There are over 200 different languages spoken in Birmingham, so many of our client visits require interpreters. Our staff already speak a range of languages including Punjabi and Urdu; however, the clients who are really in need of our services are those who have recently arrived in the country. They bring new language needs and, generally, interpreting services are not geared up for that.
For a while now we’ve been using translation agencies but we find that it doesn’t allow us to deliver as flexible a service as we’d like. We occasionally need to access interpreters with short notice; POWs need to spend time before an appointment giving an interpreter background information and explaining what they are trying to get out of the visit.
Luckily, we are often able to interpret for clients using the skills of our own staff and volunteers. For example, a client who was recently referred to our POWs service is from Democratic Republic of Congo and speaks French. Although none of our POWs speak French, one of the Gateway volunteers is from Madagascar, so it’s her first language. With help from the volunteer, our POW was able to introduce herself and Gateway to the client. Between them, they were able to start giving the client the support she needs.
In this video, Pregnancy Outreach Worker Shazia explains how, by offering her skills as an interpreter, she can persuade women to attend important appointments that they wouldn’t otherwise have the confidence to.
So we’ve decided to fill the gap – and formalise things – by setting up a training scheme for interpreters.
The training will lead to a formal qualification – an
OCN Level 2 in “community interpreting”. But, like the training we give our volunteers, it will also include things like confidentiality, safeguarding, and work on boundaries. As well as giving us more control, this will give trainees a load of extra transferable skills that we hope will be useful to other organisations, leading to further interpreting work for them.
Many of the trainees already signed up are former clients themselves, so they are very well placed to understand how the service works, as well as a natural empathy for the client. As well as providing a translation service, they will be able to act as an assistant to the POW.
We’re hoping the course will open up work opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. The opportunity to gain a formal qualification, and to start earning money by working for us and other organisations could be the beginning of a new career.
Want to find out more?
Our first group of interpreters will start on Thursday 16th May 2013, but there are still some places available.
You don’t need any prior qualifications – just a willingness to learn! However, although English will probably be your second language, you need to be able to speak English well.
So if you speak French, Somali, Arabic, Bengali, Romanian, or any other language that is spoken in Birmingham, and think you could benefit from our scheme,
get in touch.
The media has been full of people talking about how they
could live on £53 a week recently but, even if someone takes up the challenge, it will not prove a thing.
If anything, it will camouflage the reality of living in poverty and hardship.
Many people think that it’s possible to live on £53 a week. Those people generally don’t have to – but they are right, it is physically possible. After heating, lighting, phone and a few bus journeys there may be about £12 a week left for food – and, yes, with careful buying and home cooking it could be done, although there would be no cleaning or washing of clothes or people.
But all of this misses the point.
The message seems to be: if you live off the state then you have to live a joyless existence. And £53 a week, every week, is certainly joyless.
The real point, and the point the government seems to be trying to make, is: if you want nice things (or even just things) then you must earn your own money. This is where the stunt of living on £53 a week, a stunt that Iain Duncan Smith or others will inevitably pull, will camouflage the real issues.
Most people who can’t make ends meet, who struggle to feed their families first and themselves second, who are the most punished by these reforms, aspire to better things. The politicians who insinuate that people don’t want to work, and therefore deserve all they get, can never emulate the lives of real people in poverty.
In these times getting a job is not easy. Many more people are out of work and competition for work is high. To secure a job, you need – at the very least -:
A network of supportive friends and peers
Work experience opportunities
Experience of different places and people
Self-belief and confidence
Financial help at key times
The majority of the population (and almost certainly Iain Duncan Smith) have had most of these in their lives.
And the point is, if you have them, not only could you live on £53 a week, you could lift yourself out of poverty, get a job and reduce your benefit dependency.
But without them? Well, Iain Duncan Smith will never know.
We’re only a couple of months into our latest volunteers programme, but already it’s clear to see that it’s good for everyone involved. Each of the volunteer befrienders is matched with a client (someone who needs that bit of extra support) and, as you’ll see from the examples below, they’re getting the help they need.
Also, though, the volunteers themselves are benefiting – as, not only does volunteering make you feel good, it’s now proven to improve your health! A recently-published study has found that people who volunteer enjoy healthier hearts. That’s right -
doing good is good for you! Making a difference – the story so far…
So how does the volunteers programme work?
Clients are referred from other departments within Gateway – POWs, Health Trainers and Lighten Up – and via other routes, like partner organisations or GPs. Then Chelsea Gaffey, the administrator for EAST (Employment Access, Skills and Training), carefully matches volunteers with clients based on practical considerations like where they live and their availability, as well as interests and relevant experience.
“Some people are volunteering as part of their university course and using it as their placement, so if they have other skills to offer we try to take these into account too,” says Chelsea. “Some clients have specific needs, so we look for volunteers that might have dealt with similar issues previously.”
“We’re really happy with how it’s going so far,” Chelsea continues. “Our first group of volunteers are settling in really well – and we’re preparing to interview the next batch in the coming week.”
Practical and emotional support
Eleven volunteers already have at least one client of their own and are supporting them in all sorts of ways.
Lorraine has been attending slimming classes with a client who didn’t feel confident going on her own. As well as providing some moral support she’s also helped her to start managing her finances a bit better. Just having someone who’s available to help with a little practical and emotional support can be a big boost.
Tareena helped her client to find alternative housing, as the conditions he was living in were very poor and he was being threatened by his neighbours. Together, they’ve visited Shelter, who found him a new place to live. Now he’s very happy – his new accommodation is warm and clean and he’s able to cook his own meals. This client has many health issues and, without support from people like Tareena, he might not have been able to set the wheels in motion to get the support he needed.
One of our partners is the
Thomas Pocklington Trust, who specialises in providing housing and support for people with sight loss. Social isolation and lack of interaction can be major problems for people with sight loss, so our befrienders have again been able to help. Volunteers Lorraine, Hannah, and Stephenhave all supported people with visual impairment over the last few weeks. The help they’ve been able to give has been varied; accompanying their clients to the shops or to medical appointments, going for walks and even helping with IT problems.
There are still a few places available, so if you’re thinking that you’d like to give this type of volunteering a try, why not
get in touch?
Gateway’s volunteers programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Did you know that this Monday, 21st January, has been designated “Blue Monday” – the most depressing day of the year? The darker, colder days and a lack of money are said to combine to make us feel a bit down during these first couple of months.
That’s why the Big Lottery Fund has decided to target this time of year to show how volunteering can improve people’s health and wellbeing. This week saw the launch of their new interactive map, showing
volunteer opportunities in the area.
View Blue Monday – volunteering campaign in a larger map
We’re really pleased to be part of a wider push for volunteering, as we’ve seen for ourselves the difference it can make to people’s lives.
volunteer befriender programme has two aims: to help people who are feeling isolated within Birmingham communities and to help improve job prospects for the volunteers themselves.
Befriending – whether that involves just having a cuppa, helping to walk the dog, or sharing skills such as IT – is particularly important at this time of year, for both volunteers and clients. January and February can be miserable for most people, but for someone who’s feeling really lonely and isolated, a friendly face and someone to talk to can make all the difference.
Work like this has many benefits for everyone involved. Volunteers get accredited City and Guilds training and an employer reference, as well as increased confidence and motivation. All parties have the opportunity to make new friends and learn skills, or take part in activities, that they may not have been able to access previously. Links are forged within communities and friendships flourish long after our intervention ends.
Four weeks ago, we wrote about the latest group of volunteers to start at Gateway under the EAST (Employment Access Skills and Training) programme. Now, having completed their volunteer training, our newcomers are starting to get out and about, working with people in the community who are isolated and need a friend.
One of the new volunteers is Corinne Gooden. She already works full time at a library – and it was here that she saw a poster for the befriender programme.
“I’ve been working towards a new career path for a while,” she explains. “I graduated in Communications in 2008, but it was the sociology and psychology parts of the course that really interested me. So that’s the direction I’m taking now.
“I recently completed a counselling course and I saw Gateway’s volunteering scheme as the ideal opportunity to back it up with some work experience.”
All 20 EAST volunteers started their placement with a week’s induction, followed by volunteer training, and are now working on their accredited Employability course. The course continues whilst they are out supporting clients so they can provide evidence-based work to support their portfolio.
But for Gateway’s volunteers, it’s about gaining more than just certificates.
“Gateway’s training prepares you for this type of work practically, but also emotionally,” says Corinne. “We’ve covered things like confidentiality, equality and diversity, but also how to prepare ourselves mentally for this type of work. We’ve learned how to step back and think about why a client might be acting in a particular way. And we’ve done a lot of work on boundaries; how to listen and empathise whilst maintaining a professional distance.”
Last week, Corinne spent a day shadowing one of the Pregnancy Outreach Workers. They visited a young mother living in a hostel with her six week old baby – a situation that might be quite emotionally charged for someone that wasn’t ready. But Corinne felt prepared and found the visit very positive as it was clear the woman was getting good support.
“I am feeling more and more confident about this sort of work now,” says Corinne. “I’ve already learnt a lot in the short time I’ve been with Gateway, and the practical experience is invaluable.”
This week saw the new volunteers start here at Gateway. A really diverse bunch, the one thing they have in common is their desire to work with people who need some support in their own communities.
Once they’re out and about, the volunteers will be working as befrienders – offering a friendly face, a bit of a helping hand, some information about local services,going along to groups with people, help with shopping – whatever those who are feeling isolated need!
In the meantime, they’ve started work on the Employability course they’ll all complete as part of their training – a recognised qualification which, along with the work experience provided by volunteering, really helps enhance their readiness for work. Next week they’ll be working with our Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers to get a feel for how they can best support their clients, after that, it’s up to you.
If you know anyone who you think might benefit from a befriender, someone who can support them at home or in getting out and about, someone who can let them know about groups in their area and go along with them to those groups, go out walking with someone or just sit with them at home and share a cuppa, then please contact Chelsea Gaffey on either
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 456 7820.
Yasmin has been doing some work experience with us at Gateway Family Services. Here is what she had to say in her own words.
‘My name is Yasmin Rai. I am 17 years old and I am an A-level student. At my school it is encouraged to complete a work experience placement in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the working world. Therefore I decided to look for a work placement in an office based environment. During my research I came across a company, Gateway, and I was both interested and intrigued with the services they provide. After contacting Gateway they kindly offered me a two week work placement in their office.
During my two weeks at Gateway I took on the role as receptionist. I felt this provided me with many responsibilities within the company. I was able to answer phones, sort post, pass on messages and welcome guests. I was also lucky enough to gain an insight into all the services at Gateway. I was invited to one of the Health Trainer’s team meetings, which gave me an understanding of the work of the Health Trainers. I also spent some time with Lighten Up, where I was given an in depth explanation about how their service works to help people lose weight.
I completed various administration jobs for the Pregnancy Outreach Workers. Some tasks required me to read through files to gather information on clients; this showed me the amazing work the POWs carry out for many vulnerable pregnant women. I also worked with the EAST department completing evaluations with previous clients and then adding feedback to the database. Additionally I was lucky enough to attend a training course about Equality and Diversity, which I found thoroughly interesting.
The work experience has developed my communication skills, especially over the phone, organisational skills and has given me a very in depth experience of administration work. All the tasks I have carried out have been enjoyable and a great learning opportunity. The experience has also made me acknowledge the great work that Gateway Family Services does.’
One of the hot topics at the moment is The Big Society, it is widely associated with volunteering and opinion is divided about the ethics of volunteering and concerns that paid jobs will be replaced with volunteers. We want to share with you some positive aspects of volunteering and some of the hidden benefits.
For the last year we have run a Volunteer Programme in partnership with University Hospital Birmingham, linking volunteers with Heart Patients.
The Community Volunteers in Rehabilitation programme or ‘Strictly not Rehab’ as it became affectionately known had obvious benefits to the patients in increasing activity with a view to reducing risk of further heart problems.
We recruited 30 volunteers, of those 25 were unemployed many of these haven’t worked for over 3 years. Today, 14 of these are in paid work.
All 30 got a Level 1 or 2 qualification. Indeed, 21 of the 30 reported feeling their confidence had improved since taking part in volunteering and 17 said they felt more employable as a result of volunteering.
A surprising benefit is that 21 of the volunteers have said they have improved their own lifestyle to a more healthy one since joining the programme, because of learning more about heart health.
What did they do?
Volunteers were matched with a patient recovering from a heart attack. They learnt about healthy hearts, lifestyle, wellbeing and rehabilitation and put this knowledge to good use by supporting patients through their rehab programmes. A big part of this was informal dance sessions in a bid to get them more active and to help them feel less isolated by making friends and building peer support networks of people who had been through a similar thing.
This programme showed us that in the current climate volunteering provides an opportunity to get recognised qualifications, improve confidence and get jobs. All this, while helping to improve the lives of people in local communities.
Gateway is enhancing its services through the use of volunteers and providing opportunities for people at the same time – we are always recruiting volunteers, in particular around befriending, social inclusion and community links – there are opportunities throughout Birmingham.
After five years of working on a project funded through The Big Lottery we wanted to share our headlines.
“July 2012 was the final month for The Big Lottery – Family Supporters contract. Although it is sad to see a contract end it certainly should be a time to celebrate the wonderful outcomes that have been achieved. The Project began by building on existing training and employment programmes which were designed to support families. When the economic downturn hit Birmingham there was a shift in focus – to tackle some of the barriers facing those that were unemployed. After five years we supported hundreds of clients with varied needs. Our aim was to reduce the inequalities in health, employment and training by supporting those most in need especially those lost in the system.
In the past five years we have worked with 532 people on this contract, all in difficult circumstances and all wanting to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
128 found long-term paid employment
219 joined a training programme
95 became volunteers
213 reported the support helped them with being more involved with community services
165 gained new skills and qualifications
160 said they were more likely to progress independently after being in the programme
The Keyworker team here at Gateway deserve a ”huge congratulations’ for not only achieving ALL the set outcomes by the commissioner but also to have achieved some wonderful outcomes that have really changed people’s lives.
W e are hoping that a recent funding application for an extension to the contract may be successful, watch out for an update ……
We are excited to tell everyone about our new volunteer programme which kicks off in September. Volunteers will be working in their local communities helping people connect with each other. We know that people often feel isolated and our new programme is hoping to bring communities together. So…. what do you need to do to become a volunteer? You need a bit of spare time, a sunny, outgoing disposition and an interest in helping people. What will you get? An opportunity to meet other, like minded people, gain some new skills and experience and have fun!
Whats next? Simply contact Chelsea Gaffey on either email@example.com or 0121 456 7820.
Still, not sure? How about listening to one of our current volunteers…