Seeing is Believing – Private Sector Investment making a real difference

5 Dec 2016

Guest blog by Dan Stickland, Economic Development and Skills, Southampton City Council

In my role at Southampton City Council I have had the privilege to work with many local organisations and charities that are supported by the council, so I was very excited to be invited by Hammerson and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation to “Seeing is believing”. The day involved visits to three charities who have received donations from Hammerson, and with the opening of WestQuay Watermark just a few weeks away, it was great to share with Hammerson and HIWCF how their investment in my local community was making a real difference.

Our first visit was to CLEAR (City Life Education and Action for Refugees) which was founded in 2001 to work with refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton. The organisation prides itself on providing guidance and education to individuals from across the world including teaching English and Maths as well as various employability skills. Mike Brown, the project manager at CLEAR, gave us a fascinating insight into life in the UK for people that have travelled thousands of miles to escape conflicts and persecution. The grant provided by Hammerson added to funding for one to one case work; with individuals being helped by CLEAR to support them with finding work in the UK once they have been granted leave to stay in the UK. At this point, Home Office finance stops and the individuals have just 28 days to find accommodation and work. This is the point that CLEAR’s expertise is vital and has helped so many people; a number of whom we met when we were given a tour of the busy centre.

Our next stop was to an organisation called SAFE (Southampton Action For Employment), a local charity that the council works with on a regular basis. SAFE help unemployed people who are facing a variety of barriers in life, putting them further away from the job market. The organisation runs a programme they have developed called ‘Choices’, based around 10 day long sessions that uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in a vocational capacity to support people with their mental health and help them to break down barriers to employment. After watching one of the sessions in action, we met two previous participants of the Choices Programme and heard just how much their lives had improved just by attending the course. We heard how SAFE and the volunteers who help run the courses had helped them to gain motivation and believe in themselves. It was extremely positive to hear that they were moving on with their lives thanks to the support they had received and were now looking into volunteering and running their own business. I was glad Hammerson and the HIWCF could hear first-hand just how much their investment in SAFE was helping people and it was incredible how positive the participants were about the course.

We finished the day with a visit to SoCo Music Project, which I was particularly excited about as music is a passion of mine. SoCo Music Project specialises in supporting young people and adults who may be suffering from mental health problems or could be recovering from substance misuse. Since SoCo’s inception supported by the council they have provide opportunities for people to develop creative and social skills, give them a positive focus and improve their life chances, all through the power of music activities. Music is something that has helped all of us in one way or another at some point in our lives and it was clear to see just how much it has inspired the band we met. We were treated to a VIP performance of several songs including ‘Wicked Game’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’. The band are also hoping to play at the newly created esplanade space at WestQuay Watermark.

It was a very upbeat and positive end to an inspiring day organised by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation. It was a pleasure to meet so many people who have had their lives turned around by the different charities and I’m very proud that the city I live in provides so much support to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.