Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Stepping Stones @ Brecon & District Mind

This week's guest blog post is from the team leading on an innovative new project at Brecon & District Mind. Neil Hurst is the Project Officer, and Clare Searle the Project Administrator.

First they tell us all about the Stepping Stones Project, and then we find out more about them and why they decided to get involved with this work. So, over to Neil and Clare.

Brecon and District Mind has received funding from the People's Health Trust to run a project called Stepping Stones.

What is Stepping Stones you may ask, well the project offers a pathway of activities aimed at assisting people to overcome their barriers to employment and, as part of that pathway, the support to stay in employment moving forward. Or you may already be in employment and need a little external support. This project is open to the wider community as well as Mind members. We offer group training sessions to include; team building, CV writing, interview skills, and confidence building. We are always open to other training initiative ideas that you may have. In addition, there are also 1:1 sessions that are held on an individual basis in a confidential setting.

Why not come along to one of our informal and friendly sessions in Brecon, Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye and see what support we can offer? Dates are posted on the Brecon & District Mind Facebook page and on flyers dotted around.

What brought you to this job?

Neil… Having worked for the past five years for Communities 1st within Blaenau Gwent running social enterprises focusing on employment and training for 16 – 30 year olds, I found myself transferring my employment to one of the enterprises on a reduced hours contract. This led me to make a conscious choice to find additional work – and gave me the opportunity to look at options closer to home in Brecon. The Stepping Stones project post was an excellent opportunity to undertake some really meaningful employment back in the communities I now call home and in a field which I enjoy working in.

Clare… Having moved from Exeter, Devon to Wales during which I had a career break for 3 years to be an almost stay at home mummy, I was looking for a part time role to get me back into work. The Stepping Stones project jumped out at me as the perfect job to do this.

Being from Kent, Neil considers Clare to be a ‘southern Softie’, and whilst Neil is from Yorkshire he seems to have lost his flat cap and whippet.

What were you doing previously?

Neil… The previous five years to this, and still on-going three days a week, I run initiatives in Blaenau Gwent offering volunteering, paid work tasters, paid transitional employment and apprenticeships for 16 – 30 year olds at the most extreme margins of society. Prior to that I ran other social enterprise initiatives including for the Prince’s Trust and in my deepest darkest past I was an accountant and logistics manager in the private sector working for Senior Engineering.

Clare… Since leaving school some !!!!!! years ago! I have worked in Secretarial / Project Assistant roles, mainly in London and then more recently in Exeter, Devon. Always varied roles from making the coffee and walking it down the road to an outsourced meeting room (I kid you not!) to organising large charity events.

Neil has honed his skills over 25 years and has almost attained the skills to make a decent cup of tea, whilst Clare has passed this role from her previous jobs on to Neil.

What is it about this work that enthuses and inspires you? Why is it really important?

Neil… I was inspired to apply for the Stepping Stones Co-ordinator role as I could see the real impact the project has in a small community like Brecon and our surrounding outreach centres. Whilst we are running a project that has set targets and goals – I am more enthused by the impact the project has in terms of people’s lives and the journey that the project can take people on. Fortunately the project goals allow me to maintain that enthusiasm through people’s personal stories and challenges.

Clare… The Stepping Stones project is such an amazing project to be involved in. Mental health is not an illness that is often discussed and many do not know how to approach this illness, particularly with regards to employment, so how great is it to have this facility to provide instant support and the tools needed to help you to find and get back into work. The project is also there to provide support during employment.

Two months in and we are beginning to see the impact of the project on people’s lives… We already have our Brecon and Crickhowell sessions running with Hay starting in early June.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Neil… Spare time seems like a luxury at the moment, especially at this time of year with so much to do around the garden. I volunteer and am on the Board of Smart Money Cymru (Credit Union) and until last year was a member of the Mid Wales area committee for the Co-operative Group. Leisure again seems like a real luxury sometimes but until recently I was a keen footballer. However the years have crept up on my decrepit body and I have been forced to play golf whenever I can in Cradoc – well I turn up and drive the buggy anyway which is a real source of amusement to my colleague Clare.

Clare… Spare time, what spare time!!! Having a 3 year old doesn’t leave me much spare time, but I do love to paint and walk the dog, we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful area.


To book an appointment with us, or let us know you are coming, call the Mind office on 01874 611529 and ask for the Stepping Stones team, or email clare@breconmind.org.uk 

If we are not in the office we will get back to you as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.

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