Author: Joanne Harper

Extending our weight management support: Solihull

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re very pleased to announce a new project for Gateway that will be starting in the new year: a weight management programme commissioned by Solihull Council.

The service will be very similar to the Gateway Lighten Up service that we run in Birmingham, with a call centre to triage people and provide regular support phonecalls, but it will have a bigger focus on behaviour change interventions with face to face and phone support on offer.

adult obesity in Solihull
Click to view PDF showing adult obesity levels in Solihull (pic: Solihull Council)

Why Solihull? Well, we know obesity is an issue nationwide, and affects people across the country. In Solihull, the north of the Borough has a particularly high prevalence of obesity, at around 31.4% compared to 23% in England and 23.7% in the remainder of Solihull, so we’ll be working with people in the north Solihull areas – Fordbridge, Kingshurst, Chelmsley Wood, Bickenhill and Smith’s Wood – to reduce obesity rates.

We’ll be working predominantly with people who have a BMI of over 30, with a particular focus on people with learning disabilities, disabled people and their carers, people with mental health issues, people over 40 and recent ex smokers.

Thanks to our years of experience in Birmingham, we already have a good knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to weight management. Our experienced call centre staff are set up and ready to go – they have already undertaken Behaviour Change training in order to promote weight loss and retention in weight management services.

For each client in the new programme, we’ll look at the many options that are available locally, and work with them to provide tailored options that meet their specific needs. As well as offering access to weight loss groups, we will be aiming to improve people’s overall wellbeing, and our staff will be working with their clients to find ways in which the whole family can get involved.

Lighten Up team at work
The Gateway Lighten Up team at work

And, of course, each person will get “wraparound support” via regular phonecalls from our dedicated staff, as well as face to face behaviour change support.

Working in partnership with established organisations in the Solihull area, we’ll be able to offer people a range of physical activities (including EXTEND, Tai Chi and walking groups) that are accessible to everyone and easy to sustain. And there will be a strong emphasis on getting other family members involved, with activities like “cook and taste” sessions and dance classes.

For those people with more complex needs there will be specialist support on hand, including one to one support from a dietician.

We especially like the focus on using local providers, as this mirrors our social value principles of recruiting from local communities and providing sustainable opportunities that people can keep up, long after contracts have ceased.

One of Gateway’s key areas of expertise is working with vulnerable groups, and this contract will be focusing on the most vulnerable groups in the Solihull Borough, so we are pleased to have the opportunity to roll out and demonstrate our way of working outside of Birmingham.

We recognise that Local Authorities and Public Health Services will be facing greater financial pressures in coming years, and moving into a new geographical area allows us to show that our approach can work in a variety of different area types, allowing the most vulnerable or in-need communities to access services wherever they live. We’re very much looking forward to working in Solihull.

Gateway is the Business with Heart champion!

business-with-heart-presentation-cropWe’re delighted to announce that we have been named as the Social Enterprise Mark ‘Business with Heart’ champion!

Gateway staff and managers went to the Social Enterprise Mark conference yesterday, which celebrated the 5th birthday of the Social Enterprise Mark, to be presented with the award.

We entered the competition by submitting a photo to show why we are a “business with heart”.

Jamie Forbes, Lighten Up Co-ordinator said, “Maxine, our Office Manager, saw the competition and suggested at the staff forum that we should enter. It seemed like a good opportunity to share our work with a wider audience. I suggested forming a heart shape around our banner, and it escalated from there!”

business-with-heart-smallerStaff from all levels of the organisation, from our volunteers to our CEO, took part in the photo. We’re holding hands around a banner that shows around 100 photos of clients, taken by staff as part of their day to day work.

The description to go along with the photo read:

Gateway Family Services CIC works to improve health, develop skills and opportunities, and fight inequalities. We cover areas like employment training, weight loss and pregnancy outreach, and social value is at the heart of everything we do.

The judging panel at Social Enterprise Mark chose Gateway from the five photos that got the most public votes.

Anne Mountjoy from Social Enterprise Mark said, “The judging panel advised that the decision was a difficult one to reach but your entry was outstanding, being particularly strong in showing that your team understand Gateway Family Services are a business with heart – with the linking of hands a strong indicator of this and through your description, putting social value at the heart of everything you do.”

Jamie said, “It came together easily, but the photo – the staff who got together, and the banner showing our work – wouldn’t have been possible if Gateway wasn’t the sort of organisation it is.”

Watch Jamie receive the award from Nigel Kershaw of the Big Issue:

Social responsibility

social-enterprise-mark-300We’ve been members of the Social Enterprise Mark for a long time. We’re proud to say we were one of the first to sign up to the Mark in 2009 – before it was even officially launched. At the time we described the Mark as “cementing our ethos” and it continues to be a standard we are proud to live up to.

But it’s also nice to win a competition like this and get external recognition of the work that, actually, we do as a matter of course. The “social” part of our social enterprise really is at the heart of everything we do. Adding social value is what the organisation was set up to do; it’s what we have always done – it’s just that now, that’s what it’s called!

Last week we also became a signatory of the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility. This meant signing up to an action plan to meet new targets in six areas of social responsibility:

  • Local Employment
  • Buy Birmingham First
  • Partners in Communities
  • Good Employer
  • Green and Sustainable
  • Ethical Procurement

The Charter sets parameters for our work. For example: now we will offer a minimum number of work experience placements for local students, we will involve a certain number of local groups in our fun run, we’ll expand our bike hire scheme by investing in another bicycle, and we’ll recruit and train five more local people with emerging language skills to join our interpreting agency. Most are things we would do already, but now we’ve set smart outcomes for them.

Birmingham_Business_Charter_landscape_with_regAs well as helping us firm up our commitment, the Charter has helped us recognise areas where we could do more – like in the area of “green and sustainable”. It’s part of our delivery to see local needs and respond to them, but the Charter has helped us to think globally too. So we’ve set new targets on office recycling, started a mileage scheme for bicycle users and procured battery recycling boxes for the office.

We feel that as a social enterprise it’s our responsibility to give lots of value. We’re a business, so we have to make the “enterprise” work but, actually, the “social” makes the “enterprise” run more successfully. For example, we recruit locally, and we’ve identified via a recent audit that 80% of our staff live in the areas of Birmingham that are classed as most deprived*. Sometimes these are people who have found it more difficult to get work, so we give them more support and training, but the trade-off is members of staff who are more committed; who understand people’s needs and have a rapport with their clients, which helps Gateway to achieve greater results. When we upskill our staff, we’re supporting the local community and the local economy, and our staff value us as employers.

Signing up to a Charter, or for the Mark, or entering for a competition like Business with Heart, helps us to examine what we do. It makes it easier to find out if there’s scope to do more, and to share with – and learn from – other organisations. We couldn’t be as successful as we are without them.

*resident in deciles 1-4, deciles determined by the indices of multiple deprivation

Social Value: at the heart of our work

paper-chain-peopleAs Operations Manager, part of my role is to look at the values and wider benefits that our services bring – not just to our clients, but to the wider community. More recently, this has become known as Social Value, and since the Social Value Act was introduced in 2012, more commissioners are starting to make it a key consideration when procuring services.

When we are commissioned to provide our services, we are generally measured on the number of clients who come through each service. But that doesn’t really reflect the wider picture: what our services are offering, or what people are getting out of using them: the “Social Value”.

So as well as counting the number of people who see, eg, a Health Trainer, or a Pregnancy Outreach Worker, and measuring the obvious outcomes such as who’s stopped smoking, or who’s started breastfeeding, we also measure the Social Value ‘extras’. Things like: who has reported a positive impact on their children’s health; who, as a result of losing weight, feels more confident and may even have found work; who is visiting their GP less because their health condition is now more controlled. We use this information to see where the gaps are, and how we can make changes to fill those gaps.

At Gateway, all of our clients, across all of our services, can access extra help if they need it. Things like our foodbank, our bike hire scheme and our cooking mentors have been set up in response to gaps – situations where we’ve seen an unfulfilled need. These extras offer an obvious direct benefit, but the real social value comes from the indirect, longer term, outcomes. For instance, if we see that someone needs more than a couple of food parcels, we’ll work with them to give them support and one-to-one help with budgeting and finances. This can minimise impact on other services – it might mean they don’t have to claim DWP emergency payments, for example – and gives them resilience. It has a wider social value.

Social Value has always been important to us here at Gateway – one of our core values is that “Everything we do has a positive social impact” – and we’re very pleased to see it’s becoming more important to commissioners too. But, as reflected in Lord Young’s recent review of the Social Value Act, the buy-in seems a little patchy. Different public bodies seem to see “social value” in different ways, and only some measure it directly.

A recent tender application we looked at for a neighbouring local authority allocated a clear five percent of the mark to the social value we could offer. For some, it’s up to forty percent!

Birmingham states that its “implementation of the duties of the Act will be as wide as practicable and the Council will seek to secure social value outcomes from its commissioning activities with all providers, for services, works and goods, and for all contract values”, and those who tender are asked to fill in very detailed documents, including the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility Action Plan. It’s a good start, but we’d like to see definite indication of how the information will be taken into account, especially when looking at providers.

One of the definitions the Act gives of “Social Value” includes the concept of “more value for money”, but only as part of a bigger picture. The ability to offer more for less money doesn’t necessarily provide social value and could in fact be a barrier for Third Sector organisations. At a recent Social Enterprise event, one example I was given of “social value” was that an organisation had procured bin lorries – they asked for nine, but they received ten, which included one they could use for training. That’s great, but the ability to offer freebies isn’t the sort of added value that smaller organisations can aspire to; most can’t afford to give things away.

It would be good to strengthen the Act to ensure that public bodies can’t ignore the demonstrated wider social value in order to go with the short term cheapest option. To us, the social value doesn’t just come from bringing more people into our services, but by gathering the right information, making astute decisions based on that information, and being constantly adaptable and flexible. Gateway saves money by reducing GP visits, by ensuring that fewer babies are having to engage with social services, by increasing people’s employability, or reducing their social isolation, and by building people’s resilience. By working together to fill gaps and provide interventions, we reach more people, whilst reducing pressure on other services and ensuring that the city’s money goes as far as it possibly can. To us, that’s true social value.

A busy new year for Lighten Up

Happy new year!

We know lots of people are making new year’s resolutions to lose weight, or otherwise become healthier, so we’re ready for a new influx of clients across our Health Trainer and Lighten Up services over the next few weeks.

A busy January for Lighten Up

The Lighten Up team

At Lighten Up, we can expect the first week of January to be fairly quiet, but as the month goes on we’ll get more and more referrals. (In 2014 we had 804 referrals in January, compared to 519 in February and 500 in March.)

We’re very pleased to say that for 2015 we are coming into the new year with a larger call centre team than we’ve had previously: up from six to ten. This is due to the overall high demand for the service, not just because it’s January – but it will really help during the busy period. It will also help us to increase the number of people on the evening shift, because a lot of our clients prefer to take calls in the evening.

We find that January is actually a good time for people to start a weight management programme. More people who started their classes in January last year completed their 12 weeks with the service, compared to those who started in later months. Last year, 64% of those who signed up in January completed the programme, compared to April where this had slipped a bit to 50%.

This year, an online element has been added to the service. Now, as a first step, clients are given the opportunity to explore information on a website, helping them to take steps and make small changes independently.

What happens in a Lighten Up support call?

So what sort of conversations will the Lighten Up team be having with people who are making a new start this January?

Jamie, a member of the call centre team, says: “There are basically two modes of speech when we’re talking to clients: congratulation and consolation. When someone has done well, we congratulate them, giving positive reinforcement to encourage them to continue, whilst making sure that their targets and expectations are realistic. Consolation comes when people have lower motivation, usually due to lack of progress. In this case, we’d try and help them to understand that it’s a setback rather than a failure – to put their performance into context and to implore them not to give up.”

Bob, another member of the team, says: “When speaking with new people I can usually tell from their voice whether they are really interested and really want to do it for themselves. For those that express doubts about joining, or who seem unsure, I explain the programme and the support available in more detail, and discuss the advantages. In some cases you can turn people around.”

Social contact

The Lighten Up service isn’t just about weight management, it’s about achieving behaviour change – and the key to this is motivation. For a number of our clients who are a bit more isolated, the social contact that the phone service offers is really valuable too – it can spur them on.

We find that many people make more progress if they have someone to support them. We know lots of people get that encouragement from friends and family, but some don’t, so in some cases we have referred clients to a Gateway Befriender.

Then, of course, for those who require a more one-to-one or tailored approach, there are our Health Trainers.

Working towards success

If you’ve made a new year’s resolution this year, the NHS Live Well website has ten tips to make your new year’s resolution a success – and many of these reflect the way we work here at Gateway. Breaking your goal into a series of sub-goals, keeping a journal, and sharing your goals with others in order to receive support are just some of the ways in which Health Trainers and Lighten Up help people along the road to success with whatever lifestyle changes they’re making. If you’re working towards a goal of your own and think we might be able to help you out, speak to your GP about a referral.

A little help can make a big difference

sos-cashWe’re not a charity, but you might occasionally see us asking for donations. Why is that?

The simple truth is that we want to make sure our clients – across all our services – aren’t going hungry, or making do without essentials like electricity, bus money, or a working phone.

Hardship fund

Gateway’s hardship fund is a pot of money that we make available to staff to give to clients in extreme circumstances.

Any member of staff can access the hardship fund. The money is for essentials such as fuel, transport, or baby things, and the most we give to a client is £15 (we’ve recently upped this from £10). These comments, from our Impact Assessment App, show the sort of situations where the hardship fund has been used recently, alongside other forms of support:

To the question “how have I helped you today?”, Flora said:

You went with me to Narthex for clothes and items for baby such as blankets, coat, moses basket, bath, baby gym, toiletries for my hospital stay, steriliser, nappies and changing mat. You also went with me to a charity shop to buy a car seat and bouncer from Gateway hardship fund. Thank you so much Miriam I do not know what I would have done without your support.

and Donna said:

You came with me to the neighbourhood office. You helped me complete the housing application form. You gave me hardship fund so I could have electricity.

The money is not for food. If someone needs food, we will give them food; either from our own small food bank or by taking them to a local food bank like Narthex.

The hardship fund was set up because, on a couple of occasions, we found out that staff had given clients money from their own pocket. We found it shocking that they felt pushed to make this decision; our staff already go over and above in their jobs. We decided we had to address this as an organisation.

But we are not a charity, so the hardship fund money comes primarily from our board members as some choose to donate their annual honorarium (a small payment). On top of this, staff will occasionally fundraise and donate the money to the hardship fund.

Money from the hardship fund really is a very short term stop gap, not a long term solution. But in conjunction with other types of help, it can be a lifeline when things go wrong, as Vicki Bond, a Health Trainer, explains:

“I had a client who had had her benefits stopped, and a replacement had not been put in place.

“Some clients feel ashamed of the situation they’re in, so sometimes it isn’t until you do a home visit that you realise the difficulties that people are facing. This was the case with this client. Not only had benefits been stopped but some essential items were missing from her home, so I helped her to get these by liaising with neighbourhood team to get things like a bed, oven and fridge.

“This lady accessed our food bank on a couple of occasions and also our hardship fund. The cash meant she could buy bus tickets, as she had a lot of face-to-face appointments that it was important for her to attend, but finances were making it extremely difficult to get there.”

Food and toiletries bank

We have a bank of non-perishable foodstuffs and essential toiletries that staff can access to help clients all year round, and at this time of year we have a little drive to add donations that can be used for Christmas hampers.

Christmas hampers go out to some of the women our Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service works with. As well as essentials, they include some extra treats, like baby clothes, or toys for older siblings. At Christmas, postal delays and holiday closures can make it even more difficult to get financial help from other sources, so the hampers aren’t just a Christmas present – they can be a vital stopgap.

If you think you could donate any items such as toiletries, non-perishable food items, toys, or baby clothes, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and we can arrange to collect.

shoebox donations
Carol (left) with Pregnancy Outreach Worker Lyndsey (right).


Thank you

This week we have also been very grateful to receive a donation of shoebox gifts from Carol Browne to pass on to our clients for Christmas.

Carol said, “I just wanted to do something near to home and make a little difference. My Health Trainer, Joy, told me about Gateway and the POW service and I decided it would be a good place to donate to.” Carol told us that she had been a young mum herself, and she’d received hampers like this which had helped her in her time of need.

Two Ticks: positive about people with disabilities

Gateway Family Services has recently applied for, and been accepted to, the Jobcentre Plus “Two Ticks – Positive About People with Disabilities” scheme.

Two TicksIt means we have made a public commitment to being positive about employing disabled people, and shows our existing employees that we value their contribution and will treat them fairly if they become disabled.

It also means that you’ll be seeing the Two Ticks symbol a lot more from now on – on our stationery, our website, our newsletter and any job or volunteer adverts!

Why employ people with disabilities?

Nearly seven million people of working age are disabled or have a long term health condition. Historically there has been a significant gap between the proportion of people with disabilities employed compared to non-disabled people. This is despite it being against the law to treat a person less favourably than someone else because they have a disability – whether that’s at recruitment, in relation to pay or conditions, or when selecting for redundancy.

Gateway would like to encourage and support applications for jobs from people with disabilities, to create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of people that we serve.

We’d also like to be able to retain, or support into alternative employment, any of our current employees who become disabled whilst working for us.

Our commitment

In order to achieve the Two Ticks, we have made formal commitments to the following five areas:

  1. To interview all disabled candidates who meet the minimum requirement of the job and to consider them on their abilities. This is now included in our Shortlisting and Recruitment Policies.
  2. To discuss with disabled employees, at any time but at least once a year, what we can do to make sure they can develop and use their abilities. This should be included in their one to ones and appraisals.
  3. To make every effort, should an employee become disabled, to make sure they stay in employment.
  4. To take action to ensure that all employees develop the appropriate level of disability awareness to make these commitments work. This is now included in our mandatory equality training.
  5. To review these commitments every year, to assess what has been achieved and plan ways to improve on them – and to let employees and Jobcentre Plus know about progress and future plans. This will be included in our Annual Business Plan from now on.

As an organisation we have always aimed to be positive about everyone’s abilities, and – as we talked about to some extent in last week’s blog post, Fair doesn’t mean equal – to make sure that everyone is able to participate fully. By applying for – and achieving – the Two Ticks, we’re happy to say we have simply formalised many of the things we already do.

Finding ways to stop people putting weight back on: the LIMIT study

Lighten Up team at work
The Lighten Up team at work

We know from our Lighten Up team and Health Trainers that people usually lose weight successfully when they follow a weight loss programme. But we also know that it’s not unusual for people to start putting some weight back on afterwards.

So we are currently helping to facilitate a trial, led by Birmingham University, to find out whether there are more effective ways of maintaining weight loss.

The trial, called LIMIT, aims to find out into whether further intervention after someone has completed a commercial weight loss programme (like Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley or Slimming World) can help to prevent people putting the weight back on.

Dr Amanda Daley, Primary Care Clinical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “Many people are successful at losing weight but unfortunately most people will regain this weight over time. The LIMIT study is looking at different ways of preventing people putting their weight back on again. In doing this we hope we can contribute to improving the health of people in Birmingham, which is very important to us.”

Gateway is recruiting participants from Lighten Up’s client pool for the study, so we are recruiting people who have already been to a weight loss group for twelve weeks (and received support from the Lighten Up team during that time) and lost five percent of their bodyweight.

It’s a “comparative study”, so participants are randomly put into one of two groups: a “control” group or an “interventions” group. The control group gets the usual Lighten Up follow up support, but the “interventions” group receive additional support, including some mentoring and suggested weight monitoring strategies.

The LIMIT trial fits in really well with the existing Lighten Up service for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the University are keen to look at this area, and we already work with people wanting to lose weight, so for us to recruit people for the trial makes perfect sense. Lighten Up staff already know their clients, so can easily talk to them about the wider benefits of taking part. And secondly, all additional data that the study gathers (which is anonymised, unless the client has explicitly agreed to sharing) can go towards strengthening the information we already have within the service.

Overall, we hope to learn what works best. We’ll be able to use the information to improve existing services and, potentially, to build new services.

At Gateway we are we’re always keen to find new solutions to old problems, and experiment with new types of service provision. For example, we originally set up the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service as an untested, experimental model seven years ago, but it’s now an established service, constantly evaluated and proven to work.

Over the last few years we’ve become much more conscious of the need to demonstrate sound results, and it’s studies and trials like LIMIT that allow us to do that. They also give us the freedom to experiment; we believe our services work, but trials help us to find out what will work even better, highlight flaws for us to respond to, or help us show more clearly what we are achieving.

We’re always keen to work in partnership with others and we have a great working relationship with the staff at the University – so much so that we now have new departments contacting us with a view to being involved in new studies! We are happy to help, as we can show how studies like this, and their outcomes, might be able to fit around services and clients’ lives. And, of course, we can see the value that they bring to public health in Birmingham.

Statement on “Help To Work”

As you know from our post last week, On the first rung of the ladder, we have recently taken on two trainees via the Help to Work scheme.

Gateway is committed to getting long term unemployed people into work and to do this we look at a number of approaches including apprenticeships and traineeships (including the recent Training To Care scheme). We regularly respond to requests to take on people on work experience, as we have the ability to provide a positive and useful introduction to work. We provide a variety of services, so we feel there’s a lot of scope for the people who come to gain a range of experience.

Help To Work is just one of the things we have looked at as part of our EAST (Employment Access, Skills and Training) department’s wider work.

We are aware that Help to Work has a negative image and that not all employers view trainees in the same way that we do. We decided to explore it anyway, because our experience means that we can give people on work placements the best possible opportunity under the circumstances.

We would like to stress that the people supplied to us on placement are additional to our workforce; they do not fill an existing role. What we do is to create roles and tasks for them, hoping that it will give them the broadest possible opportunity to learn new skills and find out what sort of things suit them. Furthermore, we do not do this for any sort of financial gain. In fact, there is a small financial cost to us, as people need supervision and training.

As the previous post mentioned, we’re very pleased that our original placements, Nikki and Keiran are now in a paid apprenticeship with Gateway.

As an organisation we pride ourselves on having strong ethics. We can understand people’s distrust of the Help To Work scheme. We shared it, to an extent, but feel that our track record of helping people into work over many years means that we can provide people with a positive and supportive environment. However, we will be reviewing our involvement and, as always, considering the views of our staff and clients, including our current trainees, very carefully.

“I’m a different person!” – Sarah’s Training To Care success

awardsAt tonight’s Gala, we’re presenting awards to some of our clients who have achieved successes during the previous year.

Training To Care Manager Michelle Bluck has nominated trainee Sarah Greening for an award because of her hard work and achievements on the course so far.

Training To Care is a gateway for people who want a caring career, offering them the qualifications and experience they need in order to apply for NHS jobs. It offers people with little or no work experience the chance to earn money and gain experience as they train towards a formal qualification in Health and Social Care.

Everyone receiving their first qualification will get a High Achiever award at the Gala, but Michelle nominated Sarah for a separate award because, of all our trainees, she felt Sarah has grown the most.

Before coming to Gateway, Sarah had stayed at home for years, bringing up her son. “I knew I needed to get out and look for work, but I didn’t have the courage; I didn’t know how to start,” Sarah says. “When I saw this opportunity come up, I forced myself to go for it, even though I was really scared. Even when I got through the interview I didn’t think I’d be able to do the work. I’m a quiet person and I had to learn how to open up.”

Michelle says, “When Sarah arrived for interview it was clear that she believed in what she wanted, but she was nervous and underconfident. I can’t put my finger on why I felt she would do well, but I wanted to give her a chance.”

And here is Sarah later on that night accepting her award

Part of the reason that Training To Care is different is because of the employability work that Gateway does with trainees. Sarah knew that a caring role was right for her but needed some encouragement. With this extra support, her progress has been phenomenal.”I’m a different person!” she says. “I’ve gone from not working, and feeling worthless, to enjoying what I do so, so much. I’m going out, talking to people. I work four days a week, and by the end of my break I can’t wait to go back. It’s a responsible job; patients put their trust in you, so helping them has given me a lot of confidence.”

Michelle agrees. “Despite her initial shyness and underconfidence, the way she approaches people – her manner with the patients – is genuine and natural. And she’s not afraid to stand up for patients, to be an advocate,” she says. “Even the most awkward patients are asking for her by name now. She has a way of getting them to do what she needs them to do; thanking them for letting her work. She makes them feel like they’re doing her a favour!”

The job Sarah’s doing at Moseley Hall Hospital is a tough one. It includes personal care (bathing, toileting, feeding) and working with all ages, including older patients with dementia. So why did Sarah choose care work, rather than a shop or desk job? Like most of our trainees, she says it was a natural choice for her. “Everyone asks why I would want to do this – I mean, it’s hard work – but it seems obvious to me. I’ve always been a caring person. Some people think you can be ‘too nice’, so I thought I’d take it somewhere where it would be appreciated.”

In November, Sarah will receive her Level 2 City and Guilds diploma in Health and Social Care, and by the end of the year she’ll have 12 months of really valuable work experience, with excellent references. All Health and Social Care roles must have a percentage of qualified staff, so she’ll be highly employable.

“Considering she’s never had a job, I am continually surprised by Sarah’s work ethic and the way she applies herself,” says Michelle. “Her commitment is faultless – she’s never been late, or off sick. Both her teamwork and lone working are excellent and this is reflected in feedback from her supervisor, and in her one-to-ones, which are invariably positive. The more you throw at her, the more she absorbs – and the more she wants to absorb. She’s genuinely interested in the work and she even does her own research alongside the course. A caring role just seems to come naturally to her – it just flows.”

It’s Gala time again!

Next Friday, 5th September, we’re holding our annual Gala at the beautiful Highbury Hall.

The Gala is an excellent opportunity to showcase our work to commissioners and decision-makers, showing the difference our staff make to people’s lives, and how that impacts on the services within Birmingham. But it’s also an opportunity to give ourselves a little treat and say thanks to our colleagues and partners for a job well done!

Awards for clients, staff and partners

The Gateway GalaA big part of the Gala is the awards ceremony.

Each year, staff nominate clients they’ve worked with who have achieved success on their programme during the previous year. It’s up to our staff what “success” might mean. It could be losing lots of weight, overcoming obstacles to complete a programme, gaining their first qualification or volunteering for the very first time.

Without the hard work and commitment of our staff, we wouldn’t be able to reach the clients that we do, so some staff have also nominated colleagues whose work they feel has been outstanding in the category of ‘Making a Positive Social Impact’.

Working together with other organisations and partners means that Gateway has been able to do more than we would have done on our own, so we also have Partnership Awards. Each of our departments has nominated one partner to receive an award, and we can announce those here today:

  • Health Trainers are presenting a Partnership award to Birmingham South Central CCG, for the work they’ve done together on reinvigorating the Personal Health Forum (Long Term Conditions Group)
  • Lighten Up has nominated Birmingham University, with whom we have been collaborating to identify new and more effective ways to help people lose weight
  • The award from our Pregnancy Outreach Worker Service (POWS) is going to Birmingham City Council Pupil Connect, who have broadened the reach of the Teen POW service by linking us to pregnant young women who are in the school system
  • Employment Access Skills and Training (EAST) are presenting their Partnership award to the National Offender Management Service, Drake Hall Women’s Prison, for introducing interpreting as a skill for offenders to develop, to their prisoners pre- and post-release.

A formal ‘do’

This year’s Gala will be at the picturesque Highbury Hall, a beautiful manor house venue run by Birmingham City Council.

Annual-Gala-Invitation-2014Last year, we took a chance on holding a daytime Garden Party but, we must admit, it just didn’t seem to have the same pizazz as Galas in previous years. It wasn’t helped by the weather!

So this year, we felt that we should return to our old format and we’re holding a formal evening do.

Our Gala co-ordinators have worked hard to organise a great party, so we’re really looking forward to it. The location is amazing, the menu looks divine, and the drinks (be they orange juice or fizz) will be plentiful. Cheers!