Bishop Auckland based social enterprise Bridge Creative has discussed how partnership with DurhamEnable has provided a “full circle” of support for people with disabilities in County Durham.
Bridge Creative was started in 2018 to help people with learning disabilities and autistic people access work experience in the events industry but grew considerably as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Managing Director Ben Tinkler said: “At the beginning of Covid we set up the Keeping People Connected service, which was to help people keep safe and well during the pandemic.”
The Keeping People Connected service provided support around mental health, confidence building, and digital skills, and was referred into by GPs and social prescribers.
Ben added: “Lots of people who were referred in didn’t have any other support involved, weren’t accessing any other services and lived independently, so the service was a lifeline for them.”
When DurhamEnable started in 2021, Bridge Creative were an early local partner, thanks to their shared goal of supporting local people with disabilities.
Ben said: “The support that DurhamEnable offers aligns really well with what we offer which makes our partnership work so well. We work with people to get the work experience and skills, and then when they feel they’re ready for work, we would refer them into DurhamEnable to find the paid job.”
Support can come full circle for jobseekers, as Bridge Creative can offer long term in-work support to employees who need support beyond what DurhamEnable can offer, and also offers support for people who want to become self-employed through the E+O Project.
Ben added: “It’s all about getting the right support for people to maintain employment and be successful.”
Working alongside DurhamEnable on every step of the employment journey has also had an inspiring effect on others at Bridge.
Ben said: “When someone finds a paid job, it inspires other people saying, ‘I want a paid job, I want to do that’ and they then want to be referred into DurhamEnable.”
He added: “Once someone’s in paid work, or at any point along that journey into work, you can see people constantly improving, their confidence starts to build, they become much more independent, they appear much happier and healthier as well. We see that with lots of people we support.”
As an employer, Bridge Creative has also benefitted from DurhamEnable’s recruitment offer, and has been able to provide unique experiences to its apprentices, working as an events team at festivals like Glastonbury and Leeds.
Ben said: “They’re great opportunities for people, often once in a lifetime experiences. It’s great to support the guys to gain that real work experience and skills, coming from the DurhamEnable pathway into Bridge Creative.”
On the future of Bridge Creative and DurhamEnable, Ben said: “Because of our joint work, I feel there are now more opportunities for people to move into employment, which is great, and people can get the right support they need, so long may it continue.”