Meet the team
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been introducing each member of the BYHP team on our social media. Everyone is on the Team page of our website, but here we all are again with a bit more information about us.
Chief Executive Patrick Vercoe has just celebrated his two-year anniversary as head of BYHP. Prior to joining BYHP he worked for two Homeless organisations in Warwickshire and Northamptonshire following a successful career in the commercial sector.
He originally trained as a journalist working in regional newspapers, as well as in London, before he entered the public relations world with The Rank Organisation. “As a major film buff, I was working in my ideal job, because I got to see all the new releases before they went out on the Odeon circuit. Also, I’m one of few people who knows what the word Odeon stands for!” says Patrick.
After leaving Rank he started his own communications company, which after two years was merged into the Banbury based Countrywide Publicity Group, where he was managing director and a major shareholder. By the time the company was sold Countrywide employed over 200 people, based in several UK locations.
Some 20 years later Patrick and his colleagues sold their stake in Countrywide to an American communications conglomerate Omnicom. It was at this stage that Patrick decided to make a major career switch and work in the Charity sector.
“At that particular time, I recognised that a large number of charities were not very professional in the way they operated, and I believed that my commercial background could be helpful. As time has marched on that situation has changed dramatically as more and more people, with robust business backgrounds, have joined the sector and have made a real contribution in ensuring Charities are run professionally.
“I believe that Charities have to be run like a business”, he says, “The financials have to be good shape, income driven, because otherwise the Charity concerned cannot deliver the services that are needed by the local community, which in the end rather defeats the object the Charity was originally set up to provide”, adds Patrick.
“Joining BYHP has been a very rewarding experience”, he says, “I had really retired, I was doing some consultancy for Age UK in Buckinghamshire, when I spotted the advert to head up BYHP. As it was a part-time role on my doorstep, I thought it would be ideal for me given my background in Charity work. The part-time role hasn’t quite worked out that way but it’s been very rewarding and enjoyable. I have a great staff team who are extremely dedicated and really strive to support Young People many of whom are extremely vulnerable, which allows me to concentrate on running the business and looking after the finances”.
Throughout the lockdown period Patrick has been seeking funding to boost the Charity’s finances in what he anticipates will be a challenging year. “We have had to cancel all our fundraising events for the summer and the predicted downturn in the economy because of the Coronavirus outbreak is bound to have an overall effect on our income levels for some time to come”, he says.
In his spare time, Patrick enjoys many forms of watching sport, particularly cricket and horseracing, as well as spending time with his two grandsons, Harry and Hugo, who is just three weeks old.
Next up was Deb who is the service delivery manager for our Health and Wellbeing team. Deb delivers Counselling and Family Mediation as well as running the peer support group and has been at BYHP for 10 years. Here's what Deb had to say about what she's been up to during lockdown, how she's kept busy and what she's suggested to others;
"Working from home has become the new ‘norm’ and it has been going very well with the vast majority of clients feeling happy to engage virtually. For some young people, the lockdown suits them very well; it removes the pressure and anxiety of having to go out, to have to go somewhere that causes them anxiety whether it be school, college or mixing with friends. Moving forward, I feel that virtual sessions will become an integral part of the service that we offer and enables us to reach those clients who are not able to journey to the office for varying reasons.
Keeping busy during this pandemic for me hasn’t been hard; I did think I would have lots of time on my hands and was poised ready to subscribe to Netflix or similar but possibly the beautiful weather that we had until this week helped as I have spent a lot of time gardening.
Like so many others, I have felt this is a time to do some of the jobs that always get put off until ‘tomorrow’ and I have learnt how to tidy the Marie Kondo way! Maybe, I have got too much time on my hands. De-cluttering our houses and putting things ready for the next charity shop run is strangely therapeutic and satisfying and is definitely work in progress as is the decorating.
I have enjoyed baking, making bread for the first time for ages and again, something that I am getting more interested in which I didn’t think I had the time for ‘before’. Home cooking is always the best and something I will continue when I can find some yeast and flour in the shops as there is still a shortage.
Finally, as I recommend to my clients, exercise is really the key to feeling healthy and positive and is a great motivator. There are so many options available for us online, via YouTube especially, for all ages and all abilities. There are online classes to join and engage with others in the exercise or to do in your own time later. For me, walking around the local area has opened up footpaths that I hadn’t noticed before and socially distanced conversations with fellow walkers brighten up the day.
However, this is also a time for reflection, to think about our lives and where we want to go, what is important to us. Last night in a webinar www.onlineevents.co.uk I was reminded of a story (See below) which I first heard many years ago at University.
Now that some of our restrictions are lifting and we are taking tentative steps back towards the ‘norm’, remember to think about what and who is important to you. Take time out each day to consider for a moment what you can be grateful for. Remember to breathe, and just be. Take walks in the countryside, grow your own veg, drink lots of water and bake bread; it is very satisfying! This time will pass, nothing stays the same for ever."
Our next introduction was Ros who is another member of the Health and Wellbeing team at BYHP. Here's what Ros had to say about working at BYHP and keeping busy during lockdown.
"I have been working part time for BYHP for 10 years as a Counsellor and Family Mediator with my Colleague Deb Parker. Since the middle of March I have been working from home using phone and video call. This has worked well with most clients and I have been impressed with the resilience shown by many of the young people I work with. Deb and I have continued to facilitate the Wednesday Peer Support Group with sessions on managing Mental Health, Art, Quizzes and a tour of Mill farm with the Equine Therapist Emma Leckie.
During the Lockdown, I have discovered some lovely walks on the edge of Banbury and enjoyed the clear blue skies and the silence. I have also enjoyed some more adventurous cooking which I have shared with other family members on WhatsApp. Like many people I have become more aware of the bird song in my garden and my favourite programme during lockdown has to be Spring Watch which I have found inspirational.
I hope that many of the things we have enjoyed during Lockdown: fewer cars on the road, less pollution and appreciation of nature will continue after it is over. I am looking forward to meeting more of my clients face to face, but I have been able to see that phone and video call is a way of keeping in touch with clients who prefer to be contacted at home and so could continue to be part of the service we offer.
Most importantly, the effect of the Pandemic has enabled many of us to value what is important in our lives: connection with other people and respect and care for our community and environment."
Sticking with the Health and wellbeing team, we then introduced Emma. Emma has now been working for BYHP for over 2 years. She originally joined the charity as the project key worker for the Unlocking Potential for Oxfordshire project delivering 1:1 support sessions to long term NEET young people before moving roles within BYHP to become the Transition Wellbeing Practitioner for the Mental Wealth Academy. The Mental Wealth Academy works with 18-25 year old's experiencing mental wellbeing difficulties delivering 1:1 sessions using evidence based therapies, emotional literacy and self-management tools. The goal of the Mental Wealth Academy is to improve an individual’s wellbeing, provide coping strategies to young people and support them towards achieving their goals.
Before joining BYHP, Emma studied for her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree at Warwick University. She then spent several years working within secure forensic psychology settings where she delivered a range of psychological interventions during both 1:1 sessions and group settings. Emma then moved from Sheffield to Banbury with her partner to join the BYHP team.
During the lock down Emma has worked remotely from home continuing to deliver 1:1 mental wellbeing sessions to young people. She has also been speaking to the young people about healthy distractions to do during the lock down and the importance of self-care, particularly during the past few months.
Emma has been keeping herself busy during the lockdown by doing up her garden ready for summer, doing lots of baking and having lots of video calls and virtual quizzes with her friends and family up in Yorkshire. Now that the lockdown has been lifted slightly, she has also been enjoying visiting her family for social distancing picnics in the Peak District!
The final introduction for the Health and Wellbeing team is Gill.
Gill is our CAMHS Community In Reach Worker, who has been with BYHP for 3 years, working in partnership with Oxford Health.
Gill provides an early intervention service, working with young people aged 13 – 18 years old. She has worked with young people for many years but of course during lockdown has been unable to meet her clients face to face. However, she has provided support via online video sessions and telephone consultations. To help with lockdown, Gill has recommended the ‘Fab Four’ to her young people. This involves incorporating 4 things into their day. These are an activity that gives you a sense of achievement; an activity that is fun; an activity that makes you physically active and an activity that is social. During this period, Gill has also ensured she has done the same by going on long runs, connecting with friends via Zoom, gardening and working through the never ending ‘To Do…’ list!
Our introductions then moved over to our Employability and Admin team. First up was the lovely Linda who is a Service Delivery Manager at BYHP, looking after the Employability projects as well as the Administration, Events and Marketing. She joined BYHP in 2014 as a volunteer, helping the office manager with a range of duties and joined the team in July 2015 part time, moving into the service manager role full time in January 2018.
Linda has done a range of jobs from PA in the medico legal world to events coordinator for the Great British Cheese Festival, and the Cheese Awards. Her work history has provided Linda with a wealth of experience for this role.
Linda is currently solidifying her skills completing a Leadership & Management apprenticeship. However, this has meant involving her team in every step of her learning.
“It has been a great opportunity for me to develop my skills, learn and grow. I have a great team to practice with who have been incredibly supportive and open to all challenges”
Connor said: “Linda’s new leadership skills have really lit a fire beneath us , it has been a fun challenge though and you can’t argue with the results.”
Emma added: “While Linda has been completing her leadership and management qualification there have been a number of positive changes implemented across the team such as additional meetings and additional areas of support covered during 1:1 meetings.”
In the initial few weeks of lockdown, Linda was supporting the team to make home working a smooth transition. She, along with Haleemah, returned to the office full time (at a social distance) around 6 weeks into lockdown to operate the foodbank, organise deliveries and support several homeless young people.
“It’s been a weird surreal time for everyone, its often like being on a rollercoaster ride when things seem normal and then you go to the bank and have to queue, or ask the person that has come for a food parcel to step away from the door, bleach handles and wear a mask and it comes back to you that this is not normal”
“It has been surprising the number of young people made homeless during the pandemic. Returning to the office has been invaluable and allowed us to provide essential services to these vulnerable people”
During lockdown Linda has been attending a weekly themed fancy-dress quiz with friends, having to create outfits for The Tiger King, 90s Hip Hop and Warriors to name a few. She has been filling her free time with walks, cooking, movies and Xbox.
The next introduction was our Events and Fundraising Co-ordinator Rach who has been working at BYHP since January 2018. She joined the team as the Office Administrator and switched roles just over a year ago. Over the last few weeks many of the events that were planned for 2020 have obviously had to be postponed but Rach hopes that once it’s safe to do so, people will really enjoy being able to get out and socialise once more and attend the rescheduled events, hopefully raising lots of awareness and funds for the charity.
Rach moved to Banbury 4 years ago with her family and previous jobs have mainly been office/admin based as well as a few years in retail.
During lock down she’s been facing the same challenge as many parents…. Homeschooling. For the most part this has been OK, but she’ll be the first to admit she’s definitely not a teacher. Apart from juggling that alongside working from home, she’s enjoyed baking with her son, discovering lots of beautiful walks, making the most of the lovely (intermittent) weather as well as video calls with her friends and family back home in Lincolnshire.
Connor Southwood was the next team member in the spotlight. Connor has been working as a key worker for the employability programmes at BYHP for just over two years. However, he began his time with BYHP as a volunteer back in 2015 where he fulfilled a variety of roles. Due to his varied work history Connor brought various skills to BYHP and supported the organisation’s administration team, events and IT systems. However, it was in working with the service users that he found his real strength, using his own experiences of work, education, and lessons he learned along the way to mentor young people in overcoming their own challenges. He was awarded the Banbury Town Mayor’s Young Volunteer of the Year 2017 for his work with BYHP.
The following year Connor joined BYHP as a full-time member of staff, initially working on the Back on Track project to support at risk 15-17-year olds to stay in or return to education and employment. Having exceeded the project targets, he moved into the Unlocking Potential project where he is now helping 17-21-year old NEETs to return to education or employment. The transition to home working has meant that the previously face to face service has moved to video chats and telephone calls, and so Connor has been able to continue to supporting service users in their wellbeing and development of skills through mentoring conversations and sharing the wealth of resources made available online during lockdown.
He has been keeping fit during lockdown by getting out on his bike, doing Zoom yoga classes with Liyen Matthew (https://www.facebook.com/liyen.mathew), and gardening. He has also taken the time to learn new crafts, and making various woodwork projects such as this bench made from pallets!
Our penultimate team introduction was Haleemah, our office administrator who has been working at BYHP since September 2019 as our apprentice. Haleemah is currently studying business administration while working here at BYHP. She, along with Linda, returned to the office full time (at a social distance) around 6 weeks into lockdown to operate the foodbank, organize deliveries and support several homeless young people.
During lockdown she has made the most of the opportunity to take long walks along Banbury’s reservoir to enjoy the clear blue skies and the silence. Haleemah has also enjoyed catching up with family members on Facetime and celebrating Eid virtually as things where a little different this year as mosques and family’s members house where not open to guests this year☹.
The final introduction was Libby who is the newest recruit to the BYHP team. She recently came on board in the role of Project Key Worker for the Back on Track project which works with 15-17 year olds who are, or are at risk of becoming NEET. Libby began working at BYHP just before ‘lockdown’ restrictions were put in place and so has had to hit the floor running whilst working from home. She has been able to go out and meet some of the schools who will be referring clients to her but most of her work, like the rest of the BYHP team, has been delivered via phone, email and video calls.
Whilst at home, one thing Libby has enjoyed doing is collecting Elderflower to make her own cordial.
Our blog is a great way to stay up to date with current events and projects, stories from our young people and the general goings on at BYHP.