A social enterprise firm, which gives people with mental health illness stable and supported employment, fears for its own future if funding is cut in March, almost ten years after it began.
Phoenix Enterprises, in Cheney Manor, receives half its funding through payment from customers who use their small scale mailing and assembly service, but they rely on a grant from the Swindon Primary Care Trust for the other half.
Manager Brian Tyler said, “we currently have 14 volunteers who suffer from illnesses like depression or bipolar. For them, Phoenix is like being in a family. They’ve had lots of knocks and we provide a safe place to work, train, and hopefully be a stepping stone for them to return to mainstream employment. Initially they have no confidence so when they walk out of here into mainstream employment it’s very rewarding.
“For me it’s more than a job; it’s a way of life. Now, with talk of budget cuts we’re worried. Our current funding ends in March and we have to re-bid but we’ve heard nothing.”
Phoenix is a lifeline, as supervisor Hardip Muddhar explained. “I’m 60 and have been here for 10 years. Without Phoenix I wouldn’t be alive today. I became an alcoholic, lost my job, then depression set in. Now I have a reason to get up in the morning and do something worthwhile. If I didn’t come here I would still be drinking – or dead.”
Michael Hamilton, 56, said depression led to an attempted suicide, after which he was sectioned. He said, “Phoenix gives me a purpose in life.”
Eugene Russell, in his mid-50s, who had a severe nervous breakdown said, “the staff and other workers at Phoenix gave me the courage to carry on. Having a useful occupation boosts my confidence and knowing people believe in me makes me determined to get back to full time employment.”
The Link employs Phoenix to post out the magazine and deliver them in bulk to various venues around the town. “They’re experienced at taking on smaller, tricky jobs which can be labour intensive and therefore expensive to fulfill,” said publisher Roger Ogle. “Firms sometimes have short run assembly or even dis-assembly tasks to which they either have to redirect staff or get temps in. It’s worth getting a quote from Phoenix, they could do a job for you.”
Hardip Muddhar pictured with colleagues at Phoenix Enterprises