Two years ago, new mum Olivia (Olly) Walmsley, felt too afraid even step outside of her house, let alone get back into work.
But now Olly is following her dream to work with animals after doing a placement at Blackpool Zoo and is currently studying animal care and Blackpool and Fylde College.
The 22-year-old said she owes this to the support of St Annes Jobcentre and she can’t believe how far she has come.
Olly, of St Annes, recalled: “Three weeks after having my daughter Violet, I started feeling anxious about life in general and in particular the stresses of being a young mum. I was diagnosed with post natal depression and was prescribed medication and CBT, which helped me manage my anxiety, but I still continued to have bad bouts of depression, feeling like I couldn’t cope with life.
“My depression was having a significant impact on myself, Violet and my family. I felt unable to cope with normal daily activities such as shopping, going to medical appointments and meeting friends. I had a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood and trouble sleeping.
“I had frightening thoughts about Violent, worrying about her health and happiness. For example, I didn’t want to go out with Violet as I was concerned about sunlight on her baby, catching infections and road traffic accidents.
“But things all changed when I came in to the Jobcentre and met with Karen Jones, the Disability Employment Adviser and Amanda Partington, my work coach.
“I told them I really enjoyed working with animals, so they found me a work experience opportunity at a local cat sanctuary.
“Whilst volunteering there, not only did I help with the animals, but my confidence grew.”
Following her work with animals, she felt an immense sense of satisfaction, and her depression lifted.
With this in mind, Karen found Olly a work experience placement at Blackpool Zoo and Olly registered at Blackpool and Fylde College for a Level 3 animal management course.
Olly added: “Whilst working at the zoo, I had been doing all sorts of activities such as feeding and cleaning the sealions, learning how to administer medication and complete health checks. I was also working with the birds of prey, penguins and was even chased around the zoo by one of the peacocks. All the staff at the zoo were wonderful and so supportive, especially when I was struggling with my mental health. They encouraged me to talk when I was feeling down and keeping busy with the animals helped my mood.”
Olly is now in the process of starting a new opportunity, learning how to train sniffer dogs who work in earthquake zones and for the armed forces sniffing out explosives. She added: “If it wasn’t for the support I’d received from my family, my husband Ross, and Karen and Amanda at the Jobcentre, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Karen said: “Olly was quite upset when I first met her and daunted at the thought of trying to find work. I took things slowly, small steps each week, building up her confidence over time. As her confidence grew, so did her enthusiasm.
“I’m lucky to have got to know Olly and play a part in her journey towards work. I feel that people who work on the front line in the Jobcentres is a privileged position. We get directly involved and make a real difference to people’s lives. It makes coming to work worthwhile.”