The idea for The Deborah Ubee Trust was first suggested during a chat in in Costa Coffee in Blackheath in 2008. Denise and I had both had experience of counselling in the voluntary sector for a number of years and we both felt that there was a massive shortfall in the level of service available. Two factors in particular convinced us that there was a need for a new local counselling service.
Firstly, we both felt that although there were some excellent agencies catering for specific client groups and ample provision for those able to afford to pay, there was very little help available for most people in the community who needed emotional support. For many the best chance of access to the help they required was via their GP which might involve a waiting list of several months for a maximum of six sessions; not always enough to equip someone to restructure their emotional health.
Secondly, we both had experienced counselling in rooms that were not adequate, with poor lighting, little soundproofing and dingy waiting areas. It was obvious to us that clients needed to feel safe – they were often already feeling vulnerable – and that having to sit in a room with tatty furniture and no windows was not helping them or the counsellor.
We spent a long time discussing how we would go about designing our ideal counselling space and how a generic counseling agency could be set up. After a while we realized that we should try and make it into a reality.
Originally we planned to set up a Community Interest Company, rather than a charity, to be named "The Greenwich Centre for Emotional Health”. The name was changed later as we felt that it was advantageous to have a title that was not specific about what we did, in order to offer more anonymity to clients. We named it after Deborah Ubee, who we felt was typical of someone who was unable to access the help she needed and who would have benefitted from the services we offered
We pitched our idea to The GLC Charitable Trust, who agreed to give us enough start-up funding to acquire premises and fit them out. Because of their restrictions, we had to become a charity rather than a CIC. We persuaded three interested people to become trustees and registered The Deborah Ubee Trust as a charity on July 4th 2011.
We first viewed the premises at 20 Egerton Drive in May 2011. After protracted negotiations and delays by the developers of the building, we finally took ownership on 25th January 2013. At this point it was a shell, with no internal walls. It took about 10 weeks to fit it out and we moved in during April. Our first client started in May and we had our official launch on June 14th 2013. We took on 4 volunteer counsellors in September and more in November.
We were very aware that we could not rely on fundraising for all of our running costs and spent a long time putting in place a financial plan that would offer some built-in longevity to the project. We did this by using the building to earn an income, renting out space when we are not using it.
We had our first major fundraiser in September 2013 on a Thames River Boat, raising over £7000. We have several fundraising activities happening this year and aim to have another big event in 2014.
The centre is now very busy and open Mondays to Saturdays, and until 9pm 4 days a week. We also offer yoga classes and counsellor training workshops.
Denise and Rosie