Phoenix Enterprises, an organisation that helps some of the most vulnerable people within Swindon and Wiltshire, continues to face an uphill battle for funding and is now calling for new trustees and local businesses to get involved.
Having faced a recent break-in during May, and the withdrawal of several key funding partners and companies, the service has had to cut the number of users it is able to help from 50 to 25 and cut down the hours worked by the paid staff member.
The group, based in Groundwell Industrial Estate, helps people who are mentally-ill or have learning difficulties, to gain independence and find employment. They suffered a major setback after their offices were raided by burglars but thanks to donations, the enterprise have partly recovered from the damage done. However, they are still in need of sustained and continuing support from the local community and in particular any new trustees that wish to step forward.
Chair Emma Rees, who has been working with the social enterprise since 2013, said “Phoenix Enterprises does not receive any government grants and we are keen to let businesses know of the service that we provide. We are able to offer competitive rates for packing, packaging and mail out services that many companies pay over the odds for. The benefit with working with Phoenix is that you are not just getting that service but also helping out those in need find their way in life.
“We don’t just help these vulnerable people with work here on site either. We take emergency phone calls from our service users, we take them to JSA appointments, we are here for them when they need someone to talk to.”
Visibly shaken, Emma then told our reporter of a recent occasion where a service user had called in to say they were contemplating taking their own life. She said: “They told us they had been thinking about suicide, but instead they came in to talk to us about their problems. I think this just shows the power of what we do here. We are more than just a social enterprise, we are support community and a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Since Emma’s arrival at Phoenix in 2013, almost 50 vulnerable adults have made their way into regular employment, with 25 of those making the transition in 2015.
The enterprise have recently gained a new trustee in Swindon Robins Chief Executive Mike Bowden, who said: “Through the work they do to get vulnerable people into the workplace and away from Jobseekers Allowance, Phoenix Enterprises saves the UK taxpayer an estimated £110,000 per year. By employing them here at Phoenix or finding them work elsewhere, it means they have the chance to stand on their own two feet.
“One also has to think about what will happen to all the vulnerable people that rely on this enterprise if it were not able to continue its service. The NHS and social services aren’t able to offer this kind of opportunity and I personally would hate to think what would happen if a project like Phoenix did not exist. They need local businesses and trustees to get involved, and we all need to remember that mental illnesses don’t respect money, class or social standing.”
The group doesn’t only offer employment opportunities to the mentally-ill in Wiltshire, they support them in other aspects of life. Phoenix stands for social inclusion as staff there help workers find counselling and rebuild their confidence in addition to finding full-time employment not only in Swindon, but across the county.
Images provided by Calyx