Why I volunteer for BASE : Mel Walls

Mel Walls, talks about why she loves being a BASE volunteer, representing Supported Business members and working with colleagues on the National Executive Committee where she is the National Lead for Supported Businesses. She's worked for Shaw Trust for over 15 years in a variety of roles but is currently the National Supported Employment and Training Manager where she has autonomy within her role and enjoys weaving together Shaw Trust and BASE's strategies and direction, which happily align with each other.

How did I become interested in Supported Businesses?

My initial experience of Supported Businesses was in Greater Manchester where we had Metrolite and Cheadle Royal Industries; I placed our Workstep clients with more complex needs at both. In 2010, Shaw Trust won 16 Work Choice Contract Package Areas which included 46 Supported Businesses who came into our portfolio for their Protected Place funding. Recognising that the specialist funding these Supported Businesses had ringfenced was at risk, likely to end in 2015, in 2012 I set up a working group with not only our Supported Businesses but others who were equally concerned but in other Primes areas. Over a few years, my Shaw Trust working group became its own entity as the Supported Business Alliance. In 2014, BASE asked me to join the NEC and represent Supported Business members on a wider scale. In 2015, we set up the Supported Business Steering Group.


Access to Work Plus

Here I am, 8 years later, pleased by our collective achievements to develop a specialist funding stream ‘Access to Work Plus’, which if all goes well, will be future proofed and offer new employment opportunities for those with more complex needs and disabilities.  As our funding expands, the need for support to all of those Social Enterprises, Supported Businesses and Supportive Employers who could be eligible will increase. Our guidance and experience will be invaluable to them and is where I feel we will be most needed in the next 12 month.


My mission

I always like to have a mission, most recently to improve all of our experiences with Access to Work.  Not only for us, but also for Access to Work Colleagues who have shared their own findings on what we get wrong, could improve on and how we can save everyone’s time. I have been delivering my workshop covering 'Access to Work , Handy Hints & Tips' over the past 9 months, collecting each audience's advice and recommendations and adding to my workshop, for everyone else to benefit from. I've built up a wealth of knowledge of how to get Access to Work claims from application to approval stage and I'm always happy to share what I've learned so far with members. 


BASE is hoping to host another of Mel's workshop soon, if you're interested in attending please email us