Colebridge's support for staff

Member News

Made in the Midlands member Colebridge Enterprises, part of Colebridge trust offers an Employee Assistance Programme to leading staff dealing with cases involving the most vulnerable people in the community. 

Colebridge Trust, a community development charity based in Chelmsley Wood Solihull, offer a wide range of services supporting people and community sector organisations in Solihull. These services include Colebridge’s Employment and Skills: Journey to work - offering work experience and paid roles to those furthest from the job market, community development and consultancy and training. 

Chet Parmar, CEO at Colebridge Trust, decided to support his staff with an Employee Assistance Programme due to the sensitive cases they are dealing with every day, and which may affect their mental wellbeing. Chet told Made in Midlands that there are three intervention workers at the trust who deal with 500-750 cases a year. He added:

“I noticed that the more cases we were taking on the more it was taking a toll on the staff” 

“We initially brought in a health and wellbeing worker with counselling skills to see if we could run an internal function, but due to conflict of interest we decided to find someone external to provide this service particularly to our supervisors and managers.” 

The current service was found through one of Colebridge’s clients who they provide financial consultancy to called Edwards Trust, they have been supporting bereaved families, including parents and children, for over 30 years. However, Colebridge was advised to speak to a counsellor, who did some work for Edwards trust, Chet said: 

“Once the counsellor had met the team and we had read up on some testimonials and we looked at getting a plan in place. We plan to supply the service for six months, this being one session a month.”

“We offered it to six people to start off with, but not everybody has decided to take this up. Therefore we are going to offer it to other staff members who we think may benefit from the service.”  

Chet Parmar CEO of Colebridge Trust 

Though a member of staff put the idea forward to gain access to the Employee Assistance Programme, not all were on board to take on the training. Chet said this may be due to the fact that the staff are intervention workers themselves, he added: 

“It is sometimes difficult for the staff to separate out how professional they are and what they are capable of doing from what they actually need, though they wanted it in the first place, they were going into it feeling like they may not get a lot out of it.” 

Serena Sale, Employment and Skills Manager at Colebridge Trust, put the idea forward for staff to get support and has found the service very beneficial. Serena supports vulnerable people within the local community to help them gain work using educational training and voluntary opportunities to encourage people to move forward in a positive way. Serena said:

“The majority of clients that we see will have multiple barriers. This could be safeguarding issues to people who have debt issues, this can be quite draining.” 

Serena Sale Employment and Skills Manager at Colebridge Trust 

Serena mentioned she and her staff, consisting of three intervention workers and two volunteers, tackle up to 100 cases a week on a two-week rotation. Serena added:

“It can be quite heavy on the shoulders the amount of information they give us, having done this role for 26 years, you can’t switch off because you are worried about somebody and you have to be able to offload that information.”

As a result of dealing with these cases on a regular basis, staff are taking these issues home to their personal life. Serena said this may be due to the fact the staff care for the people they see:

“We are here to support the most vulnerable, but who is supporting us? When you walk out of work, your home life comes into play, but it’s difficult not to take these issues home with you when you care for the people.”  

The Employee Assistance Programme is an important aspect of Colebridge Trust as the company promotes health, wellbeing and social prescribing to the community. Therefore in order for the staff to provide this service, they also need to be in good health. Serena said the programme gives staff the opportunity to ensure the work they are doing is correct, she added:

“It is a way for us as qualified information, advice and guidance workers to be able to double-check what we are doing is right.” 

Before taking on the support service, Serena said she felt very stressed and felt a lot of pressure. After two sessions, Serena doesn't feel as stressed and is able to write down any concerns she has and if she can’t cope with them can take them into her supervision. Serena said:

“The service is beneficial because, if there isn't anywhere we can offload as intervention workers, there is only so much you can absorb.” 

“I think if you work with people, you should have access to Employee Assistance.” 

If you think you or your staff can benefit from this service, please contact Paula Flanagan at [email protected].
 
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