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Over the past few months, we have been organising educational site visits for local school children in the Dartford area – overall we had 400 students take part from Year 5, 6 & 7.

We would start with a presentation talking about our Dartford development, what we do, how warehouses are built and the different roles in the construction industry. This was followed by a tour around the units where they could see the building in action and ask plenty of questions. The top question that came up in every school was ‘how much money do you make?’ – A fair question if you are considering your career paths! They also asked some other great questions like; how long does it take to put up the steel frame, how many employees do you have on site at once, how did you come up with the name Bericote Properties, have you ever found valuables on a site whilst developing?

For most students, this was the first time they have been on a school trip in 18 months, so they were all extremely excited (even just to get on a coach). It was also exciting for them to discover that corporate giant Amazon would be operating in their area, and they got to learn a little about how they use the units for their operations. ‘How many Alexas will they keep in there?’. We did a little quiz when on site, asking the students how many footballs would fit in the 2.3m sq ft unit – closest answer would win an Amazon voucher (the answer if you are wondering is 95 million!).

Construction is not something that is often talked about in schools, so the students were all very engaged and eager to learn more. After the visit we asked the students to go away and research one role in construction that was interesting to them. As a thank you for taking part we gave each student a Bericote reusable, 24 hour insulated water bottle – probably their favourite part, as you can see in their happy faces below.

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The virus started off quite rare about two years ago,

It wasn’t very good for most and that is what we know.

But there is always a bright side, and it gave you something good,

the virus gave me something special I never thought it could.

In lockdown school, something happened that can never be undone,

through all that happened, I found someone that can sparkle like the sun.

It’s odd how the girl I would never speak to before,

Is the person, I couldn’t possibly love even more.

In lockdown there are things that I lost but look at what I gained,

A funny, pretty BFF who never fails to keep me entertained.

The minute I see her, I smile brighter than the sun,

Because lockdown gave me something, a miracle couldn’t have done.

So, under all that sadness and sorrow it has brought,

I know that I gained something to devour the distraught.

 

This was the winning poem submitted to us as part of our Virtual Poetry competition, working alongside Dartford FC and Premier League stars.

School children from year 3-6 were asked to submit a short poem on ‘remote reflections’, exploring their experiences over the last year of lockdown.

Over 500 students took part and we had some incredible submissions, which made choosing a winner a lot harder, but we think Sophia from Hextable Primary school deserves 1st place, winning a £30 book voucher, Dartford FC Shirt, a framed copy of the winning poem signed by Dartford FC first team, and DFC Virtual Verse 2021 Poetry Book with their poem in print. They also got to choose £200 worth of books for their school library!

Pictured is winner Sophia, one of our runner ups, Isabel, Aged 8, alongside their headteacher Suzie Hall, Jon Ryes from DFC and Rebecca Davidson from Bericote.

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Trigger warning – this article touches on subjects of sexual abuse and violence, depression, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, drug and alcohol misuse, self-harm, and suicidal feelings.

Sexual abuse and rape is a subject not many feel comfortable openly discussing, yet it is so prevalent in our society. It is not linked to class, ethnicity, age, deprivation, gender, or sexuality – it knows no bounds, and anyone can be affected. I interview Neil Henderson, CEO of Safeline, a charity Bericote have partnered with for the last 6-years, to discuss the prevalence of sexual abuse, and how organisations like ours can help support charities like Safeline to better support the millions of people affected by sexual violence and abuse.

1 in 5 women (5.8m) and 1 in 6 men (4.6m) in the UK have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 and it is estimated 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. To make matters worse, these statistics understate the true extent of the issue because only 1 in 6 victims ever disclose or report sexual violence crimes, for ‘fear of not being believed’, or feelings of ‘embarrassment’ and ‘humiliation’. It can happen to anyone, anywhere.  Safeline are a charity helping to prevent sexual abuse and provides free, specialist, tailored, non-time limited support, for anyone affected including friends and family.

Neil has been CEO of Safeline since 2014, starting on the board of trustees, having previously been with Royal Mail for 27-years in various Executive/non-Executive roles. “I always knew I wanted to do something that I cared about and inspired me, and Safeline touched on a subject that was very close and personal to me and I wanted to support it” he says.

Safeline have a difficult problem in gaining funding and support from local businesses due to the sensitivity of the subject. “It’s not something that leaders and businesses feel comfortable backing, it’s not because they don’t think it’s important, it’s because they simply feel it’s beyond their scope of knowledge.” Neil wants to educate people to enable more survivors to access support. Covid has also seen a stop to any kind of group fundraising and awareness events, making 2020-2021 the toughest years yet.

85% of victims will not report if they have been sexually abused or raped, and only 1.7% of 16% rapes are prosecuted in England and Wales. So why is it so under reported? This has a lot to do with ‘not being believed’ and the stigma of the subject. It is personal and not something people want to talk about. Safeline are working to get people talking, raising awareness to let people know it is not okay, it is not their fault and they have someone to talk to.

“The effects of sexual violence can be devastating and long-lasting, impacting not only the victim but also family and friends as well as the wider community”. Many of Safeline’s clients suffer from depression, PTSD, anxiety, isolation, eating disorders, drug and alcohol misuse, self-harm, and suicidal feelings. For example, 15% of all suicides and 40% of all youth homelessness are attributed to sexual violence. Without support, victims are 4-times more likely to be revictimized.

Safeline offer a variety of services including their male helpline and online service, counselling sessions, (face-to-face, telephone and online), art therapy and prevention services for children and their parents. And during lockdown they have managed to move most of their therapy sessions online. Getting support from the community is vital in supporting Safeline to continue to offer these services free of charge.

There is no limit to how many sessions you can have. “The problem with the system is people assume someone will feel cathartic once they’ve spoken to someone a couple of times to ‘get it off their chest’, but it can take years of support for someone to recover”.

Whilst some people may learn to cope with the abuse, there is still a pain. Neil talks of a woman who had received support from Safeline, “she was strong and resilient and has a successful career, but the emotional pain is still so bad that some days she can’t leave her bed.” This can be true for many even if the abuse happened 50 years ago.

As well as support for survivors, Safeline want to educate young people to help work on prevention. They have a dedicated team who work in schools to offer students a safe space and encourage them to speak up against things that are not right. They want them to know about consent and to know they can come forward and tell a responsible adult if something is wrong. Safeline also want to encourage parents to have open and healthy discussions about sexual abuse and be able to spot the signs.

Survivors often live with their abuse for an average of 25 years for women and 40 years for men before speaking out. Once someone makes the brave decision to take their predator to court, Safeline offer a service called ISVA (independent sexual violence advisors), who help every step of the way throughout the court process. “It can be really hard for someone to stand up in court and tell their story and we want to be there for them through this difficult time.”

Safeline not only want to educate young people and their parents, but business owners and other charities – no one deserves to be abused regardless of one’s social situation, class, ethnicity, or sexuality. Everyone deserves to be heard and everyone deserves to have their basic human rights respected. “If every business, public organisation and charity (regardless of where they specialise) can stand up and say ‘we are against sexual abuse, and we believe in you’, we would already be creating a much more open and safe environment, which could give your staff the confidence to access support knowing they wouldn’t be judged by those around them.”

If you want to find out how you can do more as an employer, please feel free to drop myself a message to rebecca@bericoteproperties.com and I can put you in touch with the fantastic Safeline team.

Support Services:

National Male Survivor Helpline and Online Service
Telephone: 0808 800 5005
Email: support@safeline.org.uk
Text: 07860 065187
Live chat service: https://www.safeline.org.uk/contact-us/
More information including opening hours can be found online at www.safeline.org.uk

Rape Crisis England & Wales For Women

National Telephone Helpline: 0808 802 9999
Live chat service: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/want-to-talk/
More information can be found at www.rapecrisis.org.uk

Victim Support
Telephone: 0808 16 89 111
Live chat: victimsupport.org.uk/live-chat
My Support Space: mysupportspace.org.uk/MoJ
More information can be found at www.victimsupport.org.uk

Rape Crisis helpline and live chat
Telephone: 0808 802 9999
More information including opening hours and access to our live chat service can be found online at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

The Survivors Trust
Telephone: 08088 010818
Email: info@thesurvivorstrust.org
More information including opening hours can be found at www.thesurvivorstrust.org

Galop – for members of the LGBT+ community
Telephone: 0800 999 5428
Email: help@galop.org.uk
More information including opening hours can be found at Galop.

NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood)
Private and confidential helpline: 0808 801 0331
Email: support@napac.org.uk

 

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Everyone remembers their first car; mine at the age of 23 was a 1969 Triumph Vitesse convertible (back when insurance could cost more than a car). A two litre, four -seater convertible rust-bucket which I spent more time maintaining than driving. In those days parts were readily available in scrap yards where the ability to climb a stack of rocking cars was just as important as being able to handle a socket set. The grey suits at the HSE put a stop to that malarkey and quite rightly so.

In more recent times I bought another Vitesse as a first venture into the classic a car market, and having moved that on have more recently acquired two e-type jaguars. Initially I intended to maintain these myself where possible – however as parts availability is now limited to a few suppliers (and often poor quality replacements), it soon became obvious I was one stripped- nut away from a whole world of pain and frustration. How I miss those scrap yards.

The real pleasure in owning a classic car is of course being able to drive on the open road – surprisingly, the simple decision to go for a drive now leads to several levels of doubt – will it start? Which roads have the least potholes? Is it going to rain? What if I breakdown? Etc etc And yet driving vehicles of a certain age is a totally different experience to modern cars – a better level of respect and tolerance from other road users (even cyclists amazingly) – and in the absence of power steering, ABS, modern suspension and a radio – the real feeling of driving. And its noisy.

As classic car ownership seems to be increasing in the UK, and there are more events to attend – the average age of owners remains above 60 which is a concern for the long-term well-being of these vehicles. We certainly need more interest from younger generations to learn the skills of engineering and maintenance to keep them roadworthy.
And they too will then learn that we are not classic car owners; merely custodians.

Having highlighted the worrying lack of new skill entering the classic car arena, it’s great to see that on our redevelopment of Littlebrook the contractors and supply chain have embraced our desire to create apprenticeships and training opportunities on site despite Covid constraints. Coupled with our involvement with the local schools and University Training College we are proactively encouraging young people to consider careers in property and construction – if just a few of them grasp that opportunity we will have a legacy to be proud of.

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Our blog will see guest features from leaders in the third sector; and to start things off we have a dear friend and founder of The Big Issue, John Bird. At just 5 years old, John Bird became homeless before residing in an orphanage until 10. In his teenage years he turned to theft for income and would later be in prison for petty crimes. He now proudly sits in the House of Lords, where he fights for social injustices and gives a voice to those in poverty and who are homeless. The Big Issue was the start of his social entrepreneurial journey, and he has since been a part of many social enterprises and political movements.

“I will go down in the history books as the inventor of The Big Issue. The fact that I invented numerous other magazines will probably not even get a footnote in the history books. But up until recently I was inventing away at a fair rate on knots.

What stopped me was the pandemic. I lost the appetite for coming up with new ideas for magazines, most of which never saw the light of day. A magazine to flourish has to have hundreds of things working for it. It’s a tough old world.

But I have not been idle. Instead, I invented a movement. It’s called RORA: “Ride out Recession Alliance”. And it brings big businesses, like Nationwide and Unilever, with charities like Shelter and Generation Rent, together with individuals and politicians who want to stop people being made homeless through job loss caused by Covid.

So, it’s a clever alliance that at the moment numbers a few hundred which we wish to grow to number thousands and thousands. Why? Because poverty created by the pandemic can push people into evictions and into homelessness. And hundreds of thousands of homeless families and individuals frightens the hell out of me.

RORA is beginning to be taken up by government and by business because it helps people get back into work. It has a website that is full of jobs and training, upskilling and new positions you may want to increase. At the same time, it campaigns to keep people in their homes, taking up the Prime Ministers declaration that ‘no one will be made homeless by Covid-19’. We have to ensure that we don’t get mass homeless because it will destroy people’s lives for decades.

I started The Big Issue to work with people who were already homeless. But what if suddenly we had people laid off from their work and unable to get work? And then slip into eviction.

RORA is bringing businesses together to put pressure on the government to stand by its word. But also to help us create work, and on our website we already have hundreds of jobs and skill increasing training.

In 2018 we created a conference in Northampton that brought many businesses together. The idea was to get businesses and charities to start trading together. We called the conference ‘The Social Echo’ Conference and it was about stitching together the support groups within communities. It was very imaginative, and we managed to get a number of concerns working together. The hospital buying bread from the local baker, the sandwich bar buying the service of a housing project etc.

It didn’t quite take off, but the idea of a social echoing around a community did take seed. And last year Social Echo worked overtime in and around Peterborough working with those hit by the lockdown. Bringing food to the neediest and helping people with problems thrown up by isolation. Social Echo is a very simple way of saying that whatever act you make in the community it will resound around, positive or negative. And sure enough the actions of the Social Echo team has had very positive effects and is now being looked at by government and local authorities. (socialecho.uk will get you in touch).

I was so interested in the power of local communities that back in 2018 I even had a new magazine title to go with the work of Social Echo. It was called “Darning Street: stitching together the social fabric”.

It didn’t go far. But I do believe that most of us have all woken up to the power of working locally. I know that increasingly government and local authorities are realising that a blasted community can only put pressure of the NHS, local government services and cost much more in the end.

Back to the community! if we want to get out of the troubles thrown up by the pandemic then its back to where we live. A positive social echo will work wonders. Promise to try it once and see if you dont get hooked on that feeling too.”

 

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“It’ll all be over by September” I remember saying very often around my house in March last year. How wrong I turned out to be.
Our family has all been together from that first lockdown, nearly a year now….my middle son Theo arriving from work experience in Spain (pretty much the last flight out), the eldest Leila from Uni in London (with boyfriend) and Lucas from Uni in Bath.
In the space of a few short weeks Lisa and I went from an empty home to 6 adults in the house 24/7, all wondering what was going on and for how long.

The first 3 months was all a bit of a blur, work was intense with the build-up to achieving planning consent for our 2.3m sq ft logistics facility in Dartford. Thankfully Dartford councillors were keen to maintain business as usual, even if that meant a committee meeting via Zoom call and we achieved planning consent in June.

After that we all settled into a new normal routine, as everyone has had to, ours was not a unique condition.

With all the negative elements flying around, I think it has been important to focus on the silver linings; spending precious time with family that would otherwise be living away, having older relatives safe and well and being fully engaged by work throughout.

Six adults is a lot of mouths to feed, so it was important that cooking was shared by all (some more than others). Leila excelled in the kitchen, indulging us with regular lockdown bakes.

Four of us six are avid football fans, West Brom (me) Man U and Arsenal, so regular televised football was very welcome when it returned. Although my team have proved incapable of keeping a clean sheet and ship over two goals every game played.

And I must say we did manage to find tv series that we all wanted to watch and settle down to each evening; Ozark last year and more recently Schitt’s Creek brought a lot of welcome laughs.
Music wise I’ve widened my horizons and found Hania Rani’s album Esja a relaxing listen at quiet times.

Considering we had 3 boys aged 19 – 23 living under one roof for several months they have all got along amazingly well and even worked together to repair the garden lawn which had been trashed by builders the year before.

Many have been way more adversely affected by this pandemic and I feel for the parent’s that are juggling home schooling with work at the moment. Having adult children at home presents different problems, mainly around job prospects, securing work experience during lockdown/home working and university life restricted to screen time lectures.

But now….as quickly as everyone came home…..everyone is getting moving again and moving out, pretty much all at the same time. My daughter has started a job with the NHS in London, the boys are back at University and Lisa and I are empty nesters again….let’s hope it sticks and the children (young adults) can get on with their lives again.

Just at the time the children move forward, we move forward at Bericote too, starting the speculative development of a new 450,000 sq ft distribution unit at Littlebrook.

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Welcome 2021!

Whilst we were all expecting the announcement, it was still a shock and panic to have it confirmed. My son is in his first year at secondary school and is still adjusting to his new norm, so with the announcement between Christmas and New Year that secondary school students wouldn’t be going back until the 18th January, we were well prepared – as was his school.  During the first Lockdown, he took the initiative to set up several zoom calls with different groups of friends from his year, to work through the various worksheets and subjects (there was no online lessons available). It worked brilliantly and he and his mates were working diligently throughout the day (they had to as we were monitoring the calls).  So he knew what to expect.

My daughter, who is 6 years old, is a different kettle of fish altogether.  The first lockdown back in March took our local primary school by surprise.  It’s a great school and achieves outstanding results, but like many primary schools, it’s not geared up for online teaching.  And why would they?

At this age she doesn’t really understand what’s going on with the virus and she’s not used to being at home so much and not being able to play/socialise with her friends at school. Getting her into “school” mode whilst being at home was also difficult – we even resorted to her wearing her school uniform.

Needless to say this lockdown, things are still proving challenging, but there are improvements from the first lockdown (except for the weather!). The primary schools are much more prepared for home learning and lessons via YouTube are working well.  We have set up zoom calls with her grandparents throughout the day and they do the schoolwork together. This, mixed in with online play dates with her friends, and before you know it, the day is done.

Our 20 year old dog Ellie has definitely enjoyed lockdown the most – she loves having the kids at home all the time!

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We don’t need to tell you 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, that’s something we can all agree on. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to keep your job, but you’ve not been able to see your shielding parents. Maybe you’ve had to make some sacrifices along the way to make ends meet. And maybe you’ve lost people close to you. Everyone has certainly been affected in one way or another.

For some families, putting food on their table every week has been a struggle. Foodbank staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly to help those families and to keep their community fed, as no one should have to go without food.

Bericote embarked on a Christmas incentive to make and deliver 150 Christmas Happiness Hampers to Dartford families in need this Christmas. We worked with all our contractors on The Powerhouse development to raise funds and collect food donations, then used the funds to buy enough food for the hampers – picture about 30 large shopping trollies full!

These were then expertly packed by a team of YMCA employees and volunteers, including myself. In the end we managed to collectively raise £10,000 to create 200 Christmas Happiness Hampers, give 340 local children a Christmas gift each and have plenty of supply leftover to donate to other local foodbanks. We were also able to create 150 ‘hugs in a mug’ which included a YMCA mug, tea, hot chocolate and more.

This quote from a mother who received one of our hampers says it all…

“These hampers are a lifeline. They are the difference between the kids eating and us being able to eat together as a family. I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for us this year.”

My back hurts in places I didn’t know it could – and I’m 25.. I got home after a full 3 days of shopping and hamper packing and my feet were throbbing. You try to make a plan as best you can, but at the end of the day you’re not professionals with vans, crates and equipment – you’re a bunch of enthusiastic people with a dream, a car, bit of side office space and 200 apple boxes, trying to pull this off… ‘Lift with the knees!’

This was my experience on one large project. It was tiresome and stressful for all, but absolutely worth the effort to help those who need it. What blows my mind, is this is something these wonderful employees and volunteers do week in and week out, simply because they believe in helping their fellow neighbours, for little reward or recognition.
Well please know you don’t go unnoticed, and this year Bericote would like to nominate all the foodbank workers and volunteers as our Heroes of 2020.

With a special shout out to; Emma (YMCA), Penny (YMCA), Kirsty (YMCA), Rachele, James, Daisy (National Grid), Sarah, Sandy (The Leigh UTC), Becky, Rebekah, Nishita, Lindsey, Lucy and Natalie for all your tremendous hard work in the last week to make these happiness hampers achievable.

Also a special thanks to all the companies who donated food or money towards the incentive; (Bericote), ISG, MBA Consultants, Brown and Mason, Collier & Associates, National Grid, BlueEarth Construction/Collins Earthworks, CDM Contract Services, Ecology Solutions & Pinnacle.

Merry Christmas all and here’s to a better 2021.

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