Client Story

Citizen Coaching

  • Location: Birmingham
  • Sector: Health Care and Social Care
  • Amount: £75k
  • Purpose: Working Capital
Read More Get in touch

During a 20 year-career in the hospitality trade, Martin Hogg witnessed mental health issues in the 500 staff he managed for a blue-chip company.

Combined with his own experiences as a troubled teen, he wanted to create a service with warm and accessible surroundings, not clinical clipboards. He set up Citizen Coaching in 2005.

The team deliver counselling contracts with the NHS, local colleges, Department of Health, local companies and individuals. Citizen Coaching also hosts training in anger management courses and professional development for counsellors, alongside conferences and mental health awareness training.

It uses its surplus income for people who require counselling and cannot afford it. Outcomes show almost 90% of clients report better relationships, increased well-being, and are more able to engage in work or education.

Key Fund has supported Citizen Coaching over the years. An £80k loan and grant in 2018 helped build new counselling rooms and develop online services. This expansion and investment saw revenue double to a turnover of £480,000.

During the year before Covid, Citizen Coaching delivered 20,000 face-to-face counselling sessions via sixty counsellors in 12 languages, supporting over 4,000 people. Its success was down to staying true to Martin’s mission: to provide an easy access service, that’s affordable and jargon-free.

Then Covid hit.

With 75% of clients aged 14 to 24, referred by schools, youth workers and GPs, there were concerns many young people would fall through the system as services closed during lockdown, followed by a tsunami of referrals as the nation’s mental health declined.

“Those who already have issues with anxiety see the world as a dangerous or difficult place, and this has just confirmed what they always thought was true, so people with anxiety issues are particularly affected by this,” Martin said.

During the first lockdown, Martin saw more people walking, cycling and saying hello to each other, but warned of those ‘hidden and struggling, sat on the sofa’ who would emerge and need some serious support.

His prediction was right: “By the time we got to October 2020, we saw a doubling in the number of referrals, and an increase in the complexity of those people.”

He was particularly troubled about the young. With social isolation, health worries, and exam and future career anxiety, it added up to a ‘perfect storm’: “The death of your granddad, who you loved very much and you couldn’t see in the last four weeks before his death – and every time you turn on the TV, they talk about what an agonising death he would have had – it’s not going to be good for mental health.”

Citizen Coaching had to limit face-to-face counselling sessions during lockdown.

The loss of rental income for its counselling rooms was a double whammy alongside the drop in referrals from commissioned services, which also closed for lockdown.

But the team couldn’t turn their backs on the increase in demand for their essential, sometimes life -saving services. It moved all its physical counselling sessions online, and made its Anger Management course free; 538 people have accessed the service.

To survive, they negotiated a rent reduction, cancelled all possible outgoing expenses, accessed a bounce back loan to cover counsellor costs and were swift to react and plan.

Martin said: “Our job is to have an agile workforce that are ready. Just as we’ve trained them to use online systems, we need to make sure we continue to upskill our counsellors to make sure they can meet these demands.”

With a cash-flow and financial loss of £30k in just eight weeks, Key Fund stepped in with a £75k grant from the Social Enterprise Support Fund.

“The loan and grant in 2018 gave us the solid foundations to diversify services online when Covid hit,” Martin said, “because part of that funding was to update our online systems. So, we were better prepared than most, because our people already had experience of delivering online. We just had to train more to cope with the demand and complexity of cases. The grant from the Social Enterprise Support Fund then allowed us to scale up yet again, secure jobs, and make us competitive and relevant.”

The grant allowed them in the short term to meet the rise in demand and cope with more complex cases. “As we come out of this and start to understand new conditions like Long Covid, the need is huge.”

“What’s more, we underestimated the positive effect of online working so we’ve very much integrated that into our future work. Clients will have the option of face-to-face, online or a mix of both. It’s led to a higher uptake and rate of attendance, especially for those struggling with anxiety, as we’ve made it easier to access sessions by Zoom or telephone.”

In the long term, Key Fund support will help ensure Citizen Coaching bounces back to sustainability.

Sam’s Story – Sam was struggling; he was balancing studying at college and being a carer for his father who has a long-term medical condition.

The onset of lockdown restrictions meant that dad had to shield, and Sam had to attend his lessons online. Sam described the home environment as like a ‘pressure cooker’.

Dad struggled without his regular activities and Sam felt that he was losing his identity, space and missed his friends. Tempers got frayed and Sam noticed that the coping strategies he normally used weren’t working like they used to.

Sam said: “The weekly sessions I had with my counsellor became a lifeline for me, allowing me to express my frustrations, take ‘time for me’ and learn some coping strategies to manage my anger and anxiety. I realised that quite often I am the parent to my dad rather than the other way round. I love him and want to support him, but need time for myself and realise that this is okay – I don’t have to feel guilty about taking time for myself.”

Sam continued: “The counsellor at Citizen Coaching let me know about online resources that could help outside the sessions, including an online anger management programme. They also helped me to connect with an organisation that supports other young carers like me.”

Skip to content