“A Chain Reaction That Gets Us Wheelie Excited!”
The Link Bicycle Repair Workshop
3SC has worked in partnership with Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC) to launch a bicycle repair workshop that will be used by offenders completing unpaid work (UPW) orders, made by the courts, to enable them to learn new skills. Local 3SC Contract Performance Manager, Karen Knight, has played an integral part getting the project off the ground. Karen, Contract Performance Manager for 3SC in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, reports:
“I am delighted that my skills and experience in contract management has enabled me to support an ex-service user to set up this UPW bike workshop”
Karen first met John*, an ex-service user of CGM CRC, through her contract management role of User Voice for CGM CRC. Since August 2018, she has attended the CGM Service User Council Meetings and John had been a consistent and positive presence as a service user representative. John had been in custody at a North West prison where he went through their bike workshop scheme and gained qualifications in bike repair and refurbishment. John raised at the Service User Council Meeting how he thought this model could be transferred to a community setting and particularly benefit those on UPW orders. He was more than happy to do this on a voluntary basis as he was so keen to give something back to the community.
“I could clearly see that there was the will for this to happen from the highest level in CGM CRC – a small grant had been provisionally agreed to provide funds for initial set up tools – yet this wasn’t able to be driven forward by any one person. Crucially though, I could see how the 3SC due diligence and contract management processes, as well as my own personal skills and experience, could support this project. So, I suggested that I could take an active role in the implementation”
This offer was accepted by the CEO of CGM CRC, Chris Edwards.
Karen completed an initial due diligence report and action plan that covered a range of key areas including governance, staffing and resources, premises, finances and marketing. This report and recommendations, as well a cash flow forecast and P&L accounts that Karen created for John, was submitted to Chris Edwards in February 2019. He agreed that the project could be given the go ahead on the condition that 3SC continued to monitor the project on a monthly basis saying:
“3SC provide a really important service to the CRC through their close scrutiny of commissioned services and I welcomed the offer from 3SC to provide a level of oversight of this project that would reduce potential risk, reputationally or otherwise”.
Karen continued to support John by liaising with the right people in the CRC and Interserve at the right time to complete an action plan, and given the size and breadth of those organisations, that in itself was a complex task. Karen connected all the various dots of different departments and individuals required to complete the action plan: HR for the DBS check required for the internal CRC DBS panel; the CRC’s Network Developer to chair the DBS panel; Operational UPW Managers to review various site availability/suitability and to agree the daily administrative processes in line with MOJ guidelines; Interserve’s finance business partner to set up regular financial processes as well as ad hoc processes including the initial purchase of tools.
“Karen has really supported me from the project’s inception. Whenever I’ve hit a sticking point, she’s always been available to sort things out for me and has kept me informed of progress at all times”
Karen provides monthly light touch monitoring visits to ensure that all process are being adhered to, the books are updated and correct, and to update the P&L accounts – although the latter is something that Karen will upskill John to do in the near future.
Meanwhile, John worked hard to secure donations for the project including unclaimed bikes from Greater Manchester Police, mobile storage space to store the bikes and workbenches. John sent a speculative e-mail to Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s first “Cycling and Walking Commissioner” to invite him to the opening of the project. He accepted and in October 2019 “The Link” was officially launched:
In November 2019, the first full operating month, the “The Link” made £250, selling 4 refurbished bikes. In December 2019, a further £160 was made from the sale of 4 bikes and also five children’s bikes were refurbished and donated to Oldham Women’s Centre in time for Christmas. There are also discussions ongoing with a North West rugby club to provide the low-cost, high-quality refurbished bikes to their community fitness out-reach project.
“I am taking nothing away from John. This was his idea, his motivation, and his determination. I am just so pleased that I was able to “oil the wheels” (no pun intended!) and provide a level of confidence to the CRC that enabled this project to get off the ground and to drive it forward. I am so excited for John as the social impact of this could be really far-reaching. It is a scalable project that could easily be set up in other regions, perhaps as a social enterprise or CIC, and I will be happy to support him to do this.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity
Karen Knight, Contract Performance Manager, 3SC