“We are open” is the message from Building Better Opportunities Staffordshire & South Staffordshire. The programme, which supports those not in employment, has adapted in order to ensure it continues to serve those most in need in the local community.
The project usually operates across various community venues including Stafford Library. Operational changes have been introduced to ensure those in the community are not further disadvantaged by Covid-19.
Judith Kirkland, CEO of Business Enterprise Support explains the free service is open and ready to welcome those in need: “The Building Better Opportunities programme continues to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic with personalised training and one-to-one support. We’re utilising telephone calls, video calls, online meetings, delivery and postal services. With many services in the UK currently suspended, now is a perfect time for us to reiterate that we are open, there are no waiting lists and we are ready to support the community across South Staffordshire and Stafford. Get in touch.”
Launched in 2017, the programme has proven such a success that funding was extended earlier this year to all allow the programme to continue until 2022. Since its launch, the programme has already welcomed 740 individuals, with 268 progressing into employment or further training. One of which is 48-year-old Sarah Ellison from Cheslyn Hayes in South Staffordshire, who despite the Covid-19 pandemic has been able to continue her wellbeing journey and secured her first job in two years. Sarah says: “I have battled with my mental health for decades, since having post-natal depression following the birth of my children, I’ve been passed from service to service with a one size fits all approach. With BBO, I’ve succeeded, I’ve achieved what I set out to do, which is to manage my mental health, be happy, be consistent, and I’m continuing to achieve in all areas of my life. “
Building Better Opportunities is a national project, jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF). The programme is managed locally by Business Enterprise Support (BES) who lead a partnership of 10 organisations including: BEAM, Citizen Advice Bureau Staffordshire South West, Fuse Enterprise CIC, South Staffordshire District Council, South Staffordshire Housing, Stafford and Rural Homes, Staffordshire Women’s Aid, Support Staffordshire, Upper Moreton Rural Activities and University Hospital North Midlands.
The programme is completely free to anyone aged 18 or over that lives in Stafford or South Staffordshire and is currently out-of-work. The project tackles barriers that prevent these groups of people from accessing support with opportunities for education and training, improved health and wellbeing services, better financial help and programmes to build people’s confidence and self-esteem.
Judith, explains: “You could be long-term unemployed or recently unemployed, the crucial part to our programme is the barriers you face. For example, you could have recently lost your job because of the pandemic and you’re experiencing issues with childcare and you’re now in arrears with your rent.”
Judith continues: “We work with a vast range people in the local community from those who have never worked, through to single parents, those with chronic illnesses, those that are survivors of domestic abuse, recovering addicts and those who have just been dealt a few bad hands and their personal circumstances are spiraling.”
To find out more about Building Better Opportunities Stafford & South Staffordshire or view the full course list visit www.bbostaffs.org or call 01902 696 228.