In our first Leading the Way blog of 2021, Helen Addis, Social Responsibility and Customer Welfare Manager, previews the exciting role she will play at Bristow & Sutor this year.
Over to Helen …
I initially joined DRP, part of the Bristow & Sutor Group, as an Executive Assistant last year before recently making the move to Bristow & Sutor to take up the role of Social Responsibility and Customer Welfare Manager. This is where my passion has always been and I am thankful that this was both recognised and encouraged by my employers.
There is no resistance to change within Bristow & Sutor, which has already proved beneficial to me and will continue to do so as I embark on this new challenge. The company has already made fantastic strides in areas such as Mental Health and part of my role will be to promote the good work that already happens here.
A Long-held Passion
I have always had an interest in welfare and championing access for all, finding a way to incorporate this in most stages of my career so far. I have a Master's Degree in Gender, Sexuality and Culture from the University of Manchester and previously worked for Teach First, a charity that improves educational situations in deprivation and low engagement circumstances. Most of my career so far has been in the recruitment industry; playing a pivotal role in projects that aimed to address gender, ethnicity, LGBT and age inequalities. I was particularly engaged in work on limited opportunities for women in engineering at this time. It surprised me that despite more and more girls studying and gaining qualifications in the space they still only made up 13% of the sector workforce.
This experience is something that has given me a great foundation to build upon in my new role with Bristow & Sutor. My career has changed my way of thinking and allows me to see the invisible barriers that are often placed in the way of people, preventing them from accessing the same opportunities most of us take for granted.
I was impressed to discover that Bristow & Sutor already understands how important this is and genuinely recognises the benefits of a diverse workforce. There are already several female EAs at the company and this helps cater for the different needs of customers. A large part of my new role will be challenging external misconceptions about what an enforcement agent looks like and educating people on the dangers of those misconceptions.
The Importance of Education
My role is quite broad and will require me to help educate both internally and externally. Education is the key to resolving social issues and should begin as early as possible. We can support young people and help them avoid ever getting into debt, but also must be there to advise people on how to engage with creditors and enforcement agents to improve the experience if this is the situation they face.
It is just as important for us to help educate those who have limited experience with financial responsibilities as it is to support older customers, who can end up facing vulnerable circumstances for the first time, which can happen at any point in life. More and more people have recognised the responsibilities that corporations have for some time now, but unquestionably, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated urgent thinking on this matter and shown how small changes in circumstances can affect an entire way of life.
Any business that engages with the public will be exposed to the systematic causes and social definitions of disability and equality. At Bristow & Sutor, our engagement via local authorities makes this especially true. The business recognises the important part it plays in the process of directing people to the support they need and my role will be to continue promoting ways we can provide further access to all.
New Year Resolutions
One of my first tasks this year will be looking in great detail at both existing and upcoming partnerships to ensure social value is present and effective in everything we deliver. Beyond meeting our commitments, Bristow & Sutor want to genuinely add social value to the communities we engage with. It is clear to me that extreme importance is being placed on adding something practically useful to all solutions and not simply investing money. The focus on improving outcomes is one of the main reasons I am excited to be here.
This is not to say I will not be involved with evolving internal processes as well. There is genuine enthusiasm within the business, and I am committed to ensuring that we do not rest on our laurels. I will be undertaking reviews with our Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) to ensure we are continually developing the work we do to support customer welfare. We must stay at the forefront of developments in identifying vulnerable customers and continue to improve so that we may live up to our growing reputation as thought leaders in this space. I will also be continuing to champion social value and welfare ideals, connecting with existing customer groups and debt advice sector representatives to expand our network and help foster collaboration; to build an effective chain of support that is suitable for assisting anyone that needs it.
The vulnerable are not a separate class of people and whether it is accidental or not, they should never be treated as such. Anybody can become vulnerable through a change in circumstances or even simply bad luck. Bristow & Sutor understands this and I am excited to help the business further develop welfare and social value support provisions for the benefit of employees, clients and customers alike.