Our Story here at Bedfordshire Open Door
Over the years
1996 The first AGM was held with the new team of 10 volunteer counsellors, 7 volunteer receptionists and 2 supervisors. The counsellors offered 2 hours a week to provide face to face open ended counselling to 13-25 year olds.
1996/7 Formal launch at the Polish Club in Ashburnham Road with the Director of Young Minds as the guest speaker. The local press attended and radio interviews were broadcast on Three Counties Radio. The first premises were in Ashburnham Road and we were kindly supported with donations from a local computer firm Star West. Students from Biddenham Upper School brightened the rooms by choosing and making colourful curtain material for the rooms.
1998 Bedford Open Door had a high profile and respect from statutory and non-statutory agencies and was part of various forums including Bedfordshire County Council’s Children and Young Peoples’ Services and RAP (Raising Awareness Programme) which was a charitable umbrella organisation for all organisations working with young people, including Bedfordshire Police, the Samaritans, Youth Offending Team and various Bedfordshire Schools. This programme discontinued when its coordinators moved to another area.
2001 A new century and changing times. The core work continued and funding was secured for a pilot scheme for a telephone service called Youthline Beds. Some found it useful but, in the days before many young people had mobile phones, it had limited take up and was discontinued with the conclusion that face to face counselling was the preferred option for young people.
2002+ Moving! There were frequent changes of location, the service moved to 30 Grove Place. Three counselling rooms and a small office. After a while BOD shared the accommodation and rent with The Grove Pregnancy Service. The landlord then decided to sell the property and Bedfordshire County Council came to the rescue, offering to share their Youth Service premises in Gadsby Street with BOD.
2005 The July Trustee minutes from that year report long waiting lists as increasing numbers of young people accessed the service.
2006 We moved premises again to St Cuthbert’s Street. A new fundraiser came on board and challenged us with the idea that she could obtain funding for us to buy our own premises and so stop disruption to clients and team of constantly moving premises. It would also provide us with a source of income to fund running costs.
2007 A generous anonymous donation enabled the launch of a “paid counselling scheme” offering volunteer counsellors the opportunity to do more hours for sessional pay. The aim of this was to increase capacity to meet year on year increases in demand for the service. A five year business plan was produced to give the organisation direction for future development.
2008/9 120 Tavistock Street was purchased. The refurbishment project to create the first dedicated counselling centre for young people in Bedford was co-ordinated with great energy and enthusiasm. With a solid base, the Trustees and counselling team began to think in terms of growth, especially as it was clear that how ever much the team expanded the need for the service also grew.
2010 The coming of the unitary authority meant a loss of the links with County Council Youth Services. Bedford Borough continued to provide some funds but these were reducing year on year. Despite these challenges we established counselling in two Upper schools – Biddenham and Sharnbrook and secured our first NHS Contract with Horizons GP Partnership, offering early intervention work in the 13-16 age range with particular concerns around alcohol misuse. To support this client group we established on site counselling at Biddenham and Sharnbrook Upper schools. To address the concerns about alcohol misuse we entered into a subcontracting agreement with Plan B (under 18’s drug/alcohol service). A new brand was developed and a new website launched.
2011 The organisation achieved BACP accreditation based on a 12 session model. We recruited a Counselling Coordinator to help manage the transition with the team. We had 15 volunteer counsellors plus 2 part time schools counsellors, 5 paid part time employees and 6 Trustees. The team grew, counselling hours increased. Government changes in funding meant local authority funding for charities was significantly reduced and Bedford Borough Council funding for BOD ceased in March 2011. We subsequently took the difficult decision to temporarily close the waiting list to clients for whom we had no funding. This meant that we were only accepting clients aged 13-18 within Bedford Borough. This was a necessary step in order to safeguard the service’s future.
2012 The financial situation affecting many small charities was exceedingly difficult. Many closed or were fighting for survival. Fortunately, Horizon and Ivel Valley GP Partnerships decided to extend their contracts with us to March 2013. Counselling was implemented onsite at Mark Rutherford School. The formation of a fundraising committee led to creating new ways of raising money. Bedford Open Door collecting tins were located in various establishments, a variety of fundraising events took place throughout the year and we successfully launched Friends of Bedford Open Door to generate a regular monthly income from interested supporters.
2013 A focus on enhancing the skills of the counsellors resulted in CPD sessions on assessment and creative ways of working. This embedded an ongoing approach to ensure we offer regular, high quality training opportunities to our counsellors. We saw an increase in young men accessing the service this year with a ratio of 30% male and 70% female. Anxiety, anger, family relationships and self esteem issues were the key presenting issues amongst young people using the service.
2014 An external body undertook an evaluation of Bedford Open Door in preparation for a Big Lottery funding application. It was very encouraging in that it confirmed what we thought we knew about the value and effectiveness of the service. One highlight was the need to strengthen data collection and analysis The Chair of the Board worked with the Project Administrator to improve data collection and analysis. This year a total of 1547 hours of counselling were offered to young people, a 10% increase on last year.
2015 This year we saw an increase in referrals for young people who were self harming, particularly from our school age clients. We also supported more young people who were struggling to cope with the impact of bereavement and loss. Our expert supervisor team provided professional support and guidance to the counselling team and many counsellors gave good feedback on the importance of high quality supervision in supporting their client work.
2016 Success in the shape of 3 year Big Lottery and Children in Need funding was celebrated along with the 20th anniversary of the project. A new Clinical Manager with a wealth of experience was welcomed into the team and a Project Administrator joined to help strengthen data collection and analysis. We also welcomed an experienced drug and alcohol counsellor who had previously worked as a volunteer and now joined as a part time employee to meet the increasing need for this type of specialist counselling.
2017 A new Operations Manager joined the team, forming a strong and dynamic leadership team with the Clincial Manager. Service developments focused on increasing provision for marginalised groups such as young unaccompanied asylum seekers, young people living local YMCA hostels and extending reach into Central Bedfordshire and rural areas. A new Tuesday Drop In service was introduced to compliment our Saturday Drop In.
2017-18 financial year we offered 3,178 counselling sessions, a 30% increase on the previous year and 413 young people benefited from at least one counselling session in that period. In the year 2015-16, before being awarded Big Lottery funding, we offered 1,850 sessions of counselling. The additional funding has helped facilitate a 71% growth in our service provision over the two-year period.
2018 A challenging year in terms of health funding, the focus of funding for Tier2 CAMH shifted towards primary age groups and whilst we put up a strong challenge with a joint proposal with Relate, Mind and Sorted Counselling, we were unsuccessful in the tendering process and lost a significant sum of funding. The Harpur Trust were supportive of the challenge faced and awarded a significant uplift in funding for the project. Following a challenging time with funding in May 2018, the focus was firmly set on developing a clear forward strategy and securing financial support to enable us to continue to meet the demand for our service. In July 2018 we held an externally facilitated Visioning Day which was attended by a cross representation of trustees, staff, volunteer and paid counsellors and supervisors. This interactive session provided an opportunity to develop the key strategic priorities and further endorsed our commitment to the 12-session model. A busy year also saw the introduction of our Student Counsellor Project, welcoming placement students in their pre-qualification period.
2019 An external evaluation of our service commenced in February 2019 and was completed in June 2019. A series of focus groups with young people in a variety of settings helped to shape the future vision. This co-creation approach will be further developed and embedded to ensure the voice of young people is at the heart of what we do. It was also felt that, funds permitting, we should seek to expand our expertise in schools and community-based work to venues in Central Bedfordshire thus improving access to young people living in areas outside of Bedford. The National Lottery Community Fund and Children in Need renewal bids were both successful and the stability of the service for the next three years was confirmed.
2020 COVID-19 led to a dramatic change in service delivery as the world faced lock down and people needed to access services in different ways. The management team worked quickly to develop new ways of working to ensure a continued service for our clients. Our counsellors rose to the challenge and delivered telephone and online counselling from their homes, as schools and our Tavistock Centre temporarily closed to face-to-face working. To embed this way of working the service invested in 80-hour ACTO accredited professional qualification for our counselling team to ensure practice meets the BACP standards for telephone and online working. A new blended service delivery model has been born and will be further strengthened and refined as we move towards 2021.