Two organisational members have been given a boost with the award of grants to support their work in the community.

Emma Branch, chief executive of the Counselling Foundation, said she was “absolutely delighted” to receive the funding while Michele Flynn, operations manager of Bedfordshire Open Door, said she “jumped for joy” at the news.

Bedfordshire Open Door, a BACP-accredited service, has been delivering free counselling to young people aged 13 to 25 in Bedford and central Bedfordshire for more than 25 years.

The registered charity has received more than £62,000 which will enable it to continue delivering its service to current capacity and to resource gaps in funding for the year ahead. It will also allow Bedfordshire Open Door to develop a co-creation team to enable the voice of young people to be embedded in the service development.


Michele said: “We’re so pleased to receive this funding, it will really take the pressure off the coming months.

“During the pandemic different pots of funding came up but were one-year project-related. We secured funding for two paid counselling posts, but they were coming to the end of their year.

“The demand for our service has increased with COVID-19. The needs of young people are significantly high and increasingly complex.

“We were concerned about the continuity of those posts, so this funding will enable us to continue to employ two paid counsellors.”

Michele added: “We’re looking to develop a co-creation team of young people, who will consider different ways they can be involved in the development of our service.

Young people

“It might be supporting us with social media, becoming a member of the young people shadow board, facilitating focus groups around mental health issues or other activities.

“We’re also working with another young people service, Youth Voices, to produce a season of podcasts on mental health and wellbeing issues. These will be by young people, for young people.”

The Counselling Foundation provides BACP-accredited training, mental health training to other organisations and a range of counselling services in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The main part of these services are charitable providing access to mental health support for individuals that isn’t based on ability to pay or reliant on waiting for lengthy periods they may experience within the NHS system.

The Foundation is also a selected provider of services for organisations such as the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in areas such as domestic abuse and victims of sexual crimes.

Recruit counsellors

The Foundation has received more than £54,000 which will be used to recruit two additional counsellors to work with the foundation’s complex needs team.

These counsellors will supplement the existing team who work in partnership with other voluntary and community sector enterprises (VCSEs) and statutory bodies to provide support to marginalised groups or individuals with more complex needs e.g. dual diagnosis.

Emma said: “During COVID-19 we found that the complexity of clients coming to us for help really escalated, from people with a background of severe trauma, dual diagnosis such as addiction and anxiety,  personality disorders, and many more clients in a more heightened state of suicidal ideation.

“We created a group that specifically focused on those complex needs clients. This wasn’t without challenges as, due to being a training and counselling organisation, we need to ensure that ethically we’re balancing the needs to students on clinical placements in addition to our qualified counsellors alongside the clinical needs to clients coming to our service.

“The grant will help us sustain and ensure the continuity of the service in Bedfordshire for the next 12 months.


“We’re absolutely delighted as this grant really allows us to continue to respond to the client’s needs of the communities we work with.”

Emma added: “I’m really proud of the work the team has put in to build the service.

“It’s taken a lot of thought and a lot of experience to think about how we work with these more complex presentations and ensure that risk and both client and counsellor safety and training are appropriately managed.

“We feel this grant is external recognition of the needs for the service alongside the commitment to support us in continuing the service and developing it further.

“It will enable us to supplement the existing team with  two experienced counsellors that are totally dedicated to working with complex needs.


“In addition to the supervision our counsellors already receive, this grant will enable us to run a monthly facilitated support session for any of our counsellors – placement and qualified – to drop and in talk about ethical dilemmas or particular types of complexity they’re finding they’re working with.

“Post-COVID all clients seem to have a greater need and level of complexity and we’re committed to ensuring all of our counselling team feel appropriately supported in the on-going challenging socioeconomic environment.”

The organisations were among 37 community groups and projects to receive grants from a £1.8 million East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) fund.

Dr Mohit Venkataram, ELFT’s director of commercial development, said: “Applications through the grants programme have helped shine a light on incredible organisations and people already doing amazing work to help others – and how they want to do even more.

“Each of our voluntary sector partners demonstrate what a phenomenally important role they play in keeping our communities safe especially when inequalities have shown the impact the pandemic has had on our vulnerable communities.”