Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBT people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. First up is Key Assets. Steve Jacques, Group Chief Executive Officer at Key Assets, part of the Martin James Foundation, gives us an insight into how they are contributing to the history of LGBT+.

It’s so good to shine a light on this and also to highlight our own role in making history. For example, did you know that Key Assets companies in Australia and Ireland, with board endorsement, were either the only one or one of very few children’s services organisations, to publicly support a ‘yes’ vote in the respective referendum/plebiscite on marriage equality? We have also been instrumental in campaigning for supporting the right for LGBT+ people to foster and adopt in Ireland, the UK, Finland and Japan. In Japan and Finland we partnered with the work of Rainbow Foster Care JPN and Rainbow Families FIN to promote the contribution that LGBT+ families can bring to foster care provision in these countries. In 2017 the Osaka Prefecture approved the first gay couple, as foster carers, in Japan!

We were the first independent children’s services company to be included in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the Australian Workplace Equality Index for our commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. In fact Key Assets Australia have not only made it on the AWEI, every year since 2015, but were also recipients of the prestigious LGBT ‘Employer of the Year’ Award on three occasions. In Ireland we are the only independent fostering agency to ever be nominated for a GALAS LGBT+ Outstanding Company Award since the award’s inception in 2009. Senior managers across our network have also been recognised by being shortlisted at LGBT and Diversity Award events around the world.

We were one of the first to introduce equal benefits to LGBT+ employees, before the introduction of equality legislation. We also put in place, long before others, a framework for how we would support our Trans colleagues through their transition journey.
Our first Group CEO, Estella Abraham, was identified by Stonewall UK as an LGBT Role Model in 2016 and Steve Jacques, the current Group CEO of our network of companies across Europe has been recognised 3 years running within the Top 100 LGBT+ Executives Role Models lists published by Google, Deloitte, Financial Times & Yahoo Finance.

Did you know that 23% of the senior leaders within Key Assets branded companies identify as Lesbian or gay? Each one of them, along with LGBT+ allies, have actively engaged in campaigning for the civil rights of LGBT+ people. Our people have protested, lobbied, campaigned over issues of legalisation, age of consent, education, equal treatment, marriage equality, conversion therapy, the right to foster and adopt, equality legislation, Trans rights and workplace equality, to name a few.
During LGBT History month we reflect on the progress made, in many places, but we recognise there is still so much to do to ensure a brighter future for our LGBT+ colleagues, friends, family members, foster carers, clients and most of all our children and young people! Companies across the Network have been and will continue to be instrumental in achieving this and continuing to make history!

This is the first of many pieces to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

EPIC Youth and Beatfreeks form exciting new partnership

EPIC Youth and Beatfreeks form exciting new partnership

An exciting new partnership has formed between two Birmingham organisations that offer young people opportunities to change their own futures.

EPIC Youth, part of the Martin James Foundation, recently donated a sum of money to Beatfreeks project Fuel. The partnership has a natural synergy with both organisations currently supporting young people through grants, mentoring and support.

Beatfreeks, an engagement and insight agency, connects young people to brands, funding and government. Fuel is a pot of money for those aged 18-30 in the Beatfreeks Community to use to react to important social issues. Eligible young people can apply for up to £500 by sending a WhatsApp voice note answering a number of questions. A panel of young people who are paid to sit on the panel for one year, decide whether or not the applicants are successful. Decisions are made within 48 hours and the money will land in their account to kickstart their idea within 2 weeks.

Amy Clamp, General Manager at Beatfreeks says:

“We are super excited to be working with EPIC Youth to give Fuel funding a further life after 2 years of great success and obvious need. Firstly, because our organisations have such similar aims and values. But also because we feel that by working together, we can grow the impact of our work for young people by offering more opportunities to access micro campaign funding.”

Fuel aims to break down the barriers young people often face when applying for funding for social action work. Both organisations are excited about the prospect of young people who are funded by Fuel, turning their ideas into companies with EPIC Youth.

EPIC Youth provides those aged 14-25 with a business idea, with grants, mentoring and business coaching. The funding to Fuel will allow young people to trial ideas with lower stakes, and the partnership provides a natural pathway for development.

Lindsey Hyde UK Programme Manager for EPIC Youth says:

“EPIC Youth is delighted to be partnering with Beatfreeks. We have such similar visions and we look forward to developing our relationship. Together we’ll be able to help one another reach more young people, whether it’s through Fuel funding or through business development with EPIC Youth. We’re two very passionate organizations and we are excited to see what the future holds for us.”

2020 Round Up with Jim and Ayyab Cockburn

If you think back to January 2020 would you have predicted that we would be on lockdown for most of the year? No, neither did we!

This year has thrown curveballs but thanks to all of our amazing colleagues who adapted, listened and helped us to navigate through this time, we have been able to continue growing and innovating. We have drawn so much inspiration from them all, as well as the communities we have served and the partners we have worked with. It has been one of the toughest years ever, but also one which taught us so much about the power of the human spirit to endure and to overcome.

We very quickly adapted to new ways of working, finding creative ways to get our services and products to our communities digitally. We innovated – reflect for a second on Antser’s ground-breaking VR solution, bringing children back into the classroom virtually. Another example is our vision for a ‘TalkOut’ platform providing access to engagement, mental health and VR services from one portal, one which we have already started to realise.  These are just two of the many new models we are pioneering and building on.

We reprioritised and refocused, for instance diverting Martin James Foundation resources to more front-line projects; helping vulnerable families in Madagascar, supporting care-leavers in Birmingham with grants and resources, also renewing our partnership with Food-cycle to deliver food to families in greatest need locally. Let us not forget the amazing Epic Youth Project, which we are proud to say has reached over 120 young people, 15 of whom we are working with more intensively to realise their business goals. There has never been a more important time to give young people hope and opportunity, which we are just so pleased to be contributing to.

We also used the time to reflect on who we are as a collective network and what we want to continue doing and investing in. We have captured this very simply in our new strapline “Fearless Futures”. In these few words we are clear about our ongoing commitment to strengthening families and communities through ‘humanising’ social care, health and education structures, practice, and technologies. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a fearless future and we exist to disrupt existing patterns of inequity and promote better social and health outcomes – it’s as simple as that!

Fearless Futures also applies internally and as part of this we have continued to develop our culture of ongoing learning and enterprise, most notably through our CoLab initiative. Many staff and Epic Youth members have participated in workshops ranging from photography to poetry and Mindfulness. Through such initiatives we are growing ever more comfortable about challenging ourselves and others on a daily basis to open up our minds, get curious and not be afraid to push ourselves.

In 2020 we also saw new businesses join the Network. UK Fire Training, a very valuable addition to our ‘fearless health’ portfolio, will be launching new training products in 2021, utilising the very best technologies.  Our ambition to do more to support causes close to our heart also led to us welcoming AboutFace – providers of anti-racism training into the Network. Events this year have clearly shown us that writing diversity charters and attending standard training are not enough, we need to get disruptive – something Cliff is on a mission to do!  Our new partnership with ‘Roots to Life’ Saturday School, due to be launched in January, also signifies our commitment to promoting inclusion and strengthening community – watch this space for more on this. We are also incredibly excited about the launch of CaseFlowHR solution in January 2021 – watch out Spreadsheet Britain, Greg and Jill are coming for you!

We must also recognise the areas that have grown from strength to strength, continuing to deliver the highest quality of service, despite the increase levels of demand; Key Assets Europe, Antser Assessment services and Intellect to name but a few.

Whilst we have achieved a lot it has not been an easy time for many people across the group, and we have both also certainly felt the pressure at times. Holy Moly has had to remain shut for a large part of the year which has had a significant impact on staff morale. The good news is we remain fully committed to re-opening when circumstances allow us to in 2021. We have also had to make tough business decisions around other areas of the network to ensure the realisation of future goals and priorities. Saying goodbye to people is never easy but we congratulate Agility and Tribera, two very successful businesses that are now forging their own way in the world.

There is so much to be proud of this year, the perseverance, the creativity, the collaboration, the learning, the resilience and the impact achieved. We really could go on. Empowering ‘Fearless Futures’ doesn’t mean that we haven’t felt the fear, this year has been full of it. But time and time again, we have demonstrated that we will never let fear own us, or hold us back. We truly appreciate all the hard work and support every single person has contributed to the Network over the last 12 months, and we look forward to building on our successes into 2021.

– Jim Cockburn and Ayyab Cockburn


Our National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue – Cliff Faulder

Our National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue – Cliff Faulder

The Guardian Newspaper published an article last week, asking if the National Curriculum ‘systematically omits’ black British history.

When I think of history I am often tempted to think of it in much the same ways as Chuck D.

In the 90’s the legendary frontman for Hip-Hop socially conscious mega group Public Enemy was the first person I ever heard break down the syllables of the word “History” so that it now said “His-Story”.

The impact of just that one phrase resonated deeply. It’s simple significance ricocheted around my cranium with a resounding truth that was surely “louder than a bomb”.

His Story… His Story.

You see I, as a young black boy entering adulthood, had been exposed to His-Story.

That His-Story had been presented to me by my teachers at primary school. The education delivered at primary school was developed and expanded upon by my teachers at secondary school. And outside of formal education the media supported this version of His-Story though programmes such as ‘Roots’ every Sunday night.  

So what would this version of His-Story have me believe?

Well… Black slaves were brought from Africa to work for the all-powerful and all-conquering white man. Although none too pleased about their plight, save for the odd slave with a strange and rebellious character, Black slaves offered little resistance and simply capitulated and expected their fate.

So this was the warped origins of the Black man, woman and child we were offered. We were led to believe that at some point some generous and enlightened white abolitionists realised that having slaves was wrong and therefore along with honest “Abe” Abraham Lincoln decreed all men have been created equal and set the slaves free.

So young Cliff, as you can see, things worked out well in the end.


Well the National Curriculum would certainly seem to favour this version of historical events regardless of how one-sided it may prove to be under closer scrutiny. In my opinion, this edited version of history seeks to arrive at an acceptable outcome without encouraging students to think about the details. It’s a bit like solving a math puzzle but not showing your working out.

Maybe elsewhere in the National Curriculum the experiences for a young black child could offer something of an enriching nature?

Ok so putting His-Story to one side for a moment, let’s delve into English literature.

Let’s consider the book that many educators the length and breadth of the country used to torture young black children with, week-in week-out, under the guise of it being a literary classic!

I am of course referring to the book “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.

This book details the story of two white ranch hands, who dream of a better life and their struggles to gain a foothold in life due to lack of money and social standing.

The fact that even though the main characters lives were somewhat fraught with pain struggle and strife they still had enough privilege to refer repeatedly to one of the books black characters as “that Nig*er Curly”.

This said everything that a pre-pubescent child such as I needed to know about his place in society. This not only informed my beliefs about how I saw myself but also how I thought others in my adolescent world saw me. I felt worthless.

I am still forced to cringe at the thought of Mr Oakley stood at the front of his classroom, book in hand reading the each race hate filled page.

I am still forced to cringe at the thought of Mr Oakley stood at the front of his class room, book in hand reading with conviction tinged with anticipation of the race hate filled expletive.

Each time the word Nig*er came up he’d pause. Maybe out of embarrassment maybe for effect. But then he would deliver it. That cruel humiliating word. That shameful word continued to rape my soul and I wished I could have torn the pages out of the copy I held in my hand and at least used them to dry my tears before they rolled down my cheeks.

Mr Oakley looked at the only black child in the 1800 capacity school and delivered the word Nig*er again. I became aware that it was not only his 1000 yard stare that hurt me on those days but also the eyes of every child in the class room.

Some children speculated that my temper would eventually snap. Others seemed to take great pride in witnessing my helplessness.

The teachings of previous teachers of how we as black people came to be here, flooded back with fresh impetus. The visual context of programmes such as ‘Roots’ saw sickening memories of men and women chained and whipped. I felt like a slave.


So I survived the racial abuse. I used it as another reason to grow. And grow I did.

I worked at emancipating myself from mental slavery and sought to fill my mind with real knowledge. I decided to go back!

Well how far you going back? Way back. And it goes a little something like this… (excuse me, I was really into Hip-Hop).

I focused on the things that highlighted what the Black man, woman and child was doing before His-story taught us that Slaves were taken from Africa.

The first thing I found out was there were no Slaves in Africa when the British, American, Dutch and Portuguese invaded. When they arrived they found nothing  but kings and queens, proud and sophisticated with fully functioning communities bound together by a spiritual appreciation of the earth and the spiritual realms.

You want an example?

Take Mansa Musa described as the wealthiest man of the middle ages.

I looked up China’s history and found:

I also looked at the slave rebellions led by Nat Turner: and great Jamaican rebellion in 1831

What I found was that Black people’s history is everyone’s history. Rich and monumental it is quite literally the oldest history that the planet we call home has to offer in terms of human’s existence.

To my dismay, although I had taken time to rebuild my self-esteem and discover other literature that both nurtured and edified my soul such as John Barnes’ auto biography “out of his skin” or books about Malcom X, Elijah Mohammed or the wonderful “if they come in the morning” by Angela Davis I could not save my own children from going through the same racial abuse I had suffered.

In 2016 and 2018, both my sons went onto report the same humiliation in their Birmingham based schools. Same book, same racism, same hurt, same trauma.

Again I was faced with the painful truth. The type of painful truth that strikes at a parents’ core and renders a man such as myself riddled with guilt and yet more shame.

I had not done enough to protect my children from racism. I had failed to safeguard them from the National Curriculum. I had allowed them to experience something that emotionally scarred me. 

I simply thought that between 1989 and 2016 someone would have taken that book out of the curriculum.

Foolish me, foolish gullible me.

You can not expect the architects of your enslavement to be the masterminds of your salvation.

Do better Cliff. Your children deserve better. Hell everybody’s child deserves better!

My boys had the advantage of having parents that could help them process what had happened to them in that classroom.  The fact that we both have experience in aiding children’s recovery from childhood trauma, and we have both survived this abuse ourselves will have in some way helped them survive too.

The real problem is that it should not take skilled trauma informed professionals to help Black children survive the National Curriculum.

The National Curriculum is a safeguarding issue that Parliament should not be ignoring.

So I when asked the question of “does the National Curriculum systematically omit Black British or black history in general”?

I’d say historically ….yes!

But in recent His-story the effects are even deeper than that.

Our New ‘Fearless’ Series – What ‘fearless’ means to me, by Ayyab Cockburn

Our New ‘Fearless’ Series – What ‘fearless’ means to me, by Ayyab Cockburn

Recently, we clarified the Martin James Network vision, mission and strapline. Here at Martin James Network, we are united in  working towards a a society in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation or prejudice.’  

But what exactly does ‘Fearless’ mean?

We asked our employees across the network what fearless means to them. Over the coming weeks we will be featuring articles, videos, and creative work in our new Fearless series. We kick off with Group Chief Operating Officer, Ayyab Cockburn:

One of my favourite quotes has to be:

“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots and the other is wings”

I take great inspiration from this as ‘fearless futures’ for me, is very much about roots and wings. The roots representing the strength and support to empower our children, our fellow human beings, but also ourselves to grow into who we want to become, and the wings representing the self-belief to live our truths and thrive.  

We can learn so much from young people about being fearless. As children we believe we can do anything. We are unapologetically ourselves, honest, experimental, curious, flexible, and non- judgemental. But somewhere along the way we lose some of this, some of us more than others. 

Research has shown that at around the ages of 11 or 12 we can start to cling to limiting ideas we have about ourselves or that others have about us, which begin to constrain our real and authentic selves. For many, socio economic factors that may have always existed, can start to become more acutely felt. The effect of all this being to turn dreams once so freely and joyously imagined into almost impossible fantasies.

For me, a large part of the resilience we need to not only cope with but to overcome such challenges comes from a sense of ‘feeling rooted’. By this I mean a sense of togetherness and connection from being part of nurturing families and other supportive and social networks. For amongst these very networks exist people who believe in us, encourage us, equip us, show us what good looks like, provide us with the feedback we need – good and bad, help us develop boundaries (never walls) and ultimately give us the freedom to flourish and grow in confidence towards our destinies. For the vast majority of people in society, access to these enabling structures exist from an early age and continue to remain with them throughout their lifetimes.

Ayyab Brice

But the reality for many others is that these structures have been severely weakened through life events and/or societal barriers. This gives rise to internal emotional chains which shackle and eventually destroy the once healthy roots which held such promise of facilitating that fearless flight towards longed for dreams and goals.

It is these very communities of people both young and old, for whom I believe as network we seek to empower ‘fearless futures’ We do this in the main by ‘supporting the supporters’ to unlock the potential that exists inside many young people, families and communities that have in some way, shape or form been uprooted emotionally or physically. But we also do this by modelling ‘fearless’ in every sense of the word ourselves – courageously re-imagining, co-designing and implementing innovative human centred practice, tech, science and evidence-based solutions to help achieve better outcomes.

Let’s learn from our children and young people about what it means to be fearless. Let’s help build and repair the structures which promote the ‘togetherness’ our communities need to flourish, grow and achieve their dreams. Let’s be inspired to really reach within ourselves to connect to who we want to be. Let’s do whatever it takes to create ‘fearless futures’ for this generation and the next.

 Fearless futures: re-imagining what’s possible.