Following a period of poor health Lorraine Bliss MBE has decided to stand down as Chief Executive Officer of St Eds, with effect from the 17 April 2023. She has been head of the organisation for over 30 years, leading it through the foundation and development of its highly valued training centre. Both the staff and the Trustees wish her all the best in her retirement.
General Manager, Serena Davenport, will be Acting CEO until a replacement is appointed.
St Edmund’s Society is one of six fantastic winners at this year’s Centre for Social Justice Foundation Awards. Our Award winners are dedicated organisations stopping at nothing, neither a global pandemic nor a cost-of-living crisis, to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK.
The awards from the Westminster-based Foundation celebrate the nation’s small charities who have been central to supporting the most vulnerable in their communities and doing everything in their power to give vital skills, help and time to those in need.
The Foundation’s mission is to ensure that the voices of those working to tackle poverty around the country are heard by decision-makers in London. The awards, presented at a dinner in Westminster on Monday night attended by leading politicians and media stars, reward the most outstanding small charities fighting poverty on the frontline.
St Edmund’s, based in central Norwich, provides vocational trade-related qualifications to marginalised, socially excluded young people mainly between the ages of 11-18 who are struggling or have struggled within mainstream education and failed to achieve. These young people tend to be largely written off or ignored and find themselves adding to the ranks of those considered NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
St Edmund’s allows them to learn and excel in a range of disciplines from construction trades, and mechanics to hair and beauty alongside assistance with English and Maths where they have had problems at school. They are given access to meaningful work-related experience to boost their chances of employment. Additionally, they are given welfare and pastoral support to help overcome the individual barriers to learning and progression that they have previously encountered.
Last year St Edmund’s programmes supported 128 students through outreach in 2021/2022. Of those: 78 per cent achieved a qualification and they had an 86 per cent retention rate on courses.
Commenting on the award, Lorraine Bliss of St Edmund’s Societysaid:
‘By providing vocational training and support to many young people who, through not being “school shaped” have struggled through the traditional “one size fits all” education system which has simply failed them. They have become known as “The Forgotten or Ghost Children”, many of whom come from disconnected and marginalised families in poverty making them vulnerable and at risk of CCE (Child Criminal Exploitation). We presently have a full cohort of post-16 and school students for the academic year 2022/23. With the CSJ Award, we intend to continue fulfilling our short-term aspirations to reach even more young people and families while raising awareness of a neglected but growing problem for society as a whole and to ensure that all young people actually receive an education suitable for their needs irrespective of academic ability. We will continue to campaign for proper registration to become recognised and funded accordingly, by both the DfE and ESFA. as well as recognised as a ‘specialist vocational alternative provider” and an alternative to FE college for those with promise but lacking the educational entry requirements. These young people are our future and should not be written off.’
Nathan Gamester of the CSJ Foundation said:
‘We are absolutely delighted to be giving this award to St Edmund’s Society. We scoured the country looking for the very best grassroots poverty-fighting charities and this year’s winners are all superb. Our independent judging panel were incredibly impressed with St Edmund’s Society’s impact and their dedication to serving those in their local community. Huge congratulations from all of us at the CSJ Foundation.’
About the CSJ Foundation:
The CSJ Foundation was set up by Westminster think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) to promote the essential contribution of charities, amplify their voice in the corridors of power, and help them recover by boosting their fund-raising efforts.
The CSJ Foundation tackles the root causes of poverty by bringing the voices of local grassroots charities to national decision-makers and philanthropists on poverty, making the case for forgotten regions, showcasing their innovations and successes, and directing much-needed funding to small, poverty-fighting charities across the UK.
The Foundation has offices in Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester and London.
We learnt about how trauma as a child can impact relationships, self-esteem and behaviour of an individual throughout their adult life. We also learnt about how trauma can lead to defensive behaviour, and halt a young persons capacity to learn.
Lots of this training included Healthy Brain Development, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and Resilience.
We have developed a centre-wide approach to better support our students throughout their time in education and beyond.
Check out some of the photos of the fun we had during the training.
We are delighted to announce that we have been selected as a finalist at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Awards 2022.
The CSJ Awards are national and high profile, recognising charities that are innovative in tackling poverty and exclusion in Britain. They exist to ensure that the voices of those working to address these issues are given access to decision makers in Westminster.
As an organisation, we are delighted to be recognised for the outstanding work we do in supporting vulnerable young people through vocational training. We raise their self-esteem and confidence, whilst enabling them to gain trade related qualifications, employment opportunities and a much improved quality of life as well as being accepted in the community.
We are very grateful for this opportunity and the positive outcomes it will bring.
Much is being said, and indeed broadcast about post-pandemic Mental Health (MH) issues, but the messages are mixed. As a result of the pandemic there has been a considerable rise in MH issues. According to The Health Foundation, worry about the future and feeling stressed or anxious are among the most common issues affecting wellbeing. Naturally, this has also led to an increase in MH concerns among the young people at our Alternative Provision (AP). As a result, we have had to increase the support we give.
The St Edmunds Society welfare team saw the number of interventions they conduct increase by 320% from Jan/Feb to Mar/Apr. Many of these interventions were providing support around MH and isolation for our young people. Social isolation, anxiety and depression were the key concerns coming out of sessions with students after lockdown.
A Young Minds study found that 67% of 13-25 year olds believed the pandemic will have negative effect on their MH long-term. Where the percentage of our students who had good coping strategies and positive MH was the majority, it is now the minority.
Mental Health Support in Mainstream Education
The government are investing heavily in MH services across the UK. Gavin Williamson announced more than £17 million in funding to improve Mental Health and wellbeing support in schools and colleges during May’s Mental Health Awareness week. This is to help the recovery from the pandemic and the funding will be used to train senior MH leads in schools. We recognise that this is extremely vital support for young people. However, it fails yet again to identify support for those young people who attend an AP, many of whom are at risk of, or suffer with MH. This government support will only partially tackle the MH crisis among young people nationally. It neglects to acknowledge those in AP, who are often placed there because MH prevented them from accessing or participating in mainstream education in the first place.
“The focus in a mainstream school is achieving academic qualifications. Students who arenot able to engage in thisstyle of learning are cast aside as inferiorand they are left feeling outcast and isolated from their peers.
Many schools do not acknowledge intelligence in other forms, so those students internalise that feeling of being inferior. By the time students come to our AP, they have felt this way for a long time. Those feelings are hard-wired.”
Rio Bygrave, Welfare Support Manager at St Edmunds Society
Charity Support for Mental Health
As a charity, we rely heavily on charitable donations and grants to continue to offer our services. We have been turned down for fundraising applications time and time again as we do not ‘meet the criteria’. Recently, this was because the young people we work with do not have ‘severe Mental Health issues’. We do not believe this to be the case, as self-harm and suicidal thoughts are common among our students.
“Self-harm will often be a coping strategy that a young person has used for a long time and has become a comfort. With issues like this we support with external referrals. We offer the young person a lot of time and nurture. When a student reports having suicidal thoughts, we ensure they feel listened to, and show them that we are proactively seeking support for them. We are able to make them feel validated.”
Rio Bygrave, Welfare Support Manager at St Edmunds Society
Our welfare team are able to support students who reach out to them. They are often able to spot the signs of MH early. We look to provide support around prevention of a MH crisis, rather than a reactive approach. It is frustrating to be told that the MH issues we work with are not ‘severe’ enough for funding, when the work we do is to mitigate MH issues at an early stage and prevent these young people from reaching crisis point in the first place.
Furthermore, we have been turned down for funding as we are not providing open access to MH support for the community, as we are a school-based service. However, when it comes to government funding, we are not classed as a school and therefore not eligible for this funding either.
Services in Norfolk
Currently, the waiting lists for counselling in Norfolk is 18 months or longer. During this wait, young people are feeling lost, helpless and let down by the system they rely on. Our welfare team support every young student with their wellbeing, but external support is only available for these young people when their needs are critical, and they are a risk to themselves. Whilst on the waiting list we often see young people desperate for help and their needs escalate due to not receiving the right level of treatment when it is necessary.
We desperately want to better support these young people at St Edmunds Society, instead of referring them to other agencies. As a universal service, supporting students with higher MH needs has become normal and regular, yet as a charity the funding and training to allow staff to do this effectively isn’t there.
Mental Health in Alternative Provision
Sadly, it is an inescapable fact that many of our students originate from disadvantaged families, have poor educational attainment or are living in poverty. These Forgotten Children are usually marginalised, often vulnerable and can at times be exploited and coerced into criminal exploitation. Many see themselves as failures without any academic prowess and a disengagement with society through their lack of educational achievement.
High levels of Mental Health in our Alternative Provision can originate from:
Social Exclusion – these young people have not been in school long enough to form friendships. They are not able to form peer relationships due to low self-esteem or forming them online, so they feel isolated and are more vulnerable to exploitation and grooming.
Feeling of Rejection – they are often made to feel rejected or not good enough at school, due to not achieving qualification.
Toxic Masculinity Culture – young males are taught to ‘be a man’ and ‘don’t show weakness.’
Young Carers – higher levels in Alternative Provision, often lead to knock on effects of social exclusion.
Safeguarding Issues – higher levels create problems with students’ behaviour and poor coping strategies, leading to schools not being able to manage behaviour, which leads to poor MH.
Perception of AP – students believe that by attending alternative education they are ‘stupid’ or go to ‘a naughty school’. These thoughts often lead to low self-esteem.
Traumatic Experience in School – bullying/anxiety around being singled out as a ‘naughty child’. This can lead to anxiety around attending a school and pattern of avoidance.
St Eds Welfare Team
Our staff spend a lot of time unpicking the safeguarding concerns that young people demonstrate in their behaviours. Each category of abuse comes with short-term and long-term effects. The ‘lost generation’ are currently growing up with these behaviours. As a result they are outcast as being ‘a problem child’. In a critical time where self-image and self-understanding are being distorted, this has a massive impact on their MH.
Sadly, hearing this in our AP is not uncommon. For those who were already struggling, lockdown unravelled their routine and made it hard to access the things they did pre-lockdown. Many have struggled to adapt from isolation back into a routine, back into crowds and being around their peers. The stresses around achieving vocational qualifications, despite long periods of working from home, out of a vocational environment have also had a massive impact.
Disadvantaged young people could be worst affected as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The most important thing is to raise awareness for these young people and ensure no child is left behind. We have to change people’s mindsets and make them understand that every child matters. Addressing this issue is vital because nobody else provides for them. It will benefit the entire community to support these young people, both now and longer-term.
‘Levelling Up’ applies to all, especially those struggling in education and struggling to find their place in society.
We are transforming lives in Norwich by providing support, training and life opportunities to disadvantaged young people. We have an inspiring vision, but we need your support more than ever. Check out the list below to find out how you can support us in our endeavours.
You can donate online by PayPal or Total Giving. Just click on the pictures below.
Alternatively, you can make a cheque payable to ST EDMUNDS SOCIETY and post it to 114-118 Oak Street, Norwich, NR3 3BP.
The Government allows us to claim back tax on donations by Gift Aid. This means for every £1 donated, we get £1.25 when you add Gift Aid, at no extra cost to you. If you are a UK taxpayer, and you are donating your own money (not from a business), please ask us about Gift Aid.
Alternatively, you can help us by donating resources, such as equipment, tools, materials, or PPE for our courses (Construction, Mechanics, Catering, Hair and Beauty). Please contact us to arrange.
ONLINE SHOPPING – FREE DONATIONS
Raising money for St Eds just got easier – and it’s free! You can donations for St Eds every time you shop online, by registering with Easy Fundraising. With over 3000 online retailers involved, we will get a donation for every time you make a purchase online. Register today by clicking on the logo, or download the Easy Fundraising app.
You can also raise free donations for St Eds every time you shop online with Amazon. Sign up to AmazonSmile and choose St Edmunds Society as your charity of choice, by clicking on the logo.
Perhaps you would be able to donate some of your time? We always have volunteer opportunities available. This is a great way to boost your CV and become more employable, at the same time as giving back to your local community.
We are looking for volunteer tutor assistants, to work alongside our team, supporting young people in making positive attributes to their lives and helping them to boost their confident to move on to new and exciting opportunities.
We are a charity which runs an approved and accredited Vocational Training centre, based in Norwich, supporting young people aged between 11-18 (or up to 25 with an EHCP). Many of these have struggled in or been excluded from mainstream education. Sadly, it is an inescapable fact that many of those concerned originate from disadvantaged families, often living in poverty. Poor educational attainment and poverty tend to be a desperately common link.
The opportunities and support we provide them helps to increase their self-esteem as well as develop their employment opportunities and genuine life prospects. Currently we are accommodating the needs of 100+ students a week, and we have an extensive waiting list. The problem has increased further due to the pandemic and enforced inactivity of young people, which perhaps gives an idea of the extent of a very worrying problem.
These sometimes ‘forgotten children’ are usually marginalised, often vulnerable and can at times be exploited and coerced into criminal exploitation. Many see themselves as failures, without any academic prowess and a disengagement with society through their lack of educational achievement.
The present ‘one size fits all’ education system does not take account of mixed or lower ability children, often writing them off at an early age, in-keeping with prescribed targets and statistics. No real account is taken of those who could very successfully occupy manual or mainstream employment such as construction workers, catering workers, beauticians, and mechanics, because success cannot always be measured by examination results.
As a charity, we receive no direct statutory funding or support, which is targeted solely towards traditional mainstream and Further Education and is not designed to recognise those who struggle or lack aspiration; of which there are many.
We believe there needs to be much more emphasis on opportunities for accredited Vocational Training, where young people are given the opportunity to gain support, skills, and qualifications, to enable them to have the tools to secure realistic (yet meaningful) employment and have a more positive future.
Our aim is to ensure that EVERY CHILD, regardless of their backgrounds receives the same opportunities as those who are more academically capable. Nationally, there are over 2 million young people living in poverty and socially excluded, and so ‘The Forgotten Children’ will soon become the ‘lost generation’ if mindsets are not altered to encompass a genuine workforce for the modern era.
Sadly, the problem of vulnerable and marginalised young people constantly goes unnoticed and unsupported, and we are left struggling to raise sufficient funding to deliver adequate alternative vocational education to those young people being left behind. If we, as just one charity based in Norfolk do not pick up these young people, then who will? They may become a drain on society, instead of being able to use their talents to contribute to the rebuilding of the economy and making a difference.
St Edmunds Society Vocational Training Centre has yet again been accredited to the matrix Standard, demonstrating the high-quality Careers Information Advice and Guidance services we provide to young people.
The matrix Standard is the international quality standard for organisations that deliver information, advice and/or guidance (IAG), either as their sole purpose or as part of their service offering.
Roger Chapman, Head of the matrix Service for The Growth Company said:
“This is a fantastic achievement for St Eds and I would like to congratulate the team on their success. We believe that at the heart of high-quality advice and support services are strong leadership, excellent service and a focus on continuous improvement, all underpinned by effective use of the resources available. The matrix Standard is designed to benchmark organisations against best practice in these areas. With their accreditation success, St Eds is working to provide the best possible support to their students.”
About the matrix Standard
The matrix Standard is the international quality standard for organisations that deliver information, advice and/or guidance (IAG). Either as their sole purpose or as part of their service offering.
Any organisation which manages, administers and delivers an information, advice and/or guidance service to support individuals in their choice of career, learning, work or life goals can become accredited to the matrix Standard. It does not matter whether the service or services are delivered face-to-face, through training, learning, remotely, or through a website.
Organisations that have benefited from working with the Standard include Training Providers, Universities, Further/Higher Education Colleges, Schools and Academies, Sole Traders, Next Step Providers, Voluntary and Community Organisations and Private Businesses.
The matrix Standard is owned by the Department for Education and is managed by The Growth Company on their behalf.
St Edmunds Society are proud to be joining the Norfolk Community Foundation and Sir Norman Lamb, as part of the Coalition for Young People.
The Coalition is open to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations providing services in Norfolk to young people aged 0-25 years, who actively contribute to their wellbeing.
Being part of the Coalition provides us an opportunity to develop our existing offer, recognising the value of the vital support we provide to young people, with an ambition to show how Norfolk can lead the way by coming together to make a real difference.
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