RESILIENCE was ‘built in’ to Entrain Space at its conception, and this has proved invaluable during the pandemic, according to founder Matthew Bell.
The veterans’ campus in Wilton has faced difficulties due to the lockdown restrictions but has managed to continue with its mission of providing veterans and service-leavers in need with homes, welfare support, training and employment opportunities.
The goal is to enable residents to successfully move on to rewarding independent civilian lives after up to three years of “Entraining”.
Matthew said: “I’m really glad we opted not just for very high-quality flats for veterans in our building, but also for integrated on-site training facilities, putting work and training at the heart of our design. This stood us in good stead for continuing work during the Covid pandemic crisis.
“We think this is something to bear in mind for future developments of this kind – all sectors of society should have housing that is designed to support training and work to allow social mobility to flourish.”
The superfast broadband connection capability at Entrain Space – donated by Openreach in 2019 as a special extension to the full-fibre broadband rolled out in Salisbury – has been especially beneficial during this crisis.
Application and referral interviews for places at Entrain Space have moved online, avoiding gaps in the housing provision. And although not ideal, the programme of training for residents has also been able to progress online, including one-to-one coaching, qualification courses and some teamwork.
Distance training has presented challenges. Damon Saddler, from Alert Training UK, the training provider at Entrain Space, said: “It’s much easier to sit down together face-to-face over a cup of coffee and work out what your strengths and weaknesses are, what transferable skills you have from the military, what your aspirations and the opportunities are and how we can help you progress.
“At a distance, building a working rapport is that much harder. And for classwork, to get that communication going, discussions rolling, is difficult. But it’s still been going ahead, people are producing work and progressing.”
A positive of training online is that it has forced residents into using technology that was previously a barrier to them.
This has highlighted a new funding need for access to personal IT equipment such as laptops, as currently many residents are limited to socially distanced use of the facilities in the Entrain Space training suite.
Nevertheless, Damon looks forward to being able to work at Entrain Space again ‘in person’. He said: “Having the training suite on site is a real plus for recruiting and developing the engagement that we have achieved. What we need now is to be able to really make the most of it when restrictions are lifted.”
A lack of face-to-face contact has proved particularly challenging to mental health for residents.
Entrain Space’s team leader, head of operations Neil Griffiths, said: “Lockdown has been tough for all of us, but for residents with pre-existing mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety and depression, we have really seen these heightened, especially during this second lockdown over winter. They are missing that interaction with therapists and getting out there with family and friends.”
As essential workers, the team have remained at the Entrain Space office to provide support to residents throughout the pandemic.
Neil added: “Being onsite means we can knock on doors and check on people. And I think for residents, just knowing they can come in and have a (socially distanced) chat helps.”
Part-time jobs have been a lifeline to some residents, including those within Entrain Space’s own social enterprises.
Karl, an Army Air Corps veteran, who works for the Maintenance social enterprise at Entrain Space. Karl said: “That’s been a godsend to be honest. It’s given me something to do. It’s nice to get a little bit of routine, a little bit of structure. Because if I haven’t got routine or structure I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
“I’ve lived the military life all my life, I’ve spent 15 years in Germany, my dad was in the Army, so even as a dependent of somebody in the Army, everything is very structured for you. When I got out of the Army that had all gone so it was all a bit of a shock really.”
Entrain Space was officially opened in December 2019 by HRH the Countess of Wessex and was also visited in December by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
For more information about Entrain Space go to entrainspace.co.uk
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This Article firstly Publish on www.salisburyjournal.co.uk