Allan Thomas was working as a volunteer for the Disability Advice Project, when the opportunity for a job came up, thanks to funding from the Local Investment Fund.
The 61-year-old has been working as life skills coach and benefit advisor for the project for the past 18 months.
Providing staff access to all its facilities was paramount for the Disability Advice Project to operate its vital service and be able to take on more staff.
Originally set up to give advice and support to disabled people, their families and carers, the social enterprise has since diversified and now also provides access auditing and disability awareness training services to the private, public and third sector throughout the South East Wales area.
The Project is run by a highly skilled, experienced and dedicated team made up of unpaid and paid members of staff, who all have experience of being a disabled person or of caring for a disabled person.
They also provide life coaching and representation at employment tribunals for businesses and individuals.
"It is great that the expansion has meant we can help more people," says Allan, who had to give up his television repair business when he developed a neurological condition. "I had been volunteering before the opportunity of the job came up, so I was delighted to take it.
It can be quite stressful at times, but then you get a thank-you message from someone you have helped and it makes it all worth it. "It is a really friendly atmosphere and it helps that a lot of people who work here are disabled or have a knowledge of what the people are going through. It works both ways, I have been helped a lot by the Project and, in turn, I can help the Project help other people."
Since April 1999, the company has represented more than 900 people at disability benefit tribunals. With Local Investment Fund support through Torfaen County Borough Council, the project was able to move to new premises in Avondale Business Park, Cwmbran.
The funding helped with building adaptations to its new premises, allowing it to become fully accessible to businesses and clients. The investment has led directly to the creation of two full time jobs and has resulted in the business seeing turnover increase to over £72,000.
The Project also operates in the surrounding areas of Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Swansea.
Project manager Pauline Jones says the money from the Local Investment Fund means that their premises can be accessed by everyone. “We used the LIF money to pay for the ramp into the new building, automatic doors and making it more accessible for now,” she says.
“It is good practice and every building should be the same. We work very closely with the local authority, through the business and voluntary departments, which is how we heard about the funding available. With the local authority’s support, the application was very straightforward.”
Wedi ei bostio ar Dydd Gwener 27th Mehefin 2014