Darren Spooner

When I left school I did a Youth Training Scheme and worked on the roads, doing maintenance for a few years. But then my girlfriend became ill and I had to give up work to look after her. She was using a wheelchair most of the time and I would be getting her up and helping her. I was only 24 years old and that situation continued for the next 29 years.

After my partner died I went to the Job Centre and they sent me here, to the Employability Trust for their 12 week work experience course. I didn’t know what to expect but I found I really enjoyed it. We were doing table edging, cupboards, putting table tops on bases – it was all very varied. And I got to know people. We even fixed all the furniture for the new places in Spanish City at Whitley Bay. We are all going up there soon to visit and celebrate the finish of that project.

Before, when I was on my own, I’d get up, walk the dog and then watch telly all afternoon. If I wasn’t going to the Job Centre I didn’t go out at all. I didn’t even want to go shopping in the day time. Now I’m up at 6.30 am every morning, looking forward to coming to work. I meet up with another Employability Trust guy and we walk to where Ray picks us up and takes us to the factory, then back in the evening. Now the dog will be watching for me coming home. My two sons are really pleased for me. They are doing well – both managers, one in a bookmaker’s and one in a restaurant. They used to help me out but now they don’t need to, though we still talk every day.

Working here is a real joy, talking to everyone and all getting along. We have a good laugh and carry-on each day.