Clare hails Working Well as new fitness business springs into action
A Greater Manchester mother has overcome her debilitating depression to set up a fitness business with her husband thanks to backing from a pioneering scheme supporting people back to work.
Clare Davies, aged 31, was inspired to set up Fitspiration Fitness with husband Kevin through taking part in the Working Well programme which aims to help employment and support allowance claimants who have not worked for at least three years to overcome their obstacles.
All four of Clare’s children were born prematurely and, while she and Kevin were determined to provide the very best love and care for them, the intense demands of nursing each child to full health took its toll on Clare.
Clare, from Hollins, Oldham, said: “As parents it’s wonderful to see our four children making normal progress. But my own health suffered when my family were extremely vulnerable.
“I began to think there was no way out. Each day was a real challenge and, while I dreamed of being a mum and having a life too, the reality was very different. I couldn’t leave the house and it became a prison to me. Everything just spiralled out of control.”
But through the employment and health-focussed Working Well programme, delivered in her case by employment specialists Ingeus, she was encouraged to turn her enthusiasm for an active lifestyle into a business.
Kevin had encouraged Clare to use fitness and physical activity as a way out of her depression and, slowly, her health improved.
“I wanted to work so that I could financially contribute to our family life,” she said. “But I had no idea how to get myself noticed again, let alone find a job that was right for me.”
Jobcentre Plus referred Clare to Working Well and Ingeus key worker Steph Bartle.
Steph said: “Our first step was to understand what Clare wanted for herself. She had already embarked on a college course in Oldham to gain her Level 2 fitness instruction qualification and so we suggested to Clare and Kevin that their joint enthusiasm for an active lifestyle could be turned into a profitable business. Fitspiration Fitness was set up and Clare and Kevin are now able to look towards a brighter future.”
The pair were helped to register their business and introduced to others who could offer practical help and advice. Clare and Kevin are now based at Hollinwood Gym in Chadderton and are using their skills and enthusiasm to encourage others, including those experiencing depression and unemployment, to keep fit.
Kevin said: “Without Working Well and Ingeus we could never have got off the ground. The belief they had in us really encouraged us and now Clare can mix the demands of being a busy mum with having a life of her own. We are both determined to succeed. It will be our way of saying thank you for all the support we have received.”
Working Well is a Greater Manchester-wide ‘help to work’ programme – overseen by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) - which aims to support 5,000 employment support allowance claimants who have not worked for at least three years to tackle their barriers to work.
People taking part in the programme receive a package of support tailored to their needs, dealing with a single key worker who co-ordinates services rather than having to navigate an array of organisations themselves. Each participant will receive up to two years of support to help address their barriers to work and up to a year of support once they start work.
Under the devolution agreement with government, signed in November 2014, the Working Well programme will be expanded to ultimately provide the same kind of personalised support (linking skills, health and employment) to a wider range of people, up to 50,000. A tender for the first 15,000 referrals will be awarded soon.
Councillor Sean Anstee, GMCA lead for employment and skills, said: “Clare’s story is a terrific example of how innovative news ways of working in Greater Manchester, improving services so they put people first, is making a real difference in people’s lives.
“That’s what’s at the heart of our approach to public service reform – services working together more effectively to help support people to realise their potential. Working Well, by helping people overcome the barriers which are holding them back from finding work, will be a win-win – improving the lives of individuals while reducing the long-term cost of unemployment benefits.”
About Working Well
More than 4,000 individuals have already been referred to the scheme - which is open to people who have not worked for at least three years, although many have not worked for a decade - ince it began in March 2014. Some 180 are already in long-term employment, with early indications suggesting it is on course to meet its challenging target of helping 20% of those back into work by 2018.
Through the intensive support offered by Greater Manchester’s Working Well providers, Ingeus and Big Life, clients are experiencing improvement in their health, housing and skills.
Across Greater Manchester, there are almost a quarter of a million people on out-of-wrk benefits at a cost to the taxpayer of £1.4 billion per year.