Accessibility Strategy 2019-20

1. General

Listening Ear is a growing social enterprise and charity committed to providing high quality, accessible, caring services including counselling, training and other therapeutic interventions.

At all times Listening Ear strives to improve our service provision and increase awareness of our limitations within the boundaries of our core funding and skills. This means that sometimes, we may refer or signpost individuals to other organisations better placed to meet their specific needs.

This accessibility strategy is reviewed annually.

2. Data collection and evaluation – monitoring user access

Listening Ear produces quarterly reports to our contracting and grant agencies and to the Board, highlighting how our services have been used. We report on demographic information including the age, gender and location of those who use our services and aggregate this information into our annual reporting cycle.

All data collected is confidential and stored safely under General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679. Data is stored for a period of 6 years then shredded. We are registered with the Information Commissioners Office under registration reference Z1029639, and adhere to all policy and procedures within this programme. The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Every client is requested to provide a mixture of compulsory details including age and postcode and optional details including ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, disability and employment. Attendance rates and DNA rates are closely monitored in addition to waiting times from referral to initial assessment and initial assessment to first therapy. Our services were using a range of referral forms until 2019, when we created a single referral form. Following feedback on previous forms, data on ethnicity was collected via an open question ‘How would you describe your ethnicity?’ to allow the widest possible range of answers.

This information is used to improve provision of services, inform future planning and development of services in addition to general monitoring of statistical data for quarterly and annual reports.

On completion of counselling, service users are requested to complete a feedback form. The information gathered may be used to highlight gaps in the service or to improve existing provision. A comments and complaints form is also freely available to service users. We also gather ‘impact data’ which tracks the efficacy of our service.

Members of the team employed (or voluntary) are also encouraged to provide feedback to senior management on a regular basis.

3. Inclusivity

Listening Ear is an inclusive organisation and places high importance on welcoming all people, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. Listening Ear operates with unconditional positive regard to all people, the principle which underpins counselling practice, and as such is true of our whole organisation and staffing team.

Listening Ear provides a trauma-informed care approach for the delivery of services and supports choice, control, and empowerment with all policies and procedures being fully inclusive using trauma informed language, with procedures and practices being non-traumatising.

4. Use of interpreters for non-English speaking referrals

Non-English speaking clients continue to represent a tiny proportion of those who are referred to Listening Ear. During 2017-18 we received 1 in total. In such cases, Listening Ear can refer clients to the local NHS IAPT service, which has interpreters available.

5. Disability

Listening Ear assist several disabled volunteer counsellors to provide services to our clients. They provide valuable feedback to improve the accessibility of students and qualified counsellors to work for the service.

All venues used are fully accessible for wheelchairs and toilet facilities are modified to provide extra support. We have 3 disabled parking spaces reserved at the front of the building and appropriate car parking spaces are available at all of our outpost venues.

At our CYP counselling centre (174), there is a lift to provide disabled access to the first floor and all areas are fully accessible for wheelchairs. There is no dedicated disabled parking at the building.

6. Technology

Listening Ear’s website was redesigned in 2017 and again in 2019 and the designers used a format that is easily zoom-able for those with a visual impairment, using contrasting colours to assist with navigation. The website is designed to be compatible with Google’s Text to Speech Voice Reader.

7. Crèche facilities

Listening Ear are aware of the accessibility issues facing women with young babies and children. However in practical terms we lack the physical space and the financial resources to provide a crèche service.

8. Recruitment

Recruitment of volunteers is an ongoing process. The service accepts students on counselling Diploma training courses. All students need to accumulate over 100 hours face to face practice with adult clients; all have individual supervision and are insured.

Those students who remain with the service after qualification in order to gain more experience become Associate counsellors. Additional training is offered to enable the Associate to assess clients competently in order to continue to first therapy using CORE (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation). Associate counsellors are expected to mentor a student; to attend all meetings as required and expected to apply for the BACP Register of Proficiency then work towards accreditation.

Associate counsellors are well placed to apply to work as bank counsellors or to eventually apply for fixed term contracts.

Review date: June 2023
This will be overseen by our Accessibility Champion