What work have you been involved with VAC in the last 18 months / 2 years?
In the most recent past, I approached VAC on the issue of becoming a company limited by guarantee, which is all above me. I know absolutely less than nothing about that and so I found VAC’s input and assistance on this really, very helpful.
So, what is your motivation for wanting to set up the company?
I am starting a project, which I plan to deliver at St Pancras Hospital, to teach basic carpentry skills to people who have had mental health problems but who are a bit further down the road of recovery than those on the wards. There are many people not yet back in mainstream work, but who are certainly well enough to join the course that I plan to run. It will be a twelve-week course for four students per course.
It is the ‘legal entity’ bit of the enterprise that is proving quite difficult for me – I’m just not used to it. So, Kevin (my allocated key worker’s) input was vital. I qualified as carpenter in 2003. I was too old for anyone to offer me a job and I could not drive so couldn’t be self-employed, so I wanted to pass on the skills that I’ve learnt to others in my client group. Mental Health is rather precious to me and so I want to pass what I’ve learnt on to other people. This project is about trying to direct people into doing something productive and helping them to take that first step – because when you have been out of the mainstream for a very long time, it is terrifying going back into it, having felt isolated and not knowing what to expect. So for this reason, the course will be structured, 3 days per week from 10 am – 4 pm, to help bring in routine and commitment.
Getting the agreement for this project to exist in the first place was instrumental. I needed a legal structure but as I wasn’t a staff member at St Pancras Hospital, or a volunteer, I was struggling around on my own. I managed to get a sponsor on board from the hospital but could not move any further forward until my project became a legal entity. I approached a solicitor I was introduced to, who agreed to set me up pro bono, but between me approaching him and being ready to get back to him to start the incorporation process, I discovered he had left the firm.
This was the point where I decided to come and see VAC. I had an inkling from my earlier dealings with VAC that they could offer this sort of support.
What exactly did VAC help you with?
When I came to VAC, I wasn’t sure of what legal entity I needed to be. I knew I had to have some formal structure or legal entity but didn’t really know what or how to go about it. VAC helped me understand the differences between say being a charity, to a company limited by guarantee and what the personal liability was for me of establishing whichever structure. The advice VAC gave me was tailored to my level of understanding. VAC knew what was necessary and what was not in terms of what Companies House needed to know.
In the end, VAC helped me get setup as a company limited by guarantee. Initially we submitted my application online but there was no box to tick for the guarantee bit and so the application was rejected. I didn’t really understand, so VAC called up Companies House to sort out the problem, and they told VAC that to submit an application as a company limited by guarantee you have to submit a paper application, not the online one! So, VAC re-drafted most of the paperwork and I added a few bits. VAC helped clear up the bureaucratic bits and pieces that I did not understand. After a bit of back and forth I got my company registration certificate on 4th April. I couldn’t move a muscle before I had this in place, so this is my way now to move the project forward.
VAC was really, helpful and they know what they are talking about, which is more than I do! I am really, very grateful. I would definitely recommend this sort of support to others who needed it.
What would you have done if VAC weren’t there?
I don’t know to be honest. My source of free legal advice had dried up. I suppose I would have tried to approach solicitors in Kentish Town to see if they could help, as I wouldn’t give up; it just would have been delayed enormously. However, if I kept being rejected then who knows what affect this would have had on me.
What do you think or hope will be the impact of your project on local Camden people, and / or yourself?
I hope that this initiative will help and inspire a few other people with a background of mental health issues into doing something they like doing. With a bit of a luck, it might even help them to earn a bit of extra money. I hope to point my clients to centres in the borough or colleges nearby where they may obtain accreditation and I am in touch with those colleges already. I may send them to be apprenticed to one of the local or national construction firms.
So what made you think to contact VAC about getting help with this problem?
I think somebody recommended VAC. I’ve had contact with VAC before as I am a mental health service user myself. I used to come to various things that VAC ran on the mental health side, like the mental health networks. I did do a lot of service-user type work: going to meetings and contributing in groups, mainly when VAC was based in Kentish Town. This gave me as a service user, the opportunity to say what was good or bad about the service and what was needed or lacking. I also did the mental health first aid training. Sadly, I hear that this work has now lost funding and no longer operates.
What benefit was there for you of being part of that network?
You felt like you were contributing to something. We all need a pat on the head whatever role you are in, rather than slobbing about on a sofa or in some day centre somewhere.
Edited by Hasel Hooshiar
Data and Website Volunteer
11th July 2017