Case Study Profile

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Branch – Janice Featherstone


Though she was already a trained counsellor, Janice Featherstone was a little surprised when a Bridges to Learning ULR suggested that she might be interested in becoming a union learning rep: “I have always been concerned about other people but my reason for attending the Bridges to Learning roadshow was to see what learning opportunities there were on offer in the Trust. However, once I got chatting I soon realized that it was a role that I would find really interesting” She enjoyed her job and had always kept Wednesdays free for over five years so that she could keep working as a volunteer at the Womens Health Centre so she was keen to find a part-time role as a ULR. After some careful thought about how it might affect her work as a medical secretary in the Psychotherapy department at Lanchester Road hospital and her home life, Janice decided to embark on the training, taking the ULR course over a five week period in October 2011. Little did she think that, within three months, she would be taking over the work of Debra, the ULR who had persuaded her to undertake the training, as Debra had decided to return to her substantive role in Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Mental Health Trust. This gave Janice the opportunity to take a part-time ULR role for two days each week, keep time for her job and other commitments and add an IAG qualification alongside her counseling qualification. “It was great for me as I stepped into the role and found myself working alongside Andy Goodchild, the other Bridges to Learning ULR in our Trust, so I was able to partner him with staff induction days, helping people assess their English and maths learning needs and signpost them to other learning opportunities. It also meant that I could make my mark by focusing my efforts on the Trust’s sites in the north of the region where I am based, to complement Andy’s work in the south of the region.” Janice quickly got involved in the staff induction days and began planning for Adult Learning week and the launch of the UNISON office at Lanchester Road Hospital, organizing a range of informal learning sessions, from proggy-mat making to massage, and subsequent workshops and bite-size sessions that have come as a result of the learning surveys and evaluations she regularly undertakes with learners. Looking for new ways to get people involved in learning has led to an unexpected innovative partnership between the Trust and the Beamish Museum. Janice approached the museum to hold local history sessions for her learners and this met with an enthusiastic reception from museum staff, who are already interested in using the museum’s unique collections not only to assist employees of the Trust to understand local history but to help also mental health patients and Alzheimer sufferers to recall past experiences through their idea of ‘memory clinics’. “So here I am, doing what I do best, helping people, improving my own learning and skills at the same time and, on the case of the partnership between the Trust and Beamish, dong something I never thought possible.”

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