Unemployment figures in the news recently do not make happy reading. There are various ways to measure the number of people out of work but by whichever metric you choose, it is increasing. In March this year there were 7,890 people registered as unemployed in Gloucestershire. In October this number had more than doubled to 17,890, curiously an increase of exactly 10,000 people. There are many more people furloughed, underemployed, ineligible for benefits, or facing redundancy not yet counted in the stats.
What this means is that it is likely that a family member, a friend, or someone from your neighbourhood is facing unemployment. At Gloucestershire Gateway Trust we are calling on everyone to #supporteachother during these challenging months ahead. One of the ways you can do that is to share information about the range of support on offer to those unemployed or facing redundancy.
Gloucestershire Gateway Trust is proud to work alongside Gloucestershire County Council and nearly 50 community partners to deliver the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Project across the county. GEM has been providing individual tailored support to #supportlocalpeople overcome barriers to employment and get into or closer to work for over four years. Prior to lockdown, we had supported someone into work every three days.
GEM is open to any adult who is unemployed, or someone aged 16 or 17 who is not accessing any education or training. Anyone interested in learning more can contact us via our website, Facebook or Twitter pages.
If you’re not quite ready to sign up formally to GEM, then why not take a look at our #GEMonline timetable. We have opened this up to all of the community so you are welcome to register on any session that would interest you, from tips on how to job search efficiently through to advice from a recruitment expert on acing your next interview.
There is other support out there including: careers advice from the National Careers Service and training opportunities from Adult Education in Gloucestershire. Not to mention the imminent arrival of Kickstart vacancies, some with our community partners, which will provide paid jobs to young unemployed people, already disproportionately affected by this recession. The list is too long for this blog but luckily GFirst LEP have recently launched the Gloucestershire Skills Portal which is a fantastic resource to bookmark or add to your favourites.
Please also check out the GEM Christmas Craft Fair which will also be live on Facebook. This will showcase some of our GEM participants’ products as they move forward on their journey to self-employment. We’re supporting GFirst LEP’s Think Gloucestershire campaign and encourage everyone to #supportlocalbusiness. So please avoid buying Christmas gifts on any websites named after a rainforest and come and see what our creative and aspirational GEMs have to offer!
The community response during 2020 has been incredible. Now let’s keep it going and ensure everyone who needs a helping hand to find employment learns about the support that is available.
Charlie Marsh, Play Ranger for Play Gloucestershire
One lady who was shielding and needed someone to do her shopping for her opened up to me that the reason her shopping list was so bare was that she just didn’t have the money for everything she really needed. Another gentleman told me he couldn’t have any perishable food because he didn’t have a fridge.
The more I heard the more I was shocked with how some people are really struggling and how much of it is just hidden away. None of these people, incidentally, asked me for help with those matters, but when our volunteers turned up with food they gratefully accepted. One of the first people we helped told me it was the first hot meal he’s had in three weeks. Countless times I heard someone say “I’ve never had to ask for help before…” I feel privileged that they accepted ours.
The real strength of the work is that our volunteers know all this intrinsically. They are sensitive, understanding and incredibly caring. Many have their own complicated backgrounds and can relate to others who are struggling. One of our volunteers told me how she is taking particular care with looking after a couple of families in a shelter because that’s the shelter she was once at with her daughter. Another one of our volunteers suffers from anxiety and depression but being able to cheer someone else up is giving her a sense of value. They are not just delivering food – they are spending time talking to those people who may not see anyone else all day. They are the ones who come back to me and say “I ended up talking to their neighbour and they could really do with some food too” I’m really proud that everyone is doing this work from a point of generosity – we have a lot to give. Let’s just share it. Let’s just get it out wherever it’s needed."
"What I’m most encouraged by is the number of people who after receiving some help have said to me “I didn’t know you existed… I would love to volunteer and give something back when all this is over”. That to me is the real legacy of the work and that is exactly what we need for our communities to thrive."
This made me think that holding garden parties at our own home for small numbers, might be the only way forward for ‘Footlights’ during the pandemic. I had wanted to do this to ‘bridge the gap’ across the Summer holiday anyway, but now it seems like the solution and ‘new normal’.
The risk of transmission is lower outdoors, as long as social distancing is observed, so it would perhaps be possible, when restrictions are lifted, to have some open-air sessions, for up to 10 people at a time. We could provide entertainment, a quiz, chat, safely served refreshments, a mooch around the plants, and much fun along the way in true ‘Footlights’ style! ‘The Friendship and Nostalgia Garden’ in Fox Elms Road, might be extremely popular.
We are also thinking of ways to initiate ‘Radio Footlights’, a mix of songs, humour and news to be recorded onto CDs and sent out by post.
This Lockdown could prove to be a very fruitful time, until we can all safely meet again , ‘some sunny day’..."
Martin Simon, GGT Trustee and Community Author
We are automatically turning to each other for emotional support, we are kinder and more encouraging, we care for and comfort each other. We are re-activating our common decency. Often, without us even realising it, three rudimentary prescriptions for successful communal living are back in vogue – 1) ‘live and let live’, 2) ‘give and take’ and 3) ‘speaking out' (against unfairness.)
So how do we make sure this continues after the pandemic passes? At Gloucestershire Gateway Trust much of what we do is based on the idea of “come together to make life better” and experience has taught us to stay as flexible as we can and use a combination of approaches when it comes to trying to stimulate social action.
Local organisations, groups and individuals, with their vast reservoirs of talent and ingenuity in every neighbourhood, are all different and all quite unique. Therefore, we invest in them to do it for themselves. This April we invested £100,000 in our nine partner organisations and we regularly supply the grease for the wheels of individuals and groups wanting to make something happen for the common good.
Our hope is that new possibilities will emerge to amplify and supplement the common decency quotient in Gloucestershire and so inspire people to stay connected far into the future. We have repeatedly observed that when people feel safe and well connected they become more open to new experiences and are more aware of the ways in which we are all interdependent.
We have a small a team of Neighbourhood Connectors who positively re-enforce collective acts of caring wherever they are to be found. They live locally and ARE – Available, Responsive and Engaged (albeit at the time of writing in lockdown, socially distanced and often on the telephone or online).
What does that mean and why is it important?
Our neighbourhood connectors develop a thorough understanding of each neighbourhood and explore new ways to meet up with and motivate people. They work in the public spaces where local people naturally gather. They walk the streets and knock on doors (when not in lockdown). They aim to be accessible, recognised, respected and tuned-in. They look out for “Local Hosts” to act as contact points - to spread news, talk about issues and organise social events - and listen. Overall neighbourhood connectors want people to feel good about themselves and their neighbourhoods and to know that if they should feel insecure or uncertain there are people around who care and can be reached easily.
Our neighbourhood connectors do not come up with solutions for local people, they ask questions and listen carefully and non-judgementally to their answers. They help people become more aware, spontaneous and close. Then they take a step back by creating space and time for people to make their own decisions and take whatever action they think is appropriate. (If they need additional resources or new contacts GGT will help them find them.) Neighbourhood connectors are positive and passionate about home-made social change. In the real world no-one is infallible, so if things do go wrong they are responsive and comforting but do not take on the responsibility for fixing the situation for people. They ask questions and see what can be learned from their mistakes and then shift the focus onto what is working well and on how to make it even better.
Neighbourhood connectors form relationships that are life-affirming and mutually supportive. They believe that everyone has the capacity to think for themselves, have fun and can contribute to the wellbeing of others. They are open, straight talking and honest. They approach their work with energy and candour and view every new connection as a potential friend. Being emotionally present means that they can form quality relationships that endure. When they find an isolated resident they make sure that he or she stays found. Only when they share a sense of common purpose and experience the solidarity needed for them to be courageous will neighbourhood connectors and residents really find out what is possible for them to achieve together.
Gloucestershire Gateway Trust is here for the long haul and when we emerge from this pandemic our experience and new learning about community development will contribute in no small way to common decency and interdependent, human connections being valued for generations to come.
Find out more about our LOOP team.
I’m already getting excited for the next phase, which will be our reopening plan. Imagine, we get to open sites up once again, just like I did back in 2015, but this time we will be bigger, better and stronger as we have so much more experience! I’m personally trying to focus on the positives, relish the break from the norm as best as I can, and ensure that I’m ready to hit the ground running as soon as we’re able to reopen. I can’t wait to see all my work family again soon. Stay safe."
Clare Skivington, GGT Community Support Manager
Mark Gale, CEO Gloucestershire Gateway Trust