Former long-term beneficiary now 'a dream to work with'

 Austen Spriggs shows Otautahi Community Housing Trust job coach Tracie Palmer around the site he...
Austen Spriggs shows Otautahi Community Housing Trust job coach Tracie Palmer around the site he now works on. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The Otautahi Community Housing Trust is nine months into a pilot programme that places its tenants into jobs - but it needs funding to continue beyond May. Louis Day reports on how the programme helped one man who has been on a benefit for most of his life find a job.

Austen Spriggs had been on the benefit for 24 years.

The 42-year-old was born into a beneficiary family.

"When you are brought up into a beneficiary family you sort of become institutionalised into it," he said.

However, the day he signed up to the Otautahi Community Housing Trust's employment coach programme, he found a job.

He now works as an asbestos labourer with TechClean which is currently working at Linwood College.

Since being employed in November, he has completed his training and is now a fully qualified class A and class B asbestos labourer.

TechClean Canterbury manager James Ackroyd said Mr Spriggs was "a dream to work with."

"Austen has been superb as a worker and also on a personal level," he said.

In order to become a supervisor, Mr Spriggs needs at least two years experience. He said he wouldn't rule out going for it in the future.

Mr Spriggs said his new job had given him a "new lease of life."

"I am definitely the happiest I have been in a long time. I don't have anxiety anymore.

"It is good being around the other guys, they really are quite good guys. It is great to have a laugh with them, it is so much better than being isolated in a little flat all day.

"I don't have any plans of going anywhere anytime soon."

He said the programme had specifically helped him with formulating a CV, getting appropriate clothing for a job interview and his overall confidence.

"I was a bit lost, I had that long time off work, I have dyslexia as well, which just makes things even harder.

"I didn't know how to find a job, I kind of just lost touch with all of that. I am useless with computers.

"I definitely would have struggled just doing it [finding a job] by myself, I don't think I would have had a job by now," he said.

The programme started in May 2019 and is currently scheduled to run to the end of May this year.

However, Otautahi Community Housing Trust tenancy operations manager Martin Pearce said it is currently seeking funding to ensure the programme continues. He said it is "hopeful" of securing more funding.

Mr Pearce said since the programme began it had helped 10 tenants into employment and a further five into educational and occupational programmes.

He said the programme has provided support to 50 tenants in total.

It helps with CVs, getting interview clothes, job searching, interview skills, travel and ongoing support six months into employment. The programme also has a job club where tenants can share ideas and support each other to find work.

Job coach Tracie Palmer, who has spearheaded the programme, said the job club is having a significant impact on the overall well-being of tenants.

"There is lots of improvement in well-being with a lot of them. They might not all get a job straight away but you do see that well-being improve at the very least," she said.



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