Monday, 29 September 2014

Over 40 reasons to be proud at Pride

Saturday for me was all about Pride. Pride for the LGBT* community in Wolverhampton and also pride for my colleagues who were there in the parade and on our stall.

Over 40 of my colleagues were at Wolverhampton Pride, including members of our Proud to be Me Network, other colleagues and board members - a mix of LGBT* and straight allies. Everyone was standing proud to support LGBT* equality in our city.

This is the third Wolverhampton Pride we’ve supported and this year we felt it was so important that we were one of the main sponsors.

However it’s not just an issue that’s important once a year; At Wolverhampton Homes we are working throughout the year to become one of the best places to work for LGBT* staff in the UK and to provide great services for our LGBT* customers.

For over 18 months, our Proud to be me Network have been the key part of this work. They are a growing group of over 20 LGBT* and straight ally staff who are playing a vital role both within Wolverhampton Homes and in the community. They support and advise staff and work closely with LGBT Network Wolverhampton to make sure our services meet the needs of everyone.

I am so proud of the work they have been doing and I’m so proud that we had over 40 colleagues supporting them at this year’s Pride.

I was also really pleased to see the reaction of the people in the city, taking photos and videos on their mobiles and getting involved in the carnival atmosphere. In the year that same-sex marriage became legal it’s wonderful to see LGBT* equality becoming more of a mainstream issue.

Together we’re making a difference and Pride gives us a chance to celebrate that fact as well as show our support. Hopefully one day we won't need Pride because, no one will care who loves who, and people will accept people for who they are. That is my utopia because I truly believe that everyone has the right to be themselves and to be proud of who they are.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

50 - It's a magic number

50 – it’s a magic number

Give people an opportunity and they’ll make the most of it – it’s just a shame that more people don’t do just that.

Deborah and I all kitted-up!
I was delighted to meet up with Deborah Porter earlier this week. Chances are you haven’t heard of Deborah. But for me – Deborah is a symbol. She’s a symbol of what someone can do when they’re given a chance to succeed. Deborah is the 50th apprentice who we’ve taken on through our double-award winning LEAP programme.

She’s the latest in what is becoming a long line of tenants who we’ve been able to help by giving training, work experience - and in some cases, full time work.

Deb makes it 50 apprentices
Deborah joined us a few months ago – after being out of work for ten years. She’s worked in different factories over the years but never really had the chance to excel. What I really like about Deborah is her determination to be better. Off her own back, she enrolled at college and became a qualified carpenter; a profession that too few women have taken up. But she could never put those skills into practice because there was no-one who was willing to take a chance on her. She enrolled in our LEAP programme and I’m delighted that she’s our 50th apprentice! She’s thriving in her new role on our handyperson scheme.

She seems to be really enjoying herself as well. And that’s what makes apprenticeships so rewarding for a company like ours. Seeing people who no-one else would take a chance on, really enjoying their work and really making the most of the opportunity which has come their way.

Ignore those who continually knock our city or who seem to take a perverse enjoyment in demonising those who live in council houses, Wolverhampton has a wealth of people who are desperate to do a good job – they just need to be given the chance and the confidence to succeed; and I couldn’t be prouder that LEAP is giving some of them that very chance.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams RIP

Mental Health – there must be more we can do

Robin Williams. RIP

I, like millions of others, woke up this morning to hear the exceptionally sad news that the much-loved comedian and actor Robin Williams had died.

A man who literally made millions of us laugh has left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment and the childhoods of many. From Good Morning Vietnam to the Dead Poets’ Society and from Jumanji to Mrs Doubtfire; Williams was an accomplished actor with seemingly boundless energy and humility.

But beneath the laughter lay a man riddled with doubt, insecurity and a dark, desperate depression. Well documented battles with drugs, alcohol and mental health have seemingly finally taken their toll.

It leads me to think about mental health and the stigma which is still attached to it – not only in society but in the workplace too. If someone you know breaks their leg, their plaster cast is a visual reminder that’s something’s wrong and that person may need some help. But with mental health the signs aren’t always so clear and the problems not so easily understood.

In a world where the pace of life seems to get faster and faster as the days go by, it seems we often forget to ask the simple questions of others around us; how are you? Are you feeling ok? Do you need to talk?

Millions are suffering in silence and there’s a desperate need for more to be done. Statistics suggest that one in six workers in the UK suffer with some sort of mental health problem – whether it’s anxiety, depression or stress. That suggests more than 100 of my staff could be suffering – many in silence; and that just doesn’t seem right to me.

We need to do more to support people with mental health problems. Here at Wolverhampton Homes we have a counselling service which I hope is of use to colleagues who feel they might need it. But I suspect many who really do need it don’t come forward because they simply don’t want anyone to know. We need to deal with that mind-set – not just here but in society as a whole. We all need to do more and create a culture where we can talk openly about mental health.

Today I’m going to email all of my staff and remind them that we have services that can help – and that there are people out there like the Samaritans and countless others groups who can help.

We need to change our attitudes towards mental health. Let’s start that now.