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Kirsty Dolan photo of kirsty dolan in supermarket

Kirsty Dolan has worked at her local branch of Scotmid for more than a decade and is known by her colleagues as a valuable and enthusiastic member of the team.  

But the bright and friendly 32-year-old was a very different person when she first came to ENABLE Scotland at the age of 18, soon after leaving school. 

Naturally shy, lacking in confidence and unsure of her future direction, Kirsty’s additional support needs meant that she found it difficult to talk to unfamiliar people, and finding employment was proving to be a challenge. 

“I didn’t know where to look for a job or how to ask people. I’m quite shy but I was much worse back then so I found it all really scary. I lived with my mum and was only really used to spending time with her or other family members and going out and about with them.” 

Joining the ENABLE Works programme, which supports people who have learning disabilities in finding employment, motivated Kirsty and helped her to develop some of the basic skills she needed to prepare herself for the workplace. They also worked closely with Kirsty to establish the right kind of employment environment for her so that she would feel secure. 

“I didn’t want to be far away from home or to have to travel alone. I spent a lot of time talking to Elaine from ENABLE Works about what I could do. It was good because I felt like I could trust her and I started to find it easier to say what I did or didn’t want. We thought about it a lot and when she asked if I would like to try shop work locally, I felt like I could give it a go.”

Kirsty’s first work placement was in her local Kwik Save where she was given the job of replenishing stock, but it wasn’t long before she felt that she was beginning to struggle. 

“I’m not good with numbers and I found it really hard to work with the dates on things. I got a bit upset and felt worried about it but ENABLE sent a job coach to the store to help me and then I didn’t feel like I was on my own. Eventually I figured out that I could actually do it and things became much easier. I felt amazing because I thought I’d never get it, but I did!”

Unfortunately, just as Kirsty was beginning to settle into her job and feel more relaxed around her co-workers, the branch of Kwik Save where she worked closed down and she was faced with the upheaval of having to take up a new placement in another supermarket. 

“When I started working at Scotmid I had the job coach with me straight away. It was really hard when I moved because everything was different in the new store, but I wasn’t as frightened as before because I’d done it once and I knew I could do it again. Sometimes I still found it difficult to do parts of the job, but I just kept asking my coach to come and help me until I felt like I could do things by myself.”

When Kirsty’s placement programme ended, she had made such good progress that she was offered a permanent part-time post and more than a decade later, she is an ‘asset to the team’.

“I know exactly what I’m doing now. I don’t even have to think about it anymore and I never get worried. I feel much more confident and I’m good friends with all the people I work with. They’re really nice and I like chatting to them so I’m not as quiet as I once was. My flat is above the shop and on dark nights someone I work with always makes sure I get home okay.”

Outside of work, Kirsty has a happy and active life enjoying regular visits from her brother and spending time with her 11-year-old nephew, Liam. She is also now self-assured enough to travel on her own and loves to go into town shopping for clothes. 

And her growing confidence hasn’t stopped there. Kirsty now helps to support others who have learning disabilities, and has been volunteering at a local activity group for young people who have Down’s Syndrome for more than two years. 

“It’s great! I go every Wednesday and hand out their snacks. Sometimes we take them on bowling trips and I help out with those too. Some of them are really shy like I used to be and I know how that feels.”

Kirsty has been living independently since her mum sadly passed away a few years ago, but now feels that she is able to look forward to the future and stand on her own two feet.

“When I was younger, before I started working, I could never have thought about doing anything without my mum there, but now I have my job and my routine and I can talk to people much more easily too. I know I’m going to be just fine.” 

ENABLE Scotland,INSPIRE House,3 Renshaw Place,Eurocentral,N Lanarkshire,ML1 4UF.Tel: 01698 737 000. Registered Charity Number SC009024

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