Martin Hogg, founder and chief executive of Citizen Coaching, the counselling social enterprise, has tried various approaches over recent years to grow and scale-up the business. ‘We’ve always reinvested in the business,’ he says, ‘but this alone was never enough to really scale-up and help much greater numbers of clients.’
Things came to a head when the enterprise secured a major NHS contract. It needed to consolidate eight counselling rooms on three different sites and expand its headquarters in Birmingham’s Custard Factory to accommodate fourteen counselling rooms. Finance became a critical issue.
A mixed loan/grant investment from the Key Fund of £80,000 enabled this successful expansion and the business now delivers 20,000 counselling sessions a year via its network of sixty counsellors. The current coronavirus crisis has required a complete transformation of its services so that everything can be delivered online.
It has also made its anger management sessions into a free online service for which hundreds of people across the country have already signed-up.
Martin explains why: ‘75% of our clients are 14 to 24-year olds and are referred to us via schools, youth workers and GPs. I’m concerned that during the current lockdown these young people are falling through the cracks. I’m sure we are experiencing a major rise in hidden mental health problems. Making our anger management counselling sessions as widely available as possible was the least we could do.’
The enterprise is also concerned that once the lockdown is relaxed huge numbers of people needing mental health support will hit GP surgeries and is preparing for longer-term mental health issues amongst teenagers and young people as the Covid-19 fall-out continues. ‘Social isolation, health worries, and exam and future career anxieties add up to a perfect storm,’ Martin says.
Scaling-up successfully has been a long process but Martin believes the effort has been worth it and has been a central part of repositioning the enterprise for the new future we will all face. ‘Our priority has been to ensure that we have an agile workforce, well-supported online systems and counsellors who have been skilled-up to meet these new and more complex demands,’ he says, ‘and that’s where we are right now.’
Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, says: “Social enterprises are businesses with a social or environmental mission at their heart. This is a movement that has grown to be at the forefront of tackling society’s biggest problems, from homelessness, addiction, loneliness, poverty and inequality to the environment, green energy, food waste and recycling. And they will be central to the economic and social recovery after coronavirus.’
That last point is clearly one that Citizen Coaching’s Martin Hogg would echo.
And so do we: the coronavirus crisis is still at the forefront, but we believe that the region’s key institutions, investment funds, local enterprise partnerships, public authorities and businesses need to be planning now for a co-ordinated economic, social and community recovery effort — and that it is essential that this is done in discussion with social economy partners.
→ Find out more about Citizen Coaching’s services and sign-up for its free online anger management counselling.