New service for people facing a barrier into employment launches

Monday May 15th 2017

FOCUS launch

From left to right at the FOCUS launch, back row: Isabel Pattie of the council’s Lifelong Learning and Employability (LLE) Team, Dr Mary Smith, Midlothian’s Director of Education, Communities and Economy, Callum Kennedy and Paul Clapperton, who use the FOCUS service, Sharon Armstrong and Margaret Anderson of FOCUS, Karen McGowan, of the council’s Lifelong Learning and Employability (LLE) team and Stephanie Whittington of FOCUS. In front are Annette Lang, the Education Manager of the LLE team and Ami Muir who uses the FOCUS service.

A council service, which officially launched on Thursday to help people facing a barrier into a job, training or volunteering, is already changing lives for the better.

At the launch event at Dalkeith Arts Centre, more than 50 invited guests watched video interviews, including one with Callum Kennedy, who said the FOCUS team has been a huge help to him.

He said: “FOCUS helped me to apply to the council for a work placement as a temporary gardener. I really enjoyed it. Without FOCUS, I wouldn’t have known what to do. I’m now working as a volunteer in the Bonnyrigg community hospital gardens.”

The FOCUS team helps people who have a disability, medical condition or other health problems that may be holding them back from getting a job, training or volunteering.

FOCUS is free and it was set up after an extensive consultation including people using the previous Services into Training and Employment Service (STEM). It is for people in Midlothian aged from 16-64 years.

Midlothian Council’s Director of Education, Communities and Economy, Dr Mary Smith welcomed guests to the event.

She said: “We know that the value of having a job or taking part in educational courses or volunteering increases people’s confidence, self esteem, mental and physical health and helps them to feel included in society. Gaining paid employment can also increase people’s financial independence and benefit the local economy.

“It can be difficult for many people to get into work or college or even get work experience. For those who have a physical or learning disability, a health issue including mental health, caring responsibilities or literacy and numeracy issues, this can be even more challenging.

“The Focus team offers a person centred approach to make sure that people get the right support at the right time to move on. Staff work with individuals on a one to one basis to help them identify, set and achieve their goals. There is also some in-work support for people to help them stay in their job or college place.”

Among the guests was Liz Stanton, the community support specialist with Idea at Straiton. Liz has been working with the council and Borders College for 10 years now on Ready for Retail, which gives people with disabilities the opportunity to earn recognised qualifications to enhance their future job prospects.

If you are not already getting help finding a job or training with another service and you can travel independently, then get in touch with FOCUS, part of the Lifelong Learning and Employability service, on 0131 271 3713 or visit

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