Looking back on 10 years of service in the charity sector

When we set up Connect Assist back in 2006, we had one clear vision: to make a positive change to those living in difficult circumstances. We knew we could achieve this by providing high quality helpline services, while also creating meaningful employment opportunities in the South Wales valleys.

Next week we are marking our 10-year anniversary with a celebration at our headquarters here in Nantgarw.  We’ve grown from a team of 12 to an ever-expanding team of 135 providing multi-channel and digital services for a multitude of different charities. It’s been a decade of change, development and achievement for us, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our dedicated staff, suppliers, customers, partners, directors and the community we work in.

In the early days, things looked quite different here at Connect Assist. In our first year of operation we leased our building, and our team of a dozen contact centre and support staff were working hard to deliver services for our first customer. Despite a nationwide recession, the organisation grew at a steady pace over the next few years, and by 2010 we had 37 employees and had received our 100,000th call.

An integral part of our offering today is our multi-channel approach to service delivery, spanning email, instant messaging, text message and of course, traditional telephone helplines. In 2012 we began one of the most significant partnerships of our history so far with the UK’s largest armed forces charity, The Royal British Legion.

The Royal British Legion wanted to create a digital-first approach to managing their helplines to meet a growing demand from supporters and service users. We worked together with the charity to consolidate their helplines into one single point of contact, with information and support available 24/7. This change has delivered a highly significant increase in the numbers of people contacting the Legion and accessing support and advice.

By the end of 2015, we received our one-millionth caller, and delivered a turnover of £4.2m. But despite our success in helping charities to build and improve their digital services, we wouldn’t be anywhere without our dedicated and hardworking team. From the beginning we’ve been focused on developing people to be experts, no matter what their background or level of previous experience.

Our location is extremely important to our culture and ethos as an organisation. The South Wales valleys have a unique set of economical problems affecting the people who live here and businesses who operate here. Unemployment is high, poverty is high, and opportunities for local people are generally pretty low.

But that’s not to say there is any lack of talent here, particularly when it comes to those with the ability to help people. A diverse workforce provides a better service because it can serve the needs, motivations and fears of a wider range of people from a position of understanding and empathy, not just training.

We have been privileged to employ an amazing team, half of whom joined after a period of unemployment. About a quarter have some form of long-term health condition and a number are former members of the armed forces. Our team are highly qualified to support people in challenging circumstances, because they have faced many of the issues they are advising others on.

Most people who work in the charity sector choose to do so because they gain a certain satisfaction from supporting vulnerable people who need help.

Take Ian Pritchard, for example. Ian joined Connect Assist nine years ago at the age of 41 following 10 years of unemployment, having never worked in a contact centre before. He quickly gained the skills he needed to help service users with specific needs, and has worked across a number of different contracts and charities ever since.

Ian says: “Since I joined Connect Assist nearly 10 years ago, my confidence and self-esteem has grown massively. I’ve gained so much insight into different organisations and, from understanding the needs of the vulnerable people I work with every day; I’ve become a completely different person as a result.”

There are many others in our team just like Ian, and their contribution to Connect Assist’s success over the last 10 years has been immeasurable. Who knows what the company will look like in another decade from now, but it’s certainly a very positive outlook for us.

For further information about us please get in touch:

Contact us on: 01443 827647

Email [email protected]

Website www.connectassist.co.uk

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