Navigo – a model of social sustainability
On the 17th November I visited Navigo, which really is a remarkable organisation. It is an NHS funded social enterprise that provides mental health care across north Lincolnshire. They have three mental health wards, an older adult ward and an eating disorder inpatient unit alongside community services. The remarkable thing is that they do all this with a twist…
15% of all staff at Navigo are ex-service users and this is no accident. A central feature of Navigo is that they don’t stop acting when resolution of symptoms has been achieved, they also provide supportive structures within the community for service users to engage with that can help them stay well. Kevin Bond, CEO of Navigo, explains that to improve mental health resilience and confidence, people need to work as part of a team and be valued by others. Because of this realisation, Kevin began a project called ‘Tukes’ which could do just that.
Tukes was originally set up in July 2003 as a project within Navigo to provide training and employment opportunities for people who have little or no previous training, qualifications or work experience due to their mental health problems. Tukes, now a separate and successful business, operates five cafes within the local area, external catering services, external cleaning services, conference facilities, delivery of NHS cleaning and catering contracts, laundry, property maintenance, horticultural services and a second hand shop. They also provide a dyslexia screening service and numeracy and literacy classes where required. At any one time it has over 100 service users involved in various projects and can meet most people’s needs and ambitions by providing such a range of options.
Good links with local businesses have been developed so that, following working in Tukes’ projects, relevant paid employment can be found. Navigo itself employs a number of these people and also has contracts with Tukes to provide cleaning and catering throughout the organisation. A GP from the south Wales valleys, when commenting about the poor mental health and the lack of employment opportunities in the local area said to me (in his broad welsh accent): “work is life’s remedy”. Navigo embody this phrase in a delightful way. They have created relationships, positive social identity, neighbourliness and hope through creating feasible opportunities for service users to contribute to the local community.
Counteracting social exclusion within the labour market is a real challenge and Navigo have found a successful way of doing this, we should all learn from their success.