September 2022 sees Move On turning 25! To celebrate, we’re telling stories from the last 25 years. What better way to show you the importance of our work? We want you to hear from those people whose lives we’ve changed. Today, we’re hearing from Declan Cannon.

Declan’s Story

Declan was referred to us when he was just 15, through the C.L.A.S.S. social work initiative. At the time, he was dealing with the effects of an unstable housing situation due to substance abuse within the family home. As a result, he was suffering with severe anxiety, leading him to have almost entirely disengaged with his education.

Declan had missed so much school by the time he joined us, his social workers had genuine concerns he’d leave education with no qualifications. He was struggling to find a clear path to follow.

Declan’s Journey

Declan completed several different programme with us, including our Peer Education programme, and ACE employability course. By the end of them, Declan had completely turned his future around. Talking to us about his experiences a few years back, Declan described training with Move On as “a breath of fresh air for me. It forced me to interact with other people in different social settings as well as enhancing my skills.”

After completing his education with us, Declan stayed in regular contact. He jumped at the opportunity to become a volunteer mentor with us. A few years later, we were looking for a new Development Worker to join our staff team; Declan fit the bill perfectly. He spent several years working across a range of programmes with us; he supported our mentor matches, delivered employability programmes, and facilitated outreach work to intervene early with young people in school having a similar experience to his own.

Although he chose to move on himself just a couple of years ago, Declan has continued to tirelessly support people throughout his career. He now offers a broad range of support to vulnerable people through his work in the health sector.

We caught up with Declan to find out what he’s been up to in the years since working with us. He shared what 25 years of Move On means to him.

How Were You Involved With Move On?

“I was initially involved with Move On when I turned 15, after I was referred by my social workers. I wasn’t really engaging with school much, and the chances of any kind of attainment from my education had really gotten quite slim. So I got referred here to do some of the personal development programmes. I did that for a while, and then eventually got involved in the mentoring programme. I was a mentor for a couple of years, which was really good. After maybe 2 or 3 years of that, I became a Development Worker for Move On around 2016. I then worked here for around 4 and a bit years, before moving on myself.

So between being a service user, then working here as well, I was probably here about 9 years in total. Jack-of-all-trades Cannon, that’s me!”

What Were You Doing Before You Got Involved With Move On?

“I never really went to school to be honest, I just dogged it all the time. It got to the point where when I was 15, professionals got involved. They started really scrabbling, thinking, ‘Oh my God, this boy’s going to have nothing, we better do something.’ So I then got referred here.

I can’t remember the exact names of the programmes off the top of my head I must admit, but basically I did two different personal development programmes with Move On. Then from that I eventually moved into the mentoring side of things.

At the time really, my main issue and the reason I disengaged with school was that I used to really struggle with social anxiety. I didn’t like being around people, particularly people that I didn’t know. So if we’re being perfectly honest, my first feelings about coming to Move On were probably those of dread. ‘Oh, all these people I don’t know, my God it’s gonna be a nightmare.’ But obviously from the minute you walk in the door here, you get the vibe instantly that this is not like a mainstream school environment, it’s completely different. Words like nurture really come to mind.

I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t struggle when I first came here because of the social side of things; I did. But I very easily and quickly came round to it with the support of the staff that work here. So, initially a feeling of nervousness and dread, very quickly became… I don’t know what I would have done if I never came to this place, honestly.”

What Brought You To Move On – Why Did You Want To Work With Us?

“I just really liked the place honestly, really liked the vibes, so I just tried to keep in touch with them a lot – keep my foot in the door to a certain extent. It was really strange, when the Development Worker role initially came up, I’d had a conversation with Shug (Our Senior Development Worker and Move On veteran) not long beforehand. It was him that really pushed me to apply.

I always had this weird idea in my head where it was like I wanted to do something that helped people. But I never knew exactly what that would look like. I didn’t ever know how to articulate it. I just knew, whatever I would end up doing, I wanted it to be something that would have a positive impact on somebody. Doing mentoring was a good opportunity to get my foot in the door, and it was something that I found really fulfilling.

I think also just looking at a lot of the existing staff members at Move On when I was a service user, listening to their own stories. They’ve overcome adversity of different kinds themselves, and they’re now in a position to support other people. It sounds dead cheesy, but I found it really inspiring, honestly. I almost stumbled into working in the third sector a wee bit, I say that to people. It’s probably the best stumble I’ve ever had.

I just wanted to help people. I didn’t know what that looked like, but I wanted to do something to help folk. Move On had helped me a hell of a lot, so when the opportunity came up to work here, and continue to do that, it was a no-brainer for me.”

What Have You Gone On To Do Since Working With Move On?

“After I left Move On at the end of 2019, I went on to work for an organisation called the Health & Social Care Alliance. My job title is currently Community Links Practitioner. I’m based in a GP practice, and I help people with their non-medical issues. So that can be anything and everything to be quite honest. The main things that come up a lot are things like benefits and housing, social isolation, or the other general socio-economic issues that come up in areas of high deprivation.

On top of that I’ve started studying to become a CBT Therapist. I did a programme to get into that, and I’m now at the diploma stage. So aye, that’s what I’ve done since I left Move On!

I always feel dead cheesy when I talk about it, but it’s a privileged position to be in. Of course I’m proud of myself for getting to where I am at this point. But I think about the grounding and the platform I was given by Move On to even just build my experience in the first place, and being involved in the multitude of programmes that Move On run here. I don’t think I could have gone on to do what I’ve done, had I not been here first. So yeah, it’s just been great. I’m very, very grateful.”

What Was Your Favourite Thing About Your Time With Move On?

“I think honestly just the support – I say it all the time, but the staff here are just unbelievable. I can’t even possibly think of a way to articulate it well enough. The staff are just fantastic. I think back to my teenage years when I first came here; a lot of the staff probably believed in me a lot more than I believed in myself. Just being given that sort of nurturing relationship with people that aren’t your immediate family or friends, it really did push me to go on to doing the kind of things I’ve done. I just think that the ongoing support of the staff was really the hallmark of my time here, honestly. It’s a great place, it really is.

If You Could Describe Move On In 3 Words, What Would They Be?

“3 words… Supportive, that’s an obvious one. Empowering. And… nurture. I know that’s kind of similar to support to a certain extent, but I think about the ongoing nature of the support that you get here from Move On staff. You’ll have an assigned worker, or if you’re a mentee, you’ll have a mentor who you’ll be consistently working with for an extended period of time. It really has got a real nurturing element to it, you know?”

What Do You Think Our Next 25 Years Should Look Like – What Would You Like To See Us Do With £25,000?

“I think to be honest, probably very similar to what Move On has been doing the entire time it’s been here. It sounds really simplistic, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I can only speak for myself, I can’t speak to other people’s experiences, but I’m really not over-embellishing when I say that this place changed my life. I really don’t know what I would have done, or where I would have been, had I not come here. Especially at what was, in hindsight, quite a critical juncture in my life. I can sit here until I’m blue in the face saying a million cheesy things, but I am just forever grateful for this place.

I think just continue to do a lot of the stuff you’ve been doing. The mentoring programme, employability-based support – just giving that kind of holistic support to young people that come through the service. Ultimately, if you have someone that’s referred for mentoring or something, then you start to dig a wee bit deeper, and have conversations about what else is going on in their life. More often that not, you’ll find that there’s a multitude of multi-faceted issues and barriers that that person’s facing. I think just anything Move On can continue to do to help people chip away at those barriers, and reach the potential that they’re more than capable of; that would be money well spent as far as I’m concerned.”

Is There Anything Else You Want To Add – Any Other Move On Stories You Want To Tell?

“To sum up, I suppose I’d say that the staff here are just second to none. Since graduating, I’ve worked a lot in the third sector, with different groups and organisations. I’m not just saying this because of my affiliation with Move On, but the place genuinely is unique. The staff are just incredible, it’s Move On’s biggest asset, and something that I’m so grateful that they have. I hope that they continue to have that going forward. They’re just amazing, amazing people.”

£25,000 For 25 Years

If you’d like to help us support more young people like Declan, please do donate to our campaign to raise £25,000 to help us change lives for another 25 years.

If you know of a young person like Declan who could use our help, please look at our current employability programmes.

Every penny counts, so we really appreciate your support. Fundraising has been harder than ever over the last couple of years, while our services are in ever greater demand. Please give whatever you can.

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