Working with young people with special educational needs has been a huge part of Tony Carroll’s life for the last two decades until he retired from his role as a teaching assistant.

Having to take early retirement from full time work for medical reasons was disheartening for Tony until a former colleague pointed him in the direction of Daisy Chain and he hasn’t looked back since.

Tony now works with the students on the employability course at the charity’s Superstore on Portrack Lane in Stockton and he loves every minute of seeing the students develop new skills for the workplace.

“It’s great to be able to bring all my skills from the school environment in coaching pupils with special educational needs in vocational training and social skills to Daisy Chain,” he smiles.

“One of my former colleagues suggested Daisy Chain would be ideal for me, she recommended it because she was already volunteering here and I would recommend it to anyone too.”

Tony began volunteering towards the end of 2017 and he recalls, “The first time I walked in the store, I saw one of the students was a former pupil at the school I had worked at and it was amazing to see how well he was doing, how the course at Daisy Chain was transforming him. The course itself is excellent, it’s a shame there isn’t even more provision for young people to be able to gain these skills.”

His daughter is on the autistic spectrum so Tony understands the issues young adults face. He and wife Christine have concentrated on helping her achieve her independence and now 28, she has had a full-time job and a flat of her own for some years.

“It’s important young people have opportunities to work and gain their independence where possible. They all have abilities that can be used in employment. All you have to do is listen to them and build up their self-esteem, confidence and social skills that the rest of us often take for granted.

“I said after I retired that I would like to move on from working with younger children to working with young adults so this is ideal. I first knew of Daisy Chain not long after the charity was opened when I escorted a pupil to the farm to take part in activities. There was just the farmhouse and gardens then so it’s wonderful to see how much it has grown and what it now offers 15 years later.”

Tony currently offers two mornings a week supporting students learning tasks in the store such as customer service, sorting donations but he points out, “It’s a two-way street though because I get so much out of it myself. It’s given me a purpose again, it gives me something to focus on and it’s very rewarding so it’s good for Daisy Chain and it’s good for me too.”