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Protest, Norwich Job Centre

Protest, Norwich Job Centre
Fatso Gets Militant!

Monday, 8 June 2009

How to WRECK a Valued Service

These are extracts from a recent report by a government inspectorate. The report is about an ADULT mental health service:

Key strengths

  • Good achievement of employability qualifications and skills

  • Good external and on-the-job training

  • Good management of training to help participants make progress

...qualifications and skills are good. This strength is recognised by New

Thresholds in the self-assessment report. All the participants currently on
programme have achieved at least one accredited qualification. These include a
teaching qualification at level 3, vocational qualifications at levels 1, 2 and
3, information technology qualifications and recognised awards in health and safety,
first aid and other skills.

Participants are proud of their work and achieve high standards in carpentry, joinery, horticulture, training, retail, office practice and customer service. Their standard of written work is also good.

Many participants have been unemployed for years and have made considerable personal gains in confidence and teamwork and in many cases have overcome depression successfully.
They enjoy their work and are motivated and valued team members.

New Thresholds has a very thorough understanding and knowledge of the personal needs of individual participants. Staff are very approachable and available and participants feel able to
confide in them and feel very supported. External employers and in-house supervisors are
also very supportive. Examples of support include helping with forms and correspondence, tailoring work schedules and help with medical issues and financial problems. Links are established with a wide range of external organisations including: community mental health teams, advice bureaux, benefits agencies, health workers, counsellors and a wide range of other
support agencies. The literacy and numeracy needs of participants are met, …

The focus on employability and skills: development for participants is strong. Training achievements are high. Considerable efforts are made to support participants in successfully
accessing and achieving vocational skills. Relationships with external organisations,
particularly the local college providing the NVQ training and the learndirect centre based in New Thresholds premises, remain strong and effective.

Good, clear and comprehensive equality and diversity policies and procedures have been
produced these were updated in January 2009 and are inclusive of recent legislation are well organised with a clear focus on a wide range of equality aspects, and have a strong emphasis on disability.

What participants like:

  • ‘I don’t feel under pressure’

  • Getting a lot of support and feeling protected

  • ‘Being happier than I have ever been’

  • Making friends

  • ‘Enjoying my day’

  • Everything

  • The employment, ‘Never had a better job’

  • The funding for training opportunities

A wonderfully glowing report for a small local mental health habilitation facility in Beccles, Suffolk; an independent resource that, despite struggling at times for funding, has provided an excellent service over the years??


This is an OFSTED report. These people are clueless about mental health matters so what the hell are these managerialist ignoramuses (or should that be ignoramusi?) doing with their grubby little fingers on an adult mental health resource. Their excuse apparently is that they’ve classed it as “adult education.” But it’s surely patently obvious that their parameters are totally irrelevant in this setting.

What I do know is that because their nasty, officious and formulaic procedures aren’t completely observed by New Thresholds these crapologists have, in spite of those warm and positive words above describing the aspects that are of primary importance, marked their categories:

  • Effectiveness of Provision = Inadequate

  • Capacity to Improve = Inadequate

  • Achievement and Standards = Satisfactory

  • Quality of Provision = Inadequate

  • Leadership and Management = Inadequate

  • Equality of Opportunity = Satisfactory

  • Preparation for Life and Work = Inadequate

I really can’t believe it!! But by issuing such a contradictory and equivocal report, these bureaucratic clowns have made it very difficult for a service much loved, respected and sought after by service users and carers to get funding for the future.

Here’s a supplementary to underline what a good, hard built service it is they’re trying their best to destroy. In June 2003 when I was putting together the Beccles Community newspaper, The Essential Voice, I wrote and published this article (corny titles are nothing new).

A Fresh Hold on Life

By Mike Cox.

We build institutions for people all around us:

This day and every day starts between eight and ten a.m. by swimming slowly upwards into a semi awareness of shrouded daylight. The struggle out of chemical sleep can take as much as three hours and is never completed.

Breakfast is a slice of bread and cold baked beans straight out of the tin - it is too much of a struggle to get the saucepan to heat them. There's maybe a hot cup of tea when life strikes a slightly larger spark than usual.

Evening drifts timelessly forward. The in-between has perhaps included an expedition to the corner shop for fags and a plastic sandwich, or once a fortnight the struggle to the depot clinic.

Caught up in the goldfish bowl of controlling medication, there's never the chance to reach beyond the glass walls to catch what comment someone might make - so even the occasional expressed repulsion goes unnoticed.

Company has long been confined to your own muddy, sometimes frightening thoughts. The TV in the corner stays mute and grey. Bringing it to life has meant, too often, horrifying, messages broadcast through the ether.

The clocking on points of four-times-a-day tablets merge into one another and a threatening darkness creeps up on the outside of the bare flat. The comforting round of oblivion comes again at last.

2003 is a landmark for New Thresholds. Ten years ago Maurice Elliott, a Trustee of STORT Enterprises (an organisation providing sheltered employment opportunities) knew of the many conveniently ignored people amongst us caught in this kind of half world and saw a possibility in the Waveney area to gently prise open that institutionalised pseudo-existence. In 1993, Maurice set up the Threshold Trust as a Waveney-wide resource based here in Beccles. Designed to recognise the huge difficulties facing people immersed in that kind of institutional and chemical stranglehold and using STORT experience of how to ease the pain of breaking out of that stranglehold and how to install gentle motivation, the Threshold Trust established an environment which, once people had moved into it, gave them all the structures of normal working hours and conditions of full and part-time employment.

Additionally of course it brought social contact; purpose in life; long lost enjoyment; an individual positive self image; regularised nutrition; and an excellent rehearsal for the real thing. The exchange of one institution for another? Maybe, but certainly positive for negative.

Now the Chief Executive of New Thresholds - formed as a charitable company rather than a registered charity out of the Threshold Trust in January 2000, Cherry Trigwell has been the driving force behind both manifestations since 1994 - and was a volunteer with the Threshold Trust before that.

Her entire adult life being involved in some way in service to the community, Cherry was involved for 20 years in early work in the mental health field, spent five years as a lecturer for special needs students at Harlow, and five years with STORT. She has a massive reservoir of experience, knowledge and skills which shows in her everyday management of the project. She has also been an active member of community life in Beccles for many years, although she insists she avoids politics believing that voluntary work and politics are very uneasy bedfellows. She is however, Beccles' only female Rotarian and is certainly an influence in the world of voluntary services.

New Thresholds is thriving. The service covers the whole of Waveney and was made an approved provider Norfolk in 1996, so covering that important slice of rural Norfolk adjacent to our county boundary which is partially deprived by bureaucratic division. Cherry estimates that their activities cover one third Lowestoft, one third Beccles and one third South Norfolk.

They have shops in Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Loddon, and are in the process of opening a further shop in the High Street, Lowestoft.

Sixty per cent of New Thresholds employees are themselves disabled. Many are people who have rediscovered a life through using the services and have come through the projects to become project leaders, teachers and supervisors. A good pr0portion of business ideas also come from people who use the services. "Why not make a garden bench like this" he said. And those garden benches are now selling like eskimos' foot warmers.

In their own words:

"Through attendance at one of our five small work-related projects, or four retail shops, we can offer participants practical hands-on training in I.T. and business administration, amenity horticulture and gardening, retail skills, furniture restoration, carpentry and joinery and craft skills - such as woodturning ... It is our policy, wherever possible, to employ ex-service-users to supervise these projects...

When a participant is ready to move on into a job, we use our links with local employers to help facilitate this ... We undertake to give whatever level of support is necessary to both the client and the employer, and this could involve weekly or monthly monitoring/support visits - or even daily if the client is experiencing severe problems."


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