ray started to engage in sessions and this opened him up to realise his own self-worth. 

“Ray gaining employment was the icing on the cake and he's doing so well he's been offered overtime and keeps me updated on his progress.  It has been a privilege to work with him and see him grow and develop. Ray was brave enough to accept help when he was having a hard time and it’s fantastic to see him back in work, happy and enjoying life again.”

Individuals can also self refer to the Aspire to Be service and are encouraged to get in touch if they are looking for help and support.

To learn more about Aspire to Be, please contact 01302 386711, email: julie.wright@cscd.ac.uk or visit  www.deaf-trust.co.uk/employability.