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Doncaster woman battles back from crippling depression to run thriving guest house

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A Doncaster woman has battled back from crippling depression to run a thriving guest house.

The illness crept up on Tracy Ward after she lost her well-paid job as a merchandiser for a high end fashion retail company.

It left the once dynamic businesswoman so bereft she could barely get out of bed.

It is hard to believe now as she greets customers arriving at the Doncaster guest house whose ailing fortunes she has single-handedly turned around in the space of just a few months.

Tracy, 39, was supported into her exciting change of career by the Work Programme, delivered in Doncaster by public service provider A4e on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

When she joined A4e, in July 2012, she was on Employment and Support Allowance disability benefits for the first time in her life.

She says her mind and body had gone into a state of lockdown and she could not complete the simplest tasks.

She said:

“I had been under a lot of stress in my previous job and when it came to an end, I expected to walk straight into another job but it didn’t happen and that knocked me for six.

“Every time I applied for a job, I would be waiting and watching for an email to tell me how I had got on but I didn’t even get any responses.

“I was crying all the time. I couldn’t even get myself up to run the vacuum around the house or wash up.

“I cut myself off from all my friends, I rarely left the house. It was only when my neighbour told me she thought I might be depressed that I realised.

“I didn’t think people like me got depression. I had always been so self-sufficient and energetic.”

She said she “hibernated” through the last winter, only really emerging in spring, by which time, with the support she was getting from A4e, she felt ready to get back into job searching.

The timing could not have been better when a family friend offered her holiday cover work running five-bedroom Rigsby’s guest house in Thorne Road.

She did so well the owner gave her the job full time so she was able to sign off benefits and become a self-employed manager.

She said:

“The place needed a complete overhaul. It looked tired and there was only one couple booked in on Doncaster Cup Day at the races, which should be the busiest day of the year.

“I am now fully booked most of the time and am getting great reviews on Tripadvisor.

“I have come at it all guns blazes. We’ve had a modernisation and I’ve done the decorating myself. I am doing everything at the moment, which is exhausting, but I am just thrilled to be working and enjoying meeting guests and seeing the place come back to life.

“I am still on anti-depressants but this opportunity has made me feel like my old self again.

“The help I have had from my advisors at A4e has been amazing. They have been my support and my sounding board.

“I don’t feel daunted by the challenge because I know I can pick the phone up and get sound advice from them before I make any big decisions. Having them has made all the difference.

Fiona Wright, a capacity and resilience advisor at A4e Doncaster who is dedicated to helping people overcome barriers to work such as health problems, said:

“Tracy trusted me enough to confide that she was struggling with her health and I encouraged her to seek help from her GP and stayed in contact with her when she took a period of sickness.

“Tracy is a credit to herself and is a great ambassador to any person who has health barriers moving forward and going into work, she refused to allow her health to define who she is. It was just something she had to deal with.”

The Work Programme, now in its third year of operation, provides tailored support for unemployed customers who need more help to undertake active and effective job-seeking.

The Work Programme, now in its third year of operation, provides tailored support for unemployed customers who need more help to undertake active and effective job-seeking.

Over the last year, A4e has been working hard to establish an excellent team of professional staff with a range of specialist skills to support individuals across the UK.

The flexibility given to service providers by the Work Programme has meant that A4e has been able to create a number of innovative programmes and specialist training to support local customers.

A4e is delivering the Work Programme on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Job Centre Plus. The Work Programme is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

The ESF in England is investing in jobs and skills – focusing on people who need support the most and helping them fulfil their potential.

Tracy Ward
Tracy Ward

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