Erith charitable business dealing in second chances

PUBLISHED: 15:08 30 August 2012




The stigma attached to adults with mental health problems is rife in all aspects of society, but none more so than in the work place.

But one Erith business has been working tirelessly for almost half a century to reintegrate such individuals back into employment, while making a profit.

l to r Malcolm Noble , Mathew Elliot and Tony LireyReInstate l to r Malcolm Noble , Mathew Elliot and Tony Lirey

Charitable company Re-Instate, in St John’s Church Hall, West Street, was founded in 1966 by the former vicar who thought it would be a better use for the premises.

The trainees, as they are called, have genuine business targets to meet so the company can deliver its goods and general manager John Boyd admits it can be a challenge marrying the commercial aspect of the operation with the charitable side.

The 60-year-old joined Re-Instate three years ago after being made redundant from his job at paper merchant McNaughton Paper and says this is the first time he’s done anything like this.

“I wanted to work in a social setting rather than making money for someone, so this is much more fulfilling.

l to John Boyd and Simon HartReInstate l to John Boyd and Simon Hart

“The business and the charity have to work together.

“It’s all about social inclusion and interaction – so people can go to a work place environment like everyone else and trainees feel like they’re getting something out of it. I don’t think there are many examples like us nationwide.”

Re-Instate help people with a range of different conditions, including brain injury, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and autism.

There are around 60 people on the books, with about 25 to 30 in the workshop at any one time. The work is mainly manual, ranging from assembling packaging and boxes to putting together election information kits.

The management team organises work placements and development opportunities, with the end gain of getting people into full-time employment.

“This is very difficult,” said Mr Boyd. “We’ve had eight people out on work experience at external places since January and that’s an important step, but full-time employment is another matter.”

Simon Hart, 45, volunteers as marketing manager and worked with Mr Boyd at McNaughton Paper.

He said: “I’ve been here for two years and it’s certainly a challenge. We try and focus on their individual needs while improving their sense of accountability and responsibility. It’s a social enterprise.

“But a lot of the workers will come in during their holidays. It’s very sad – you’d think they’d have somewhere better to spend their time.”

The trainees seem buoyed by the work. Wayne Holmes, 38, said: “I’ve found the whole experience very useful. It gives you the confidence to get back to work.”

Charlie Ervin, 25, has just returned from a placement with supermarket distributor Musgrave.

He said: “I really enjoyed it. It’s worked out all right for me.”

Whatever the commercial success of Re-Instate, the staff of five suggest they are achieving something slightly less tangible in giving people who have been shunned by society a second chance.

Mr Boyd said: “The 1960s were less enlightened times and there was a stigma attached to mental health.

“But we’re still a business. If people aren’t right to work here then that leaves us with a problem, and that’s something I always have to consider.”

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