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Our Story

In the days when people with mental – illness were institutionalised in mental asylums  later known as mental hospitals, there were some therapeutic activities provided for those well enough to engage such as woodworking and gardening. At our local hospital they also had printing and people were taught how to use a printing press to produce the printing matter for the hospital that included hard backed books on it’s history.
As the hospital was condemned and a new wave of thinking born in the early 80’s to care for people with mental illness in the community, the idea of the therapeutic work continued and a print shop was opened by The Schizophrenia Fellowship at The Keys, Warley for people with severe mental illness. The very same premises we operate from today.

In later years, the project was taken over by the Rethink Mental Illness charity, and operating as Rethink Graphics was funded by the local NHS Primary Care Trust to provide work activities and employment advice to people in recovery from severe mental illness, where one of our current directors was mental health and service lead and another a former service user and volunteer.
In late 2010, Rethink announced that the contract funding of some £100,000 per annum was to cease and that the shop would close on 31st March 2011. Despite petitions from Eric Pickles the then Minister of Communities, and from volunteers and service users of the project, there could be no further funding and we were all expected to walk away. There were only a couple of months to go before closure and we decided to try and raise £20,000 to enable us to do something to keep the shop open.

Very green behind the ears, a volunteer organised a sponsored swim and got the news in the papers about the closure. Time was running out fast and we started the paperwork to set up a Community Interest Company that we achieved in the nick of time as well as raising £19,600 from the swim and donations all by the 12th March 2011. There could be no going back and we embarked on a journey that started with setting up a business from scratch.
The former service lead of Rethink Graphics and community mental health worker, remained to help steer the ship albeit unpaid, with a crew of former service users and volunteers as the rest of the 5 Rethink Graphics staff went on to other paid posts in various ventures. It was a challenge to say the least as we had no photocopiers no digital presses no telephones or internet or computers but we had spirit and we had each other and money in the bank. We opened on the 1st April 2011 and on the 2nd of April we had a break-in but with nothing to steal we had a lucky escape. We had no work and no customers to speak of excepting one or two loyal individuals who still support us to this day. So we took our time and the service users got stuck in redecorating the shop getting rid of the orange and royal blue and giving the walls a fresh dazzling white makeover to become the canvas for our art work and photos that followed.
In the meantime a former volunteer, now in her new and frightening role as director, started promoting BCP, networking and making contacts with voluntary organisations and businesses to find new customers. She also attended courses to help learn about running a business and how to write funding bids. Over the next few years the fruits of this has been evidenced by all the new equipment now situated in the shop to meet the demand of the orders from all the customers who now frequent our shop.
Although a struggle, we have all worked very hard to achieve a 25% up-lift on sales year on year but the level of sales will still only allow us to afford to pay a few wages at just above the living wage. 

However we are proud to say that this means that two of these people are no longer dependant on state sickness benefits. A fantastic achievement when you consider that one individual had been unemployed for 11 years living in isolation with depression before he found out about our project.
BCP is unique in our area as we are a business but everyone who works here has lived experience of mental illness. This gives us a great advantage over other back to work schemes run by the government as when people come to us in distress with no confidence and feelings of low self worth and low self-esteem we can support them better as we have all been there in one form or another.
We are fortunate in being able to offer so many activities for people to get involved in from filing and invoicing, answering the telephone and talking to customers to graphic design and marketing our products at networking events and fairs.
In 2015 we received £10,000 from Big Lottery to design and deliver some external courses and although this fund has been utilised we hope to be able to continue. With these funds we have launched our TED Bares campaign and have delivered courses to help people who are anxious to speak on the telephone and confidence and empowerment courses for people with anxiety and  low self - esteem. We also designed and delivered courses to local employers including Brentwood Council and the Job Centre on Good Mental Health in the Workplace addressing the need for employers to be disability confident and help them “start that conversation” with colleagues and employees who are experiencing signs of mental distress and how to spot those signs.
BCP are also very active in the community establishing in 2013 a Brentwood Community Tree where we pulled together and continue to draw in all organisations that can support people in Brentwood who are suffering with mental health problems and related issues such as addictions and debt problems. The leaflet “ Who can I turn to?” saw the birth of TED, the character representing someone in need that was designed by one of our clients whilst in early stages of recovery.

Through this partnership working, when we discovered that Brentwood Mind could no longer offer free services and closed their “drop in”, BCP, following an offer from Brentwood Theatre set up an adult colouring café. This is primarily for people who have mental health and other disabilities but as a social inclusion project for people who are feeling lonely or could just pop in for some therapeutic colouring.
Our logo, formed in a heart explains us in a nutshell.
We are here because we care about people. We currently support around 20 people a week including the staff. Everyone here is in recovery, some also have physical disabilities and some are on the autism spectrum. They all have one thing in common and that is they represent a group of vulnerable adults who are the furthest away from the job market but with our help, and it can take time, we can change that outcome for the better.
Over a third of the 60 + people we have supported since our formation 5 years ago have moved into paid employment and are no longer dependant on state sickness benefits. With the exception of a few all have moved from a place of fear and isolation to a position where their confidence and self – esteem have increased and  ……. they are living a life .
Audrey Clark
Brentwood Community Print
September 2016.