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Johnathan, gets our therapy gardens ready for Spring on Work Placement Programme

12 Mar 19 - 12 Mar 20

In December 2018, our service user Johnathan completed an 8 week work placement in the therapy garden at Kingfisher Court as part of the Work Placement programme.

The Work Placement programme is about helping our service users get back into work through a work placement with us. This is an ideal opportunity for them to gain and refresh skills, obtain an updated reference and acquire new found confidence. Here is what Johnathan said about the programme when we spoke to him.



How did you hear about the Work Placements programme and what made you want to take part?

My Care Coordinator showed me the poster for the programme as he thought I might be interested. I then got in touch with Lucy, the Employment and Vocational Advisor who was great and told me more about the programme details. I wanted to get back in to work, but after being unwell, I felt I needed to build my confidence gain recent experience as I hadn’t worked for a little while.

Can you tell us about the process before you started the work placement?

I met with Lucy in my local coffee shop over a few weeks to discuss exactly what sort of work placement I would like to do, where I could get to, the hours I could commit etc.

We talked about working outdoors which is something I enjoy, and I told her I wanted a career in grounds maintenance in future. Together we designed a placement that would help me in this.

The placement would be at Kingfisher Court where I was previously a service user, so I spoke to Lucy about how I felt anxious going back. She was easy to talk to and we decided to meet in the Café at Kingfisher Court to help me get used to the environment. This really helped.

What was your new role?

I worked in the therapy garden at Kingfisher Court Garden in Radlett for two days a week. Amanda Horton, Horticultural Therapist was my placement host manager. She helped me to develop my existing skills and learn new ones too. My duties included planting bulbs, pruning bushes, weeding and wood preservative treatment.

What was your favourite part?

I really enjoyed turning compost and putting compost on the raised beds ready for Spring, the hard physical work was really satisfying. I liked getting the garden ready for fresh things to grow. I learnt to how to prune bushes and fruit trees which was new to me and I enjoyed broadening my skills and knowledge base.

What challenges did you overcome?

My placement started in December so one of the challenges was the cold, wet, frosty and even at times snowy weather! Amanda and I made sure I had the right clothing and footwear to cope with the conditions and on some of the days when it was just too cold or pouring with rain to work outside, I audited the seeds Amanda had in stock for the coming Spring time to be planted and cleaned out the pots in the greenhouse.

How has the Work Placement programme helped you and would you recommend it to other service users?

I’ve learnt so much from Amanda’s knowledge and expertise about pruning, bulbs and different types of plants. It has given me lots more confidence and I now feel ready to go and work in grounds maintenance in future.

I also enjoyed seeing the nurses who looked after me and some of the service users that were also in hospital with me when I was poorly and it was great to show them how far I have come in my recovery. I would definitely recommend having a work placement.

Have you got any tips for future interns on the Work Placement programme?

Ask questions when you are unsure of something – the staff were really kind, understanding and supportive.

What are your next steps?

I spent two days shadowing and training with the Green Minds Operatives from Mind who help with the grounds maintenance at Kingfisher Court during my placement. I am now in the process of completing the relevant paperwork so that I can begin working with them in a paid capacity.


The placement manager’s story


Johnathan’s manager was Amanda Horton, Horticultural Therapist. Here is her story:

How did you find out about the Work Placements programme and what attracted you to the scheme?

I read about the programme in the HPFT Team Brief and thought it would be a great opportunity for someone to consolidate their knowledge with the practical experience of working in a garden.

Can you tell us what happened before Johnathan started the placement?

Lucy and I had an initial meeting to discuss the programme and how an intern would benefit. She contacted me very soon with good news – the perfect candidate had come forward! We had a site meeting to consider the type of work the intern could expect to do, the practical logistics and the support the OT team could offer.

Tell us about the first day and the support you provided:

After introducing Johnathan and showing him round, we immediately got to work planting bulbs and spring bedding in containers. By the afternoon Johnathan was well into the swing of things and was pruning shrubs like a professional gardener.

What have you learned since having an intern on a work placement?

I have learned that practical demonstration and allowing learning by trial and error is a good strategy for instilling knowledge that will be retained.

Would you recommend the Work Placements programme?

Without hesitation! Johnathan has been a pleasure to work with and I think that he benefited too. The programme is particularly relevant to OTs as the focus is on occupationally based recovery.

I would definitely welcome another intern or regular volunteer to help keep the gardens attractive and productive all year round.


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