New Mentoring Scheme launches across Martin James Network – Louise Carr

New Mentoring Scheme launches across Martin James Network – Louise Carr

Here at the Martin James Network, we take the development of our future leaders very seriously. This is why we are rolling out a mentoring program during January 2021 as part of National Mentoring Month to help our future leaders learn and grow. In line with our diversity charter, this mentoring is initially aimed at employees from the BAME and LGBT communities who will be guided by our leaders across the Network over the next 12 months.

Why we believe in mentoring

We believe that mentoring can be mutually beneficial, to the mentee, the mentor and the Martin James Network as a whole. We know that our leaders have a wealth of experience to share; they have skills that can support, encourage, inspire, empower and motivate. A mentoring program gives the opportunity to share these skills with a less experienced employee. Mentoring enables the mentee to grow and progress in a range of skills, such as leadership and developing confidence.

If the experience and skills are already within the business, then it makes sense to share and let others learn from them!

What individuals gain from mentoring

Having a mentor can help a person reach their potential. Often a person has the right abilities, they just need the right person to share their experiences, show them how to develop their abilities and how to focus their talents. With the support of a mentor people can significantly build confidence in their professional life.

Being a mentor is equally as rewarding as you watch a person grow and develop, guide them through putting their new abilities and skills in to practice. It can also aid the mentor’s own communication skills, reinforce and remind themselves of their own skillset and knowledge, and recognise areas for development in themselves.

There can be a huge sense of fulfilment and personal growth for the mentee and mentor.

At the Martin James Network we are confident that mentoring is a great way to develop our people and with it being National Mentoring Month, now feels the perfect time to start this.

Supporting Foster Carers in times of Covid-19

Supporting Foster Carers in times of Covid-19

FosterTalk was established in 2004 to give foster parents access to a greater degree of independent support. 

The foster care journey is challenging and unique for every child, young person and carer. FosterTalk supports families on this journey with services that are welcoming, trusted, reliable, knowledgeable and innovative.

2020 has been especially difficult for foster families. Due to the restrictions placed upon them, foster carers have expressed concerns about what support is still available to them, what their legal rights are, how to keep themselves and the children safe, and much more. 

But throughout lockdown, FosterTalk has been there to support its members in a variety of ways. We hear from three foster families that have benefited from our expertise this year:

We listened to our carers’ health and financial worries

One particular foster carer contacted FosterTalk as they had concerns regarding their health and financial circumstances. They also had worries around whether foster carers were defined as ‘key workers’, and if birth family contact for children was permitted. 

The foster carer felt there wasn’t much clarity from their fostering service regarding contact arrangements. Our FosterTalk advisor researched this with the foster carer over the phone. They found that there was a policy on the fostering service website, stating that carers must promote safe birth family contact through virtual means only. The foster carer was able to share this clear guidance to the young person in their care, easing their confusion and worry. 

In regards to whether foster carers were defined as ‘key workers’, our advisor referred the carer to the guidance published on the FosterTalk website, which clearly states that foster carers are not defined as key workers. Using the FosterTalk website, the foster carer was also signposted to finance and medical helplines for advice on their respective circumstances. 

At the start of the conversation, the carer was understandably confused and anxious about covid-19 and how it would affect their fostering responsibilities. They were ‘really worried about what’s going on’ but the call appeared to help the carer express their concerns. Before the end of the call, the carer was also signposted to the 24/7 counselling helpline for all members. With assurances, clarity on key issues, and relevant signposting from FosterTalk, the carer was supported as best as possible and fully utilised their membership benefits. 

 We encouraged open and honest discussions around difficult situations

A foster carer recently contacted FosterTalk to discuss their concerns regarding a funeral that a young person in foster care had been invited to. This was an extended family member of the young person, though still of great significance to them and they understandably wanted to attend the funeral. The carer wanted to honour the young person’s wishes, but was concerned around the rules of self-isolating and staying safe in the current climate. 

FosterTalk referred the carer to the guidelines on funeral arrangements via the Age UK website, which provide clarity on what steps the young person would need to take if they were to attend the funeral. Furthermore, FosterTalk informed the carer that it may be best practice for a risk assessment to be completed by the local authority social worker, in conjunction with the fostering service and the young person. 

Promoting an open and honest discussion with the young person was FosterTalk’s message, and this appeared to help the foster carer feel more at ease. They expressed to the carer that FosterTalk could not provide a ‘yes or no’ to whether a young person in foster care could attend a funeral, as this lies with the person with parental responsibility. 

However, by providing clear guidance on funeral arrangements, reiterating the importance of a risk assessment, along with referring the carer to the medical helpline, the carer received clarity on a complex matter and their mind was put at ease.



We clarified complex protocol, finding solutions using technology

Another complex matter for foster carers during the pandemic has been the protocol around statutory visits from children’s social workers, and visits from supervising social workers. 

FosterTalk have spoken to a number of foster carers regarding this matter and have advised them to clarify the policy of their fostering services and local authorities. They have also suggested that foster carers could work with professionals to ensure visits are completed through alternative video means. 

FosterTalk reiterated to the carers that it is more important than ever that all professionals supporting children in care work in partnership to ensure visits are completed, but not at the detriment of the children’s or foster carers’ health. This support and guidance appears to have been received positively by our members.

FosterTalk have, and will, continue to provide consistent advice to all foster carers who need us over the coming months. For more information on FosterTalk please visit their website:

Finding resilience in times of change

Finding resilience in times of change

Over the last few months we have seen further changes across the UK, tier systems introduced, closure of high street brands and curfews at 10pm. Since our last update back in April the Martin James Network has also been adapting to changes, and it’s been a busy few months.

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement made us stop, reflect and change. We made a stance to support the fight against any injustice both inside and outside the workplace. Not only did we talk candidly about Black Lives Matter on our blog, we also created a new diversity charter, ensuring that all our colleagues are treated fairly and without prejudice or discrimination.

During this period we have welcomed to the network Cliff Faulder and his business ‘About Face’. A new anti-racism training business that provides a safe space to ask the hard questions about diversity and equality in the workplace. Cliff recently created a blog for Black History Month where he discusses his dreams, diversity and more. Read his blog here.

VR and being a disruptive business

We expanded our business with the acquisition of a VR company – VR Simulation System which forms part of the TalkOut Group. Incorporating VR into our business allows us to expand our mental health services, offer alternative learning and support through VR and allow us to reach more people than ever before through collaboration.

In June, Martin James Network were successfully nominated and announced as runners up to Disruptive HR’s ‘Better Normal’ Awards. The awards recognised our leaders’ response to the Coronavirus pandemic – we were congratulated for our innovative and disruptive initiatives during lockdown.

Say hello to CoLAB – we welcome the Mayor of the West Midlands

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands officially opened our creative incubation centre ‘CoLAB’ in October.

The CoLAB will serve EPIC Youth, which is part of the Martin James Foundation. EPIC Youth allows access to mentoring, finance, marketing, and business advice. This collaborative, safe space allows them to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, with access to laptops, camera and video equipment, plus a photo and podcast studio. 

The space has also been utilised by our colleagues when we hosted a ‘Festival of Learning’, offering workshops on creative storytelling, photography and video editing. CoLAB will be a cross functional space for everyone to use and gives our EPIC entrepreneurs direct access to mentoring from MJN talent.

Graffiti trail across the Midlands to celebrate National Poetry Day through founder’s COVID experience

To celebrate National Poetry Day, we decided to take over key areas around Birmingham to raise awareness of the poet ‘Basic Existential Boy’ – also known as our founder Jim Cockburn.

During the 1st lockdown, Jim launched a collection of COVID-19 poetry the month before after falling ill with symptoms of the virus at the start of the year. Showcasing parts of his work across the city, the ‘clean’ graffiti could be found in areas such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill.

Supporting our colleagues for World Mental Health Day

At the network, we have a variety of initiatives to help support our colleagues’ mental health. Throughout this period we have offered access to our TalkOut app – allowing all colleagues to connect and speak with each other, access resources including mental health, employee rewards, and internal company updates all in one place.

We also increased online webinars to cover topics such as mental health, wellbeing and fitness. And we encouraged colleagues to join virtual hangouts, quizzes and celebrate birthdays online. We understood the pressure on working parents – juggling work life and family life as it merged into one. Everyone was offered flexible working, access to additional support online and more check ins with their managers to discuss any issues they had.

Welcome new businesses and a new vision

Even though it’s been a rocky year we have been fortunate to have a strong, resilient business which has allowed us to grow and welcome new leaders and businesses into the Network.

Cliff Faulder has joined as CEO of AboutFace a new diversity training business which will help educate around equality and diversity. We also welcomed Richard Morcombe who has taken lead at UK Fire Training – both new businesses to the network.

Paul Putman will now head up Talkout Group as their new CEO with Daniel Croft joining us as CEO for our Fostertalk brand.

This period has also given us time to step back and solidify our network vision and mission. A vision of a ‘society’ in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation or prejudice.’ As we move toward the end of the year, we take comfort in the the work that we have achieved over the past few months, despite the global uncertainity.

National Care Leavers week at Martin James Network

National Care Leavers week at Martin James Network

At the Martin James Network, we support learning, collaboration and support any initiatives which are part of the network. This year, National Care Leavers week (26th October – 1st November)  the network hosted events, workshops, and information pieces to support care leavers  (where upon turning 18, many young care leavers  are forced to leave their placement and start to live independently before they feel ready) on our network which was led by EPIC Youth – a young person initiative through the Martin James Foundation.

Over the week we carried out 3 workshops, 1 for personal branding and storytelling led by Shane Sidaway from Tribera, An EPIC youth open day with presentations from Abba (Birmingham Care Leavers Trust), Luke Mulekezi (Business mentor for EPIC Youth) and Rachael Cole (FosterTalk). We also held a session around CV writing and application forms led by Ketan Chhatbar from The People’s team (Martin James Group). 

The EPIC Youth open day was created to demonstrate joint working with other partners such as Birmingham Care Leavers Trust. BCLT have always supported EPIC Youth by promoting the programme as well as providing referrals. Abba explained the importance of working together and what care leavers week meant. We also showcased EPIC Youth and what support can be offered. Luke explained the role of a business mentor and what young people could expect if accepted onto the programme. Rachael explained the link between Fostertalk and EPIC Youth and how they work together to raise awareness – we also advertised and asked for expressions of interest to arrange a youth board/council so they could help shape and be involved in moving EPIC Youth forward.

Lindsey Hyde, UK Programme Manager from EPIC Youth, was also asked by Lambeth council to give a presentation on EPIC Youth as part of their National Care Leavers week (Be inspired). Rennae, a young person on the programme, accompanied her and as well as answering questions from the young people explained her journey from January to be ready to launch her own business by December. Lindsey explained how the programme worked and how they could access the support by different referral streams. Shared success stories from some of the young people that are on the programme and will soon be ready to launch.

Lindsey said “It’s been great to work in collaboration with different parts of the network, care leavers trust and allow people to find out more about EPIC and the amazing work we do. We love supporting our care leavers and hope the workshops help them to learn and grow.”

Find out more about the foundation and EPIC youth by clicking here.

No, seriously – I have a dream too!

No, seriously – I have a dream too!

This month the Martin James Network are celebrating and supporting Black History month. We have events, workshops and support going on throughout the month as well key talking points from colleagues around the business. In the latest blog, Cliff discusses what BHM means to him and what having a dream is all about.

Hey, my name is Cliff Faulder and I recently had a dream. In all fairness, I often have dreams.

Some involve world cup winning goals, others involve me eating the world’s largest marshmallow only to awake and find I have nearly devoured my pillow!

But I do have one recurring dream. A dream that feels like a millennial update on the great Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech.

My dream is a little less profound and very simple.

My dream as an entrepreneur, businessman, husband, father, and son is that my attainment in life is not seen as an achievement. But just standard, fair, and well…. just what you’d expect from the average black dude.

Sadly, in 2020, this is still not the case for all sections of society. Every black person you know will understand exactly what I mean when I refer to phrases like, “doing well for a black person”, or ,“it’s not often you meet many people like you in senior positions”.

The uncomfortable truth is that those statements are often true.

So how is it that in today’s day and age successful people of colour are still largely seen as an anomaly? Is it a lack of drive, ambition, or aptitude?

Of course not.

But it has everything to do with how we see and acknowledge what black people and other people of colour are capable of and how they have contributed to the world we all live in.

Are we conditioned to dream big dreams for people of colour and expect great things from them in the same way we do of those with European heritage?

If not, why not?

Who kills those dreams?

As a black child growing up in 70s, 80s and 90s Britain, I was acutely aware that I should treasure my dreams as they were the only thing that the world could not limit.

You see, in my dreams about the life I wanted to live, I could accomplish anything! Become a doctor – yes, no problem. Be an astronaut – easy peasy. In my mind, I only had to conceive the notion and allow my imagination to do the rest.

As I grew throughout my primary school years, something began to change. Adults in a position to influence me, such as teachers or community figures, began to discourage my ambitious dreams and replace them with what they thought was realistic for a black boy.

Gone was the encouragement to attain careers that took skill and academic achievement. What replaced it was throwaway comments like “you’d make a good basketball player” – not due to even a passing interest on my part but more to that fact that I fit a racial profile and was tall enough to evoke a lazy stereotype.

Even as a child I understood that other people’s limited perceptions of who I was or what I could be was down to their own limitations of what they knew.

Afterall, if the only black people they knew were poor or famous athletes/entertainers, telling me I could grow up to be a basketball player was most likely their version of a compliment.

So, I began to think about how I would educate the masses. How could I persuade the world to consider that yes, many young black children may well be gifted sportsmen and women but just as many can lay claim to being exceptional in a variety of industries.

The challenge I set myself as a child is as relevant today as it was then. That challenge was primarily to expose people to more knowledge of exactly what people of colour have contributed to the world in all its facets and forms.

Firstly, I had to upskill myself and supplement the history taught in school curriculums with additional knowledge about how black people also appeared in the narrative. For instance, I like many of you learned about the first and second world wars. I however took special interest in identifying how many black soldiers fought and died in those wars.

Alas my many visits to war museums, such as the Tank Museum in Bovington on the Dorset coast, failed to have even one picture of a black person on display – let alone information of how people of colour have paid the ultimate price in the name of Queen and country.

In this link you may get a sense of how unjust this is.,served%20in%20uniformed%20Labour%20Units.

While there are many examples like the one found in the link below, it is clear that while amazing contributions have been made, they can often go unrecognised.

This is why Black History Month is necessary.

It is necessary because information of this type fuels dreams. It allows people to expand their mind to accept that the advancement of humankind can be found in all men and women of all colours and cultures.

In short, it’s great to recognise what black folks have done in the past and acknowledge what they can do in the future. It’s great to upskill each other through the sharing of knowledge and brave conversations.

I can’t wait to dream a new dream where Black History Month is not necessary because it’s just what we learn about in our everyday lives.

I have a dream that this is the new normal.

Cliff Faulder, Philanthropist, Managing director of AboutFace, Creator of the “Bravery Award”, Liverpool fc supporter and Social commentator. (LinkedIn –