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MOTW Staff Workshop – October 2021

close up of a laptop showing people on a video call, a cup of tea is next to the laptop

As with all our events throughout 2021, our October workshop was delivered remotely via TEAMs.  Hosted by the Programme Manager, Nicola Barraclough, the workshops are a chance for us as colleagues to network with other services and one another.  It’s a great opportunity to learn a bit more about what providers can offer our participants, ask questions, and get a good understanding of the support on offer.

At this workshop we welcomed three guest speakers, and kicking us off was Paul McEldon, the Chief Executive of the North East Business & Innovation Centre (BIC).

The ‘BIC’ are one of Moving On Tyne & Wear charity partners, and as we’ve recently had a number of new colleagues joining our team Paul was keen to come along, introduce himself and chat about what they do.  It was also a good opportunity to remind our existing colleagues of the service and talk through the changes to their offer as a result of the pandemic.

The BIC are a not-for-profit organisation based in Sunderland and have been supporting residents of Tyne & Wear for 25 years.  They’re a business support provider, with a lot of business premises on their books that they can offer to their clients to enable to them to set up small businesses.  Although they’re based in Sunderland, they have a couple of subsidiaries across the North East, meaning they have coverage across all of Tyne & Wear and can help participants from across our entire programme.

Business accommodation is a big part of their offer; however, they also focus on business start-up support and help around 150 people per year to become self-employed.  Most people that come to The BIC are unemployed, but they’ll help anyone explore their business idea.  They’ll even help someone to think of an idea if their goal is to be their own boss!  If someone comes to The BIC with a business idea of their own, they’ll help them determine whether it’s sustainable, if self-employment is a good option for them personally and what it means to go self-employed.  The BIC work with people on an individual basis to help them believe in themselves, their venture, and their future.  They pride themselves on working with the individual rather than the business as by helping someone to feel better about themselves will give their business a better chance of being successful.  The BIC take the time to help people understand the impact of self-employment on finances, family relationships and free time.

During the pandemic, like with most service providers, The BIC moved their support to online delivery.  This will be continuing going forward as they recognise, like we do, that sometimes people prefer to communicate digitally and aren’t ready to get back to a classroom environment.  One of the great things about The BIC is that they offer this flexibility meaning someone can have a face-to-face or virtual one-to-one session or attend a workshop with a group of others – the choice is theirs.

Once someone has received help from The BIC and has their business idea ready to go, they can also benefit from specialist support such as managing finances and learning how to market the business and attract customers.  Nothing is compulsory; however, The BIC go out of their way to make the process as easy as possible for their clients and give them the highest chance of success.

Paul then went on to remind Moving On Tyne & Wear Navigators how they can easily refer their participants to them and that, if needed, they could accompany their participants to their appointments to help them transition, feel confident and comfortable.  It was a brilliant session and we’re so grateful to Paul for coming along.

Next on the agenda was Alisdair Cameron, the Co-Director of ReCoCo the Recovery College Collective.

ReCoCo are an independent charity with a large presence in the voluntary sector.  They’re a multi-agency partnership and everyone who works and volunteers there has their own experience of mental health problems.  Their lived experiences are helping those living with these experiences to get through, develop and move forward.

Rooted in community development, ReCoCo offer a range of Groups and Courses that bring people together and re-establish connections.  By getting people involved in their local community and providing a personal support network they find that people’s symptoms reduce and people’s mental health is dramatically improved.

Their courses typically run for 4-6 weeks, and the hope is people come along for the whole thing.  Their groups are less structured, people can come along when they need the support and if they miss a few weeks that’s ok!  This element is great for our Moving On Tyne & Wear participants as it provides the flexibility and understanding they need from training providers.

ReCoCo are based in the centre of Newcastle, but that doesn’t mean they only help Newcastle residents.  Anyone is welcome to utilise their services.  They currently occupy two of the floors of the building they’re in, and the other floors are all filled with other support services, groups and organisations such as Social Justice Lass, Edge NE and Families in Care.  They’ve formed a collective that means people accessing their service also have other fantastic offers of help under the same roof!  By recognising that most people have multiple issues, desires and needs they’ve created a safe community of support that can help maintain the momentum of someone’s recovery.

People don’t need a formal referral into ReCoCo, anyone can ring up and access the courses and groups on offer.  The courses run during term time, and they stick to their local authority time-table – this allows them time off in the holidays to train the trainers and gives people consistency, structure, and an awareness of where and when they need to be somewhere.  A prospectus is produced and distributed every term and can also be found on their website.  In the prospectus there is a list of all available courses as well as some information about the support services they work with on a regular basis – it’s a brilliant free resource for anyone to utilise!

We’re so grateful for Alisdair for coming to talk to us, like us, their only aim is to help people get to where they want to be, and we look forward to working with them in future.

Our final guest speaker was Darren Tate, Founder and Director of Suitability.

Darren Tate is one of Moving On Tyne & Wear’s Navigators.  He started Suitability 3 years ago in his spare time and it’s gone from strength to strength!

3 years ago, one of Darren’s participants had a job interview booked in, but she didn’t have anything to wear or any funds to buy something.  After some research Darren found Smart Works, a charity that provides women with interview clothing and support.  He referred her to the service, she was kitted out and had the confidence and empowerment that meant she was successful at interview!  Whilst Darren was overjoyed to have helped his participant and find a service that would be beneficial to so many more, he wondered where the men’s service was.

A few days later Darren was attending a social enterprise training day at The BIC and one of the tasks was to think of a business idea.  He came up with Suitability, a free service that would donate interview clothing and support to men.  A business plan was created and off he went! He had 10 suits at the beginning, including his own, and he went out and about in Newcastle to chat to people and offer his help.

The first suit he donated was to a participant on his MOTW caseload, a 19-year-old lad who had an interview but nothing to wear.  Darren donated one of his own suits and following the interview the suit was re-donated back to Suitability.  Family, friends, and MOTW colleagues helped to donate suits and over time his collection grew.  By the end of 2019 he had over 100 suits stored in his parents’ garage and loft.

When the pandemic hit, Suitability was affected as no body was going for jobs anymore.  But Darren didn’t want the momentum to stop, so he set up his social media platforms and offered his suits to those who might need one for a funeral or other occasion.  Each fitting was, and continues to be done virtually, and the suits are hand delivered to the recipient’s door to minimise contact and keep costs to a minimum.

Fast forward to June of 2021 and thanks to a hefty donation from Jason Manford, Suitability went from having 100 suits in storage to over 600.  All of a sudden Darren’s parents’ loft wasn’t big enough anymore and after a plea on social media he secured a free storage unit to house everything safely and securely.

Suitability continues to help people who need a suit for funerals, and now more and more people are applying for positions Darren can provide interview clothing again too.  He’s also working with local Universities and Colleges to provide clothing hubs where those who are graduating or applying for positions can access his service and not only look smart but feel smart too.  The college hubs are run by students and stock a range of donated self-care products to give people a well-rounded experience.

Darren’s plans for Suitability are huge, he wants to make the organisation more sustainable by looking into recycling options, he’s keen to upcycle items if possible and get clothing adapted for those with disabilities.  He’s also keen to obtain premises so he can house everything in a way that means men can pop in, have a real-life fitting and face-to-face support and he’s currently looking at utilising some of the space available at ReCoCo for this.

Moving On Tyne & Wears new members of staff were inspired by Darren’s story and he explained how to refer someone in and the eligibility criteria they need to meet.  The main premise of Suitability is to support people with interview clothing; however, we were reminded that this isn’t all that these clothes can be used for.  If we have a male participant who needs clothes for a training or education programme, we can seek Darren’s help.  And if we have someone who has secured a job but has nothing to wear then Darren can help kit them out to get them to payday and beyond.

It was a brilliant session, and Darren’s passion for Suitability shone through.  We’re excited to see where it takes him in the future and will continue to help promote his service as a fantastic resource for those who need it.

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