Category: Skills & Training

Providing skills and training to increase employment opportunities, health and well-being

Gateway Health and Wellbeing team

Local businesses get a taste of new Workplace Wellbeing services

Margaret, Jemma and Reshma with the Smoothie BikeOn 19th July, we officially launched our Workplace Wellbeing services with a free Workplace Health Taster Day.

The hospitality suite at the Chamber of Commerce building became a “health centre” for the day, with free activities including blood pressure and BMI checks (with personalised advice based on the results), an introduction to Tai Chi, impairment goggles that highlight the effects of alcohol, and even a smoothie bike, creating pedal-powered healthy drinks!

Marri on a smoothie bike
Finance Administrator Marri pedalled for his smoothie in record time!

Representatives from more than 60 local employers — including most of the organisations based at the Chamber building, Morrisons supermarket, Newman University and the Chamber itself — came along. They received a range of free support and advice from our experienced health professionals, with many choosing to pop back throughout the day to get involved in as many different activities as possible.

For these employers and employees, the Taster Day was a chance to find out how small health changes and preventative checks could have a big impact on working life.

Educating and supporting staff to actively manage their wellbeing has been shown to reduce absences and sickness levels, and to improve staff retention, motivation and productivity. Our Health and Wellbeing Facilitators gave BMI and blood pressure checks, which can be a really important indicator of wider issues or underlying health problems. Activities like the smoothie bike and the impairment goggles are fun, but they also provoke some really interesting conversations about health and the impact of good and bad habits, which our Behaviour Change Advisers were on hand to facilitate.

A training opportunity for us

As well as promoting our Workplace Wellbeing services, and testing our expanded offer, the Taster Day was really useful for our staff to gain more experience working with people from the corporate sector. Although our Health and Wellbeing Facilitators have worked with thousands of individuals in local communities over the years, supporting people in the workplace is slightly different, so we’re keen to make sure our delivery of these new packages runs as smoothly as possible.

Attendees receive an introduction to Tai Chi
Attendees receive an introduction to Tai Chi
For example, time is much more of a factor when people have been sent by an employer to get a health check within work time, or are visiting in their lunch hour – but our Facilitators quickly got used to the time restrictions at the event. Thanks to their years of previous experience, they were able to complete the mini consultations efficiently, and to spot where the focus of their advice for each person needed to be almost immediately, whilst maintaining their friendly, personal approach.

Because people are referred to our Workplace Wellbeing services by their employer rather than their doctor, these corporate health interventions also have a very slightly different focus. Although Gateway staff still take a “whole person” approach, and work one-to-one with the individual to get a picture of their health, conversations about work need to come to the forefront, and all the advice is given in the context of the workplace.

Ready to work with workplaces

It was wonderful to see how well our staff worked together to create a fun but informative event, and we’d like to thank everyone that came along and helped us create such a buzzing atmosphere. Visitors told us they were inspired by what they’d learned, and were going back to work feeling motivated, which was great to hear! But not only did we have lots of fun, we’ll be able to use what we learned on the day to make future Workplace Wellbeing services even more useful.

If you’d like to find out more about Gateway Workplace Wellbeing packages, or to run a similar event at your workplace, take a look at our Workplace Wellbeing pages or give Jemma or Keith a call on 0121 456 7820.

Lighten Up For Life logo

Lighten Up for Summer!

Our weight management course with a difference, Lighten Up For Life, is currently recruiting for May – so if you live in Solihull, have a BMI over 30, and would like some specialist help… read on!

Like other weight management groups, Lighten Up For Life helps people to lose weight by providing a support group with information and regular weigh-ins. But there are some big differences too. For a start: it’s FREE!

preparing healthy pizza at practical session
Session 8 is a practical session – preparing healthy pizza

Unlike many other groups, Lighten Up For Life provides support from a team of professional health specialists, including qualified Health Trainers, a Dietitian and a Behaviour Change Specialist who has formal training in health psychology.

The 12 Lighten Up For Life sessions include physical activities tailored for each group, ways to manage stress, tips about cooking healthy food on a budget, and even help to get your family on board. We welcome partners and family members at the sessions, because if they understand what changes you’re making and why, you’ll be more likely to stick to new routines. (And yes, it’s free for them too!)

Although Lighten Up For Life offers brilliant peer support, and you may even make some lifelong friends, this isn’t a club you’ll be going back to again and again. So in these 12 weeks, we’ll arm you with all the information, tools and support you need to make sure you and your family can continue to live more healthily in the long term.

Successes so far

First LUFL group with their completion certificates
The first group with their completion certificates

Our first Lighten Up For Life groups started in January, and last week our very first group finished their 12 week course. Crucially, all of them say they’re confident that the changes they’ve made over the last three months are lifelong changes.

Group members have told us they feel more optimistic and more knowledgeable about leading a sustainable healthy lifestyle now, and that they’re more active than they had been before – even those who have been to other commercial weight loss groups in the past. We’re really proud of them!

Not only do they all have a greater understanding of government guidelines and how to implement them in their own lives, but they’ve got hands-on, practical knowledge too. Everyone in the group has been able to try new healthy alternatives to favourite treats, and everyone is sharing the information they have learnt with their families. Several members had brought their partners along for at least some of the sessions, and they also lost weight, which is really great to hear.

They’ve also made special mention of the social aspect of the group, so we’ve helped them to set up a WhatsApp group to continue this peer support, and we’ll be in touch in a few months’ time to see how they’re getting on.

Lighten Up For Life is a free 12 week programme, funded by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. The next groups are recruiting now and sessions will be at Bosworth Community Centre in Chelmsley Wood. If you’d like to join, call 0121 456 7820 and ask about the Lighten Up For Life 12 week course to find out if you are eligible.

Co-ordinator Caroline with Gateway's first Peer Educators

Young parents become Peer Educators

Last week, we ran the first session of training for our Peer Educators: young people who will be going into schools to talk about their experiences of parenthood.

We’re delivering this programme in the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking, a London charity that employs teenage mothers and young fathers to educate young people about early parenthood, healthy relationships, child sexual exploitation and sexting, enabling them to make responsible life choices.

Gateway was chosen to deliver the programme in the West Midlands because of our proven successes with services like the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). It’s thanks to networks and experience like this that we’ve been able to recruit young people to the programme very quickly and hit the ground running. You can hear from one of them, Emily, in the video below.

The point of Straight Talking’s Peer Educators scheme is not only to reduce the high rate of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK, but to support teenage parents themselves to achieve economic wellbeing and quality of life. Because the work is paid, with full training, it offers really good work experience, building confidence and opening the door to potential longer term employment. We love this model of working – employing people with direct, personal knowledge of the issues their clients face, and helping people to help each other – and it fits perfectly with our values, aims and objectives.

Last week’s training was led by representatives from Straight Talking, together with two Peer Educators who have been working with Straight Talking in other areas of the country. It began with some sessions in the training rooms at Gateway, including how to manage a classroom – no easy task! – and how to get pupils talking. The experienced mentors helped the new recruits to learn how to set ground rules and lead ice-breaker activities that will help them to start conversations and debates with pupils.

The next day, the new Peer Educators got to see how it worked for real, as they shadowed their mentors and watched them lead some Straight Talking sessions at Grace Academy in Solihull. Gateway’s Programme Co-ordinator Caroline (pictured at the top of the page with three new recruits) said, “it was really interesting to see how engaged the pupils were and how much they seemed to enjoy learning from the Peer Educators. There were some good debates and the hands-on activities really got the pupils thinking – like deciding how they would prioritise if they were faced with having to budget for a young family. Each session ended with a young person telling their own story of becoming a teen parent, and each time it was really powerful. It clearly makes a big impression on the children.”

In the video below, Emily talks about why she wants to be a Peer Educator, and why going into schools to talk about being a teenage mum is helping her, too.

Ruben from Straight Talking said, “Working with Gateway is going to be important for Straight Talking, simply because they share the same ethos as us, which is working with people to try and get them back into employment, and working with teenage mothers to give them the best health and wellbeing. You can tell straight away with the people that Gateway brought in that it’s going to be a good working relationship.”

We’re really looking forward to finding more young people to become Peer Educators over the next few months. If you became a parent when you were a teenager, you’re still under 25 now, and you’d like to find out more, call Caroline on 0121 456 7820.

New date announced for RSPH Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement course

PLEASE NOTE: THIS COURSE WAS POSTPONED DUE TO THE SNOW.
NEW DATE: 8TH JANUARY 2018.

As an RSPH Approved Centre, we are delivering the L2 Understanding Health Improvement qualification as a one-day course at our premises in Edgbaston. The next course date will be Monday 11th December 2017 Monday 8th January 2018.

If your pharmacy is working towards becoming a Healthy Living Pharmacy, you’ll need to have at least one full-time member of staff who has qualified for a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement.

But the qualification is also suitable for anyone who delivers one-to-one or group health interventions, for example Health Trainers, gym instructors, or Health Champions.

RSPH Understanding Health Improvement, Level 2

Next course date: Monday 11th December 2017 Monday 8th January 2018
Time: 9.30am – 5.00pm
Venue: Gateway Family Services
5th Floor, Chamber of Commerce
Harborne Road
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 3DH
Cost: £80+VAT
Book now: To book your place, please contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820, or email michelles@gatewayfs.org.

The objective of this qualification is to provide candidates with an understanding of the principles of promoting health and wellbeing, and to enable them to direct individuals towards further practical support in their efforts to attain a healthier lifestyle.

The qualification is for existing or aspiring health champions and volunteers who wish to improve the health and wellbeing of people in their local community by motivating and encouraging them to make positive lifestyle choices.

Community workers, health advisors, pharmacy assistants and anyone in the wider public health workforce will also benefit from this qualification.

This is a one day course with a multiple choice exam at the end.

For more information about this or any of the other courses we run, please contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820, or email michelles@gatewayfs.org.

Grant will help over 100 people improve their wellbeing

Thanks to a Discovery Grant from the Santander Foundation, we will be able to develop and deliver a new course this year – one that will help over 100 people in Birmingham to improve their mental health.

The course is designed around the “Five Ways to Wellbeing“, an evidence-based government strategy that sets out five simple actions a person can take to improve their wellbeing. The grant will allow us not only to develop the content for a five-session course, but to trial its delivery in eight venues around the city.

Mental wellbeing is a vital part of living well. This course is one that we have wanted to pilot for a while, so we’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a grant that will help us to do this. The grant will help not only with research and development costs, but with practical costs too: things like training materials, room hire and the cost of a facilitator in each venue.

We’re already talking to a number of other local organisations about delivering the course to a range of people. As well as our community sector partners, we’re also speaking to employers because we feel this course could be really valuable in terms of encouraging healthier workforces. One place we’re looking to work is within the NHS; we think this could be a good way for the NHS to support the commitment made in its Five Year Forward View ‘to ensure the NHS as an employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own staff to stay healthy’.

The Gateway Five Ways to Wellbeing course

The course we’re developing will encourage participants to take part in activities based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Like all of Gateway’s work, the content of each session will flexible, allowing participants to lead, and identifying and building on the strengths they already have.

The “five ways” are all simple suggestions – small steps that it will be easy to take – and based around self-awareness. By becoming more mindful of your own wellbeing, you can build confidence and resilience, and so reduce health risks.

“Be active” encourages physical activity because, put simply, exercise makes you feel better! The course will allow each group to tailor this step to their own mobility and fitness levels – so it could be anything from a ten minute stretch, or a walk in the park, to a bike ride or regular swim. As on our Pre-Diabetes courses, we’ll be encouraging people to decide as a group what activities they’d like to do – then we’ll help them to do it.

“Connect” will encourage participants to engage with the people around them. We’ll be looking at relationships and how to build them, whether that’s friends, family or neighbours. Gateway’s own staff and staff at the partner organisations will be able to direct people to activities in the area where they can meet likeminded people, and we’ll also be encouraging the people in the group to connect with each other to take part in future activities, if they want to.

“Give” is another way to create connections. After all, doing something for someone else is really rewarding, and it can be something as small as a smile! We’ll be looking at the ways in which people are already giving (whether they realise it or not) and how making some time to treat yourself can make it easier to do things for others. If people want to give more back to their communities, we may be able to put people in touch with volunteering opportunities, too.

“Keep learning” is all about challenging yourself to learn something new, or reconnecting with an old hobby or interest. Whether people want to learn to cook, learn a practical skill, or take on a new responsibility at home or work, we’ll be there to support them. We’ll be encouraging people to share their own skills and experiences with the others in the group and we’ll also be looking at other local activities and groups where people can try something new.

“Take notice” is probably the most important step for the people we will be working with. Becoming more aware of the world around you, and giving yourself time to reflect, is vital to your mental wellbeing. We’ll be encouraging people to take a little more notice of the little things, and to take time out for themselves, each day. So many of us complete our daily routines without taking much notice of nature or the changing seasons, but taking some time to reflect on the smallest experiences each day can help you to appreciate what matters to you.

We’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a Santander Foundation Discovery Grant. Even the smallest funding awards – this one is £5000 – can make a huge difference to our work. We are looking forward to delivering this pilot course to at least 100 people, and hope that it will open the doors to allow us to support many more.

Could we deliver the Five Ways To Wellbeing course at your workplace? For more information, contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820.

Need a community interpreter?

As our newest Community Interpreters prepare to receive their qualifications and start work, we’re putting the word out to community organisations in Birmingham: the Gateway Interpreting Agency is here to help!

Does your organisation need interpreting support?

The Gateway Interpreting Agency provides specialist interpreting services to community, voluntary and public sector organisations. We are especially interested to hear from organisations working with hard-to-reach communities in Birmingham, who might need access to qualified community interpreters. Our interpreters are trained to CERTA Level 2, but have also been specially trained in safeguarding, confidentiality and other specialist skills that community work requires.

When our current trainees qualify, it will increase the list of languages we cover to 26:

Amharic Arabic Bengali Creole
Dutch Farsi French Hindi
Hindko Italian Kurdish Lithuanian
Mirpuri Oromo Polish Portuguese
Punjabi Pushtu Romanian Russian
Somali Spanish Sudanese Tigrinya
Urdu Vietnamese    

Our interpreters are already successfully working with a number of organisations, including Refugee Action (in fact, Gateway interpreters welcomed the first Syrian refugees to Birmingham!) and charities like WAITS, who work with victims of domestic abuse:

“Gateway’s interpreting service has been extremely useful to us in helping us to communicate effectively with clients despite the language barriers. Booking has always been efficient, prompt and straightforward. The interpreters are professional, friendly and have always delivered an excellent service. Thank you so much.” — Natalie Clarke, WAITS

If your community organisation needs interpreters and you’d like to find out more about using the Gateway Interpreting Agency, give us a call on 0121 456 7820.

(We are NOT currently taking on more interpreters. However, if you are fluent in Albanian, Tigrinya, Mandarin or Spanish, get in touch; we might be interested in speaking to you about future recruitment.)

What is a community interpreter?

Sarah and Eva
Course tutor Sarah Clay with new interpreter Joanna

All of our interpreters have experience of interpreting in the community and the public sector, including social work, health and education. We’re particularly interested in working with people who have been unemployed for a while and want to get back into work, using the language skills they already have to do something practical and rewarding.

The Gateway Community Interpreting course formalises people’s previous experience, cementing their knowledge, giving them a qualification and a platform to progress with confidence.

All of our recruits complete the CERTA Level 2 Award in Preparation for Work in Community Interpreting. This nationally recognised qualification gives interpreters the knowledge, skills and techniques needed to work in the context of public services, including health, housing, education, welfare and social services.

Sarah and Joanna
Course tutor Sarah Clay with new interpreter Anca

However, the Community Interpreting course we run at Gateway also adds a greater emphasis to the topics of data protection, boundaries and confidentiality, and safeguarding. Because of our extensive experience working with vulnerable people, we know how important it is for an interpreter to have this knowledge and to use these extra skills professionally.

The course is expensive for us to run so, although we heavily subsidise it, each new recruit pays a contribution towards their training. However, as a Community Interest Company (CIC), all of Gateway Interpreting Agency’s profits are directly invested back into our community work and services. The interpreters we’ve taken on so far tell us they like the fact that the agency cut of the money they’re generating goes into serving the community and not into someone’s pocket.

Meet some of the new recruits

Our latest recruits speak a number of the languages we’ve seen a need for in Birmingham over the last few months – both through our current agency work, and through our other services, including Pregnancy Outreach Workers, Health Trainers and Gateway Healthy Futures.

Polish: Eva and Joanna

Eva has already been working as an interpreter for two and a half years but took the opportunity to gain a certificate in the hope that this will bring more work. She’s primarily worked in health settings but the course has enabled her to broaden her knowledge of the wider public sector. She says, “I like helping people and the feedback you get as an interpreter is very rewarding. I especially like the fact that Gateway works with organisations like Women’s Aid – I’m looking forward to doing more community work.”

Joanna’s background is in Adult Education, but she has found herself interpreting on a casual basis more and more as part of her work in a Further Education college. She says, “I’ve been helping Polish-speaking people to fill in forms for things like housing and benefits for many years now – so I thought I might as well start to use my skills professionally. There’s a big Polish community in Birmingham but people just aren’t aware of the help and support that’s available to them. As a Community Interpreter I’ll be able to help people understand more about living here and how everything works.”

Bengali and the Sylheti dialect: Najma and Nurpashan

Najma has been a social worker in Birmingham for 20 years, so community work is a big part of her life. She wants to move into interpreting so that she can maintain a work/life balance whilst continuing to work in the community. She says, “after doing a few interpreting jobs through another agency, I wanted to do a qualification to consolidate my knowledge – you could say it’s putting my practice into theory! This Gateway course is a great opportunity.”

Nurpashan took a career break from Local Authority work to raise her children, but has been interpreting for family and friends all her life. She says, “interpreting is very rewarding when you can help someone to access the support they need. But when you’re interpreting for family it’s easy to go into advice mode! This course has helped me to stay impartial, keeping my opinions out of it and just concentrating on the words.”

Anca: Romanian

Anca has worked in the health sector for three years but has found herself acting as interpreter many times. Now she’s formalising that experience with a qualification. She says, “although I work in health, I’ve been helping people with all sorts of issues, including housing and even law. When you’re new to the country and don’t speak the language you don’t always understand the systems and it’s easy to find yourself in trouble with fines or even court. Becoming a qualified interpreter will give me more opportunities to help people.”

Paul: Creole, Dutch, French, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Spanish…

Paul is a language sponge! He loves learning about new cultures and admits he seems to have a gift for learning new languages. He says, “I’d done some interpreting work in-house in previous roles, and translated for friends and family, but I recently decided to get some formal qualifications. I’ve already done an Introduction to a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI), but the community aspect of the Gateway course appealed to me. I enjoy broadening my knowledge and look forward to working in more community settings.”

A bowl of bran cereal

Patients at the Maypole take first steps towards diabetes prevention

This week we delivered the first of our pre-diabetes training sessions.

Susan Hannaby is leading the training sessions
Susan Hannaby is leading the training sessions

The programme has been commissioned by Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Group so the first session was held in one of their surgeries, Maypole surgery in south Birmingham, with the support and help of surgery GPs.

The surgery sent a mailshot out to patients with pre-diabetes, and we were pleased to find it had a good response rate, with 29 patients expressing interest. So a session was held for the first 12 on Wednesday morning, at the surgery.

Pre-diabetes, also referred to as “borderline” diabetes, is when someone’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are above the normal range, but not high enough for them to be diagnosed as having diabetes. If someone’s blood sugar levels are consistently higher than normal then they may be at risk of Type 2 diabetes if they don’t take the preventative steps. It’s an important warning sign that lifestyle changes need to be made. The point of the course is to educate people about their condition and to get people taking steps towards making those changes.

The course is run over 13 sessions and looks at all sorts of preventative action, including healthy eating, physical activity, food preparation, and managing portion sizes. For this first session, Trainer Susan Hannaby (pictured) was joined by Health Trainer Josh and EAST Admin Assistant Jennie, who will be the main point of communication for the group.

The activities and topics covered are based on who is in the group – what their needs are and the issues they would like to focus on – so it’s a flexible format. The sessions will include a lot of group work and include practical, hands-on activities, but also some private one-to-one time for each patient.

A bowl of bran cerealSusan gave an example of the practical activities they did on Wednesday: “This week we looked at portion sizes – we got people to serve a ‘typical’ plate of food, then looked at what a serving actually is. We were all surprised at how small cereal portions are!

“We are also encouraging the group to work together and help each other. For example one woman said she used to walk a lot but had lost confidence after falling over. One of the men in the group had been planning to start walking more, but felt unmotivated on his own. So they have made plans to go walking together.”

The sessions are intensive to start with, with weekly sessions for six weeks, followed by monthly sessions for seven months. But the sessions aren’t necessarily based at the surgery – if the patients want to do a taster session of a physical activity, like yoga or ‘extend’ training, or just to go for a walk, then it’s easy to incorporate that into the timetable.

Susan said, “it was a really good first session and the group were really engaged. Everyone set themselves a goal, whether that was cutting down on sugar in their tea, reducing their alcohol intake or doing a certain amount of walking each week.  We’ve also started planning sessions for a second group at the Maypole.”

Future Sessions

The Maypole sessions are in their infancy, but we are also looking to do similar sessions in other areas, both within GP practices and at community venues, where we hope to complement services already delivered in those venues.

Gateway’s programme is a pilot, but it’s part of the National NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is a joint initiative between NHS England, Public Health England (PHE) and Diabetes UK. The cost of Type 2 Diabetes in the UK is huge and the number of people with the disease is growing at a particularly high rate. The national programme aims to significantly reduce the five million people in England otherwise expected to have Type 2 Diabetes by 2025.

Pre-diabetes, and the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes, is something that we’ve had on our radar for a long time via our Health Trainer service, and we have been looking for a way to expand on this knowledge and formalise it for a while. We know through our other services that this kind of support – a personalised, intensive lifestyle change intervention – can work really well, so we’re very pleased to have the chance to make a difference, and we hope tow work with more GPs and patients in the near future.

Students learn the Five Ways To Wellbeing

Following a successful Health Action Project, we were recently invited back to Hodge Hill College to deliver a health workshop to Years 7 and 8.

Five ways to wellbeingGateway’s workshop, along with sport, art and sex education workshops from other organisations, was organised as part of the school’s “Safe Day” programme.

Safe Day is designed to raise awareness and equip students with strategies to discourage them from entering into risky behaviours. This is particularly important during the school holidays, when their routine is different from the norm.

Our team delivered an interactive workshop covering health and wellbeing – in particular, stress management. It was designed around an evidence based government strategy, “Five Ways to Wellbeing“, which aims to improve mental wellbeing. We adapted the strategy to tailor it for 11 and 12 year olds and get them thinking about their stress levels and emotional wellbeing.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing that we worked through with the students were:

Connect

We talked about networks and supportive relationships. We asked: “who are the people you can rely on?” We asked pupils to think about who they go to for support in different areas of their life – for example, parents, teachers and peer groups.

Be Active

We asked students to think about what they can do every day to be more active. We shared facts about activity; for example did you know that ten minutes of exercise each day makes you more alert? This can help with your mental wellbeing and lower your stress levels.

Take Notice

We talked about the importance of taking more notice of yourself (some people call this mindfulness). We asked pupils to think about what happens when they feel stressed – not just physically, but how it makes you feel. We worked together to come up with strategies for dealing with stress.

Give

Evidence says that doing something for someone else, with no expectation of anything in return, impacts on the parts of the brain that release “happy” chemicals. We asked students to think about how they could do something for someone else and so improve their own wellbeing.

Keep Learning

Learning makes you more aware of your surroundings, builds confidence, and so improves mental health. We held a Mental Health Quiz for the students, with some fun “True or False” questions to get them thinking.

We held two lots of five one-hour sessions each day for two days, and each group included 25 pupils. So across the two days we worked with around 500 students!

Mrs Susan Dancer, the Deputy Head Teacher, said: “Thank you so much for coming in and supporting Hodge Hill College during our end of term Safe Day programme. We know the students enjoyed the opportunity of working with people from outside of school. […] Whenever I popped in, the sessions seemed to be going well and all the students were engaged with the activities.”

Work experience for a Gateway volunteer

Michelle, Susan and Sarah, who delivered the workshops, were ably supported by a Gateway Volunteer.

GodloveGodlove (left), who has been volunteering for the last six months as a Befriender, is currently completing a City & Guilds employability qualification with Gateway and needed some extra work experience as part of the qualification. So we asked if he would like to come along to the school and support the workshop delivery. This gave him a full day’s work and made up his required hours of experience.

He said, “I’ve been volunteering at Gateway to gain experience for future employment and so far I’ve met many people and made lots of friends. I really enjoyed the experience at Hodge Hill last week. The children I worked with were happy and worked well with me.”

Susan was impressed with Godlove’s professionalism. “Working with years 7 and 8 presented a lot of challenges, but Godlove was positive and professional at all times. He organised himself excellently and approached everything with a smile.”

Stepping onto the career ladder with an apprenticeship

One of the initial and key concepts of Gateway was to provide a supported step into work, and one of the first steps we offer is an apprenticeship placement.

We have a long history with apprenticeships. Some years ago we ran a large apprenticeship programme providing apprentices to a number of PCTs. Unfortunately, due to the way funding has changed, it’s now difficult to offer the qualification element unless you’re a larger provider. More recently we’ve been involved as the work placement provider and over the past three years we’ve benefited from six apprentices.

Our culture at Gateway is to offer a nurturing, supportive atmosphere for people to work and learn, and we feel that apprenticeships offer people a good start – a practical introduction to a career, giving people experience, pay and opportunity.

For people on placement, we offer a realistic view of the world of work, but we also recognise people’s potential and work with them to identify opportunities. We provide a supported work experience, to build confidence and resilience, and eventually give apprentices the reins to do as much as they can on their own.

During their work placement at Gateway, apprentices become part of the staff team. Some go on elsewhere, with work experience and references under their belts, but many go on to become full time employees with Gateway. Currently our staff includes a number of recent apprentices – Beckie and Shah work full time in our Lighten Up team and Sajida has become a full time Office Administrator, which includes the role of Interpreters Agency Administrator.

Sajida’s story

sajidaSajida did a 12 month apprenticeship with St Paul’s Community Development Trust, which gave her an NVQ Level 2 in Business Admin and included a work placement at Gateway. She worked in the Gateway office as an admin assistant, receiving full training and the opportunity to work in different areas of the business over the year.

Sajida says, “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because it gives you an immediate opportunity to work your way up. It’s a small step that can lead to a bigger step. You get paid while you’re doing it and you gain experience and confidence as you go along. It also means you’re in a good position when new job opportunities come up.

“The placement at Gateway gave me experience in many areas – not just in office admin and HR, but also interpreting – and it really built my confidence, which had been a bit knocked in previous jobs.”

After the apprenticeship, Sajida applied for the job of Office Administrator at Gateway, which includes the admin for our Interpreting Agency. Michelle Bluck, who recruited for the role, says:

“We had quite a few applications but Sajida’s application form was of a very high standard – it was clear she’d really thought about the role and how she would tackle it. She gave a flawless interview, with good examples of different work scenarios to show how adaptable she can be. Now she’s in the role, she’s definitely living up to that potential. She’s got good work ethics; she’s reliable, adaptable and sets a good standard. And the client feedback we get from the interpreters service is very positive – clients praise the efficient service, smooth booking process and professional admin support – and that’s all down to Sajida.”

Watch Sajida talk about her apprenticeship and how she’s getting on at Gateway:

Volunteers’ Week: celebrating our befrienders

volunteers weekThe first week in June is Volunteers’ Week, so we’ve been busy putting in our nominations for BVSC’s Volunteers of the Year from our pool of wonderful Volunteer Befrienders.

The befrienders service funded through Big Lottery Reaching Communities has been running at Gateway for a number of years now and we’re always looking for new volunteers and new clients.

Our befrienders visit people who, for whatever reason, want a bit of extra support and companionship. There are no set criteria – anyone can ask for a befriender.

Our volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are volunteering as part of a university course while others simply want to do something in their spare time that allows them to meet people and benefit their local community.

Most befrienders work one-to-one, but some, like Stephen, who works with the Shenley Green walking group we wrote about recently, are involved with community groups and social activities.

Everybody benefits

For the client, having a befriender can be a way of reducing social isolation and building resilience. Many people talk about feeling more confident thanks to the support of a volunteer – being able to get on and do things they wouldn’t have done before. Being part of Gateway also gives clients access to a wider network of support – our experienced staff across all our departments have a broad knowledge of the help that’s available to people in Birmingham, and are experts in helping people to access it.

For the volunteers, befriending is a great way of getting work experience and preparing for employment. Volunteers can take a number of qualifications as part of their training, including Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) awards, which are nationally recognised. Volunteers are supported by Gateway’s Employment Access Skills and Training (EAST) team who can also help with CV writing and job references. All training costs and expenses for volunteers are met by Gateway.

Jean and Arlene’s story

Jean, who’s in her late 70s, got in touch with Gateway herself after hearing about the befrienders service from her GP. She lives on her own and felt that she might benefit from having a befriender.

arleneArlene (pictured) originally joined Gateway as a volunteer because she wanted to find out more about working with the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). There weren’t any opportunities to work with POWS clients at that time, so Arlene was paired with Jean as a befriender and began visiting her at home.

Arlene admits that she hadn’t originally thought about working with older people, but she says, “it’s been a learning experience for me working with Jean. It’s opened up a door of opportunity to another career path.

“I call Jean a ‘young lady’ because she has the spirit of a 17 year old. What a pleasure it is to work with her – she is an inspiration and a trooper. Even with her health issues, she remains active and independent. I thoroughly enjoy supporting her and we have a great laugh together.”

Jean is happy to have Arlene’s support. She says, “Arlene is very good to talk to. She helps me to do what I’ve got to do by talking to me and encouraging me; she bucks me up and is friendly and easy to get on with. I’m very glad that I’m working with her.”

Over the last few months, Jean has opened up to Arlene about her need for a bit of extra support. She says, “I’ve had a few falls recently and I lost a bit of confidence in myself. But going out with Arlene makes it easier for me and I feel a lot more confident.”

Sarah Hibberd, Gateway’s Volunteers Co-ordinator, says, “Arlene and Jean’s relationship is one that is very common between a befriender and a client; they speak very fondly of each other. They both enjoy each other’s company and Arlene is helping Jean to find the confidence to do things she needs to do but otherwise would put off. There is a good level of trust between them and that was shown when Jean was able to disclose to Arlene that she needed additional support.

“And for Arlene, working with someone from a different client group to those she’s previously worked with has enabled her to develop her skills and knowledge.”

Arlene added, “It really helps having Sarah’s support. I can phone her up, email, or text, for advice or just to chat about how I’m getting on. It gives my role great validation.

“I truly enjoy this work.”