Good News Stories – Meet the Participants

Participant A

This participant joined the Opportunity and Change Project in 2017 through Acorn Training


Increased mental wellbeing
Lower housing support needs
Moved from Job search into employment
Changed career with the help of training

Key Themes

Employment, Stability, Well-being, development, Training, Career Change, Empowerment.


In 2014 this participant suffered from a motorcycle accident, which left them with a lifetime ankle injury.  As a result, the participant was claiming ESA from Bolsover Job centre.

After attending a medical, the participant was taken off ESA and put on JSA, but the participant didn’t want to appeal the decision, as they were determined to get back into work.

Before the motorcycle accident, the participant worked as a chef, but the ankle injury made it difficult to stand for long periods of time preparing food etc.

The participant decided it was time for a career change and paid for a welding course to earn a welding qualification. However this was difficult, because the course costs came out of their benefit payments and the participant also had a family to support. At this point, the participant was referred to Opportunity and Change by the job centre.

How the Opportunity and Change Project helped this participant

At first the company was apprehensive, as welding is a big career change from being a chef, but with a little bit of persuasion, the employer agreed to interview the participant.

The next barrier was the Health and Safety agreement.

Jane initially asked the Job centre to help complete the paperwork, but they weren’t able to provide the support, due to the participant already being on the work program. After this knockback, Jane decided it would be best for the paperwork to be completed at Acorn with the support of Diane Hall.

Whilst with Opportunity and Change, the participant also attended Skills Plus for Change sessions, which increased their confidence and improved their depression.

Within 8 weeks of work experience with M&J Products Ltd, the employer said that the participant was “an asset to the company”.

M&J Products Ltd were so pleased with the participant’s work, Jane thought it was time to ask if they could be taken on full time. The company weren’t looking to take anyone on, but the participant’s dedication, enthusiasm and determination made such a good impression, that the employer decided to give the participant a 6 month probationary period. On October 2nd 2017, the participant was granted a contract of employment!

Participant B

This participant accessed the Opportunity and Change project through Double Impact in 2017


Created lesson plans for his business idea
Accessing appropriate mental health support
Gained confidence
Willing to work on lowering their Methadone dose

Key Themes

Self-Employment, Mental Health, Substance Misuse, Confidence Building, Computer Skills


This participant was referred to the Opportunity and Change by their Drug Worker at CGL (a local drug and alcohol service). The participant’s drug worker thought this participant would benefit from the practical support offered on the Opportunity and Change project, for moving into employment.

The participant has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder accompanied by depression and anxiety, which has had a significant impact in their daily life. In addition the participant was also dependent on a high daily prescription of Methadone, which they did not want to reduce.

Upon meeting Michelle, the participant lacked confidence, found it hard to be in large groups of people and struggled to concentrate in classroom like situations.

How the Opportunity and Change Project helped this participant
When the participant first joined the Opportunity and Change project they expressed an interest in learning to weld, becoming a dog trainer and starting their own business as a bush craft instructor. After a few sessions, the participant chose bush craft (survival skills) as a business idea to focus on. Michelle could see that self-employment would suit the participant, so Michelle referred the participant to Andrew Greenslade to help make their business idea a reality.

The participant worked with Andrew to create lesson plans for the aspects of bush craft they would like to teach e.g. friction fire lighting and shelter building. Due to a lack of a computer and printer, it was difficult for the participant to create the content in a timely manner.

The Opportunity and Change project has access to IT suites, this participant wasn’t coping well in the classroom environment, so Michelle submitted a Discretionary fund application for a laptop, printer and Microsoft Office software. Soon enough the funding application was granted and participant was taught how to use the software by Michelle, so that the participant could send their lesson plans to Andrew.

The participant organised 2 demonstration sessions with Andrew and Michelle in the woods. The first teaching experience was a real learning curve for the participant, as they were sceptical about using lesson plans and as a result didn’t think they needed them. The second teaching experience was a lot more polished, as the participant decided that they would use prepared teaching plans. At the end the participant agreed that using the lesson plans make it easier to keep track of what’s been covered and what’s coming up next during the teaching session. At the end the participant the participant was more motivated than ever, to make their business idea a reality.

The participant also expressed an interest in gaining teaching qualifications and other training sessions that would be relevant to his journey. This was a big step for the participant, because they were willing to do the additional training in a classroom setting. This is something that was completely off limits, when the participant first started the Opportunity and Change project.

In time spent on the Opportunity and Change project the participant became more receptive to a referral to Trent PTS, a mental health service. This participant is now accessing the support they need to manage their diagnosis effectively. Over time the participant also opened up to the idea of reducing their Methadone prescription.

This participant now says that the best thing they ever did was walk into their first 1 to 1 with their navigator Michelle. The participant has so much gratitude on how much he appreciated the support and enthusiasm Andrew had given him towards him business idea.

This participant is very positive about the future, as they endeavour to complete their lesson plans so he can move on to writing the business plan, to acquire start-up funds for their business idea.

Participant C

This participant accessed Opportunity and Change through Derventio in 2017


Now Methadone free
Engaging with Counselling services
Completed Computer Course

Key Themes

Substance Misuse, Training, Confidence building, Bereavement Counselling, Wellbeing


This participant has a history of substance misuse and has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, as a result, they have been living in supported accommodation for 3 years. In addition to this, their mother recently passed away and as a result the participant was struggling to cope.

This participant was referred to the Opportunity and Change project by their drugs worker from Derbyshire Recovery. They felt the participant would benefit from the additional support offered by the Opportunity and Change Project.

When Emma Bennet met the participant, it was clear they were self-aware about the barriers that were preventing them from moving forward. This included anxiety and depression limiting engagement with services that could develop his confidence and skills, a history of substance misuse and the recent death of their mother, which left the participant with a lot of grief and guilt.

How the Opportunity and Change Project helped this participant

This participant was already on a methadone program we they started on Opportunity and Change project, but with additional support, the participant has been able to reduce their methadone dose, and is now methadone free.

In a 1 to 1, the participant said they felt like they had “too much time on their hands”, so Emma suggested a local drop in centre to occupy the participant. After attending a few sessions at the drop in centre, supported by Emma, the participant felt it wasn’t the right setting for them.

Emma looked for other opportunities in Derbyshire. The Adult Education Centre had a basic computer skills course which the participant expressed an interest in, so Emma enrolled the participant on that course. Emma attended the first few sessions with the participant for moral support, but now the participant is confidently attending on their own and enjoying learning again.

Upon reflection, the participant also felt the course was good preparation for when they feel ready to move back into work, which was a great bonus in addition to increasing their confidence.

The participant’s next step was to work on their bereavement management, so Emma arranged regular bereavement counselling sessions. This was a big step for the participant as it was hard for them to open up about sensitive topics, but now the participant is seeing the benefits. Last year the participant found the festive season difficult, but now that they’ve learnt coping mechanisms from the bereavement counselling sessions, the participant is now optimistic that Christmas will be a less challenging time for them.

This participant is now very happy about the progress they have made and positive that they will continue moving forward!