The aftermath of a personal tragedy left Bolton mum Zoe Lomas at a crossroads. She had been working as a carer for a family member, believing she would struggle to get a job in the 'real world' due to her prominent tattoos. But after falling pregnant and sadly losing the baby six months later, Zoe was in a dark place and knew it was time to make a change.
Now, thanks to the Restart Scheme delivered in Bolton by Ingeus, Zoe is on the right path to a rewarding new career. Zoe was referred to the Restart Scheme by her work coach at Bolton Jobcentre Plus this February and was introduced to her Restart Adviser Sophia.
Zoe, 32, is mum to two children aged 11 and 14. After having the stillbirth last spring, Zoe went off sick and began to reassess her life. Late last year, she took the plunge and resigned from her job. “I came out of a dark bubble, it wasn’t easy to deal with what happened,” says Zoe. “I thought, ‘what am I doing? I need a routine’. I was ready for a new challenge in life and wanted to look for something a bit different.”
The Restart Scheme proved to be life-changing for Zoe, who describes her adviser as “an angel”. She says: “Sophia was brilliant. She helped me to sort out my CV, booked me on a computer skills course and set up an appointment with a debt adviser as I was struggling with debt and energy bills.”
Zoe told Sophia she had always wanted to work with children who had special educational needs but feared her tattoos would put off prospective employers. “You do worry about that, thinking am I going to get judged?” says Zoe. “I’m probably the nicest person you could ever meet, I am a genuine, honest person and it would devastate me if anyone did judge me.” Sophia tried to reassure Zoe and it wasn’t long before she was invited for an interview as a SEN teaching assistant.
Zoe was excited but started to worry about what to wear and how to present herself. Sophia contacted Working Wardrobe in Bolton and set up a meeting with Employment Project Officer Shaira. After listening to Zoe's concerns, Shaira helped her choose suitable interview clothes, including a silk scarf to cover her neck tattoos. Zoe was also given advice and guidance on interview technique. This culminated in a mock interview, with Shaira and Sophia both firing questions at her. “It was brilliant,” says Zoe. “It massively improved my confidence. They advised me to give relatable examples in my answers to interview questions, I hadn’t thought of doing that.”
The real interview came as a breeze after this much-needed boost, and Zoe was thrilled to be offered the job. She is undertaking the relevant training while waiting for DBS checks to be completed.
After going through such a difficult time in her life, Zoe now has plenty to look forward to. “It’s all looking really good and I am really proud of myself, my confidence is just building up daily,” says Zoe. “I am ready and raring to go and I’m so excited for the future. I would absolutely recommend the Restart Scheme; I think it’s amazing.”
Commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Restart Scheme is being delivered by Ingeus in Greater Manchester and Central and West London. Ingeus is also partner to Serco, which is delivering the scheme in Central West Midlands.