Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?
Aspiring Futures CIC is a women-led Community Interest Company that was set up by a group of local women from the BAME community in 2010 to engage and support women from disadvantaged and marginalised communities who face multiple barriers in accessing mainstream services. I am one of the founding members and currently employed as an Executive Director.
The aim of the organisation is to offer holistic services to help facilitate women’s growth in achieving financial independence, progression into further education, entering the world of work and living a healthier and happier life. Our services include counselling /psychotherapy, health and self-care advice, befriending services, Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG), employment support, training and skills development opportunities.
Women can self-refer. We also receive regular referrals from over 30 services and agencies operating in and around Wolverhampton. Almost 60% of our beneficiaries suffer from mild to moderate mental health issues, such as severe depression and anxiety. 80% of women who join the service are either long term unemployed or have no employment history.
In 2019 more than 500 women accessed our services; 200 of them received 1-2-1 counselling; 150 women received befriending services. Since the beginning of 2020 we have supported women from diverse backgrounds including BAMER communities (54%) and White British (46%). Recently we have experienced an increase in demand for support for domestic abuse victims.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Our greatest achievement is always seeing a woman achieving her full potential and going for what she always aspired to achieve. We have seen women progressing into paid work who previously might not even have had their own bank accounts; women recovering from depression or childhood trauma and taking control of their lives; finding healthier and happier relationships not only with themselves but with others.
It has been great to reach out to women at a grass roots level. Our support has enabled isolated and housebound women to connect with others and form lasting friendships.
One of the proudest moments for our organisation was when we received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2016. We also achieved Matrix standards for our IAG service in 2019 which reflects the quality of our service.
What is your experience of support received from WVSC?
We really appreciate and acknowledge the support offered to us by WVSC. Our partnership goes back many years and we have jointly delivered a number of projects to support local residents. Our joint initiatives have supported Council priorities and resulted in positive health outcomes for the City.
We believe that WVSC is in an advantageous position to connect the Third Sector together and formulate a better and thriving Third Sector. They can play a key role as an enabler to draw substantial funding for the City.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
I might be biased in my opinion towards Wolverhampton as I settled here when I came from Pakistan. Wolverhampton is a multicultural City that embraces different cultures and communities. It’s a City that is welcoming to people from all backgrounds and particularly supports migrant communities and new arrivals.
In my experience residents of Wolverhampton are willing to engage with services. They welcome and support new initiatives. However, there is a need to make the services more accessible and raise their profile to enable people to access these services. We have a thriving Third Sector that has so much to offer and the people who are leading the Sector have such vast and varied experience that if put together can bring in a positive change in how we deliver services.
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?
One of the biggest challenges for our Sector is not having sustainable income. I suppose for Aspiring Futures CIC it is even more challenging as we do not have any local long-term service contracts. We are solely dependent on grant funding. Due to Covid19, the main funders are focussing on emergency funding to survive Covid19 and are not accepting any new applications. Lack of funding has an impact on staff retention. We would love to extend our services to other areas / wards in Wolverhampton. We would like to be part of any future joint initiatives and consortium bodies led by WVSC.
Where can we find out more?
Would you like to be featured in our Voluntary Sector Focus? Contact Sharon Nanan-Sen on email@example.com for more info!