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Chris Simpkins Visit

We were delighted to welcome Chris Simpkins, Director General of The Royal British Legion to RBLI last week.   Chris visited a number of areas of the business and took the opportunity to talk to RBLI employees about the work they do. In addition, we discussed opportunities that we could explore for our organisations to build on our collaborative working initiatives.

The Director General visited our Social Enterprise to observe the team making a range of products, including signs, pallets and toy model construction.  He was impressed by the significant changes since his last visit and was interested to hear about the recent monster truck build and, in particular, the size, scale and scope of this project.   
The Director General went on to meet the team delivering our LifeWorks programme and took the opportunity to talk to some of the soldiers undertaking the programme of assessment and employability related support.   Many of these are currently in the process of transitioning out of the Armed Forces due to injury.   

The visit concluded with a tour of the RBLI village site and an opportunity to talk to the Healthcare and Welfare teams about the integrated approach to delivering services such as healthcare, housing welfare and employment opportunities to our wider group of Armed Forces beneficiaries.   The team discussed the broad range of age groups, healthcare and welfare needs of individuals referred to RBLI and the very personalised approach that is taken.    The team provided a number of case study illustrations to our integrated services which enable individuals to develop at their own pace and to their maximum potential, fully embracing the RBLI philosophy of equipping our beneficiaries for independence through employment where possible and supporting them to prolong that independence.
Jane Waring spoke with Chris about the Health and Wellbeing programme that she is delivering to the Armed Forces Community.  Chris recommended that the RBL’s Education team should speak with Jane in order to share experiences and good practice.
Looking forward …

RBLI continues to work closely with The Royal British Legion, The Poppy Factory and Poppy Scotland as part of the Poppy Family.   We are looking forward to developing even more joint working initiatives with the Poppy Group in order to better serve the needs of the Armed Forces Community.  The strategic objectives of our organisations are clearly aligned and together we can make a real difference.

2011 in numbers…

When reviewing RBLI’s achievements in 2011 my eye was quickly drawn towards a series of numbers:

  • We have enabled 350 people to find employment through the Work Programme and have started assisting 4700 individuals who are long term unemployed.
  • We have given 5224 members of the Armed Forces community, employment and training information, advice and guidance through the Civvy Street programme.

  • LifeWorks, our new vocational assessment service, has worked with 45 wounded, injured and sick ex Service personnel.
  •  65 members of the Armed Forces have attended the Army Recovery Courses (ARC) on our site in Aylesford, Kent.

  • We have supported 3 young ex-Gurkhas, one of whom has recently started employment in our Signs Department, by providing accommodation in our village.
  •  We are proud to have a workforce consisting of 88 employees with disabilities.
  • 300,000 pieces K’NEX (construction toy), have been assembled by our specialist team for a range of global displays (see our monster truck).

  • 237,000 new pallets have been built by our Pallet Department. 510,000 other pallets have been inspected, maintained and returned to the system.
  • Our village hosts 50 people in our high dependency care home, 38 in our assisted living home and a further 137 in our houses.
  • 3 new apprentices have joined our team. We hope that this number will grow in 2012.
  •  With a combined age of 153, 3 members of our Senior Management Team, successfully completed the Maidstone Half Marathon and the hope is that the number of RBLI runners will increase in 2012 thereby reducing the average age of participants!

  •  54 local children with special needs and their carers attended a Christmas Party as part of our own charitable contribution to our community.
  •  504 people ‘follow’ @RBLI on Twitter.
  •  RBLI videos have been watched 1,047 time on YouTube.

A total of 300 RBLI staff made all of the above numbers happen. Of course, the numbers merely give some idea of scale of effort. What is less easy to describe is the dedication, passion and commitment that is required to deliver such high quality services that I see as I visit all of our activities. I do hope that our blog and social medias will, through articles and photographs, better illustrate the work of RBLI and all our staff.

From all at RBLI, I wish you a very happy 2012.

K’nex Big Build Unveiled:

This week our latest K’NEX big build project was finally unveiled.   After 1,000 hours of work and 6 weeks of trans atlantic travel,  the life size Grave Digger monster truck arrived in San Antonio to start its tour of America.
Grave Digger was built to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the American Monster Truck and 20th anniversary of construction toy company K’NEX.   Working in partnership with K’NEX and Feld Entertainment, the life size truck was built by the Assembly team here at RBLI using no less than 226,000 pieces of K’NEX.

The monster truck had become a familiar site in our factory at Aylesford as staff and visitors watched it progress from a very large pile of K’NEX pieces into a resplendent copy of the original Grave Digger truck.   It had become so much a part of RBLI, that we were sorry to see it loaded into its container in late November to begin its 5,000 mile journey.    It will now tour the Monster Jam festivals across America before reaching its final resting place – Digger’s Dungeon in North Carolina.
This has been another great K’NEX build project for the RBLI Assembly Team and we await with anticipation details of the next one! Watch this space for videos of the construction process!

Farewell to a familiar ‘friend’

Today we said goodbye to something which has become a very familiar sight here at RBLI.    Following the successful build of the world’s tallest toy train track from Tomica pieces at St Pancras station earlier this year (video here), we’ve just completed our biggest ‘bigbuild’ yet out of K’NEX peices which is now en route to America for unveiling.   

You can keep up to date with RBLI’s BIGGEST special assembly project yet, on our Twitter or Facebook pages. More information to follow!

More successes for our Social Enterprise

I’m also pleased to report that our Social Enterprise has achieved yet more success!   We’ve just been accredited a preferred supplier to Carillion plc.   
One of the key factors to our success as a Social Enterprise is that we operate on a par with any other organisation when competing for business, which means that quality accreditations and approved supplier status are vital elements in terms of differentiation and added value.    We know we do a great job but it’s always a major boost for us to have this recognised by external organisations. We have a long term aim to provide more employment opportunities at RBLI and becoming an approved supplier to Carillion is yet another step in our journey to achieving this.

Iain Duncan Smith Visit

Last Friday we welcomed The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Tracey Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford.  The Minister met many RBLI employees as we explained how our model of a Social Enterprise fits neatly into the Big Society Agenda.    The Minister also had an opportunity to meet some of the Armed Forces personnel who had sustained life changing injuries or illness attending our LifeWorks course.   They explained to him how the vocational assessment and employability training they had received during the week would help them to understand their employment options and compete more effectively for civilian work opportunities.   

We were able to feedback to the Minister some suggestions to enable us all to offer the widest range of services to former Armed Forces personnel

At the same time we hosted a meeting of representatives from KCC, Jobcentre Plus, G4S and Service Charities; including the Poppy Factory and Royal British Legion to explore how organisations could work together more effectively to improve access to services for former Armed Forces personnel seeking work.  We were able to feedback to the Minister some suggestions for quick and easy wins that would ensure better data capture and integration of services to enable us all to offer the widest range of services to former Armed Forces personnel.  Thus ensuring we can work together to help meet the principles of the Military Covenant.
The Secretary of State displayed a genuine feel and understanding of the work of RBLI.  He interacted positively with everyone he met and the visit was a most positive stimulus for all.  

Signs for the Minister

We were recently visited by Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. The Minister had heard of some of the exciting work we have been doing, particularly in our signs division and wanted to see first hand what we can deliver.

The visit began with a site tour, where he was exclusively invited to see our top-secret new assembly project, and was keen to help out! Mr Penning was then shown around other parts of the organisation and got to meet some of our beneficiaries.  The Minster then participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from KCCEnterprise, TMP, Unipart Rail, Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald and Gatwick Airport to identify way in which Government, Local Government, Commercial Businesses and Social Enterprises can work together to help those disadvantaged by disability or health conditions.

Mr Penning was extremely interested in our work, stating that he “had heard a lot of good things about RBLI but had no idea of the breadth of support that RBLI offer.” He went on to say that he was “genuinely impressed with our passion and commitment.”

Many thanks to Mike Penning MP for his enthusiastic support.  I would also like to thank Tracey Crouch, our local MP, who is a staunch supporter of RBLI and very much made this visit possible. (click here to view all of the event photos)