25 years ago Oakleaf became a registered charity working to help people aged 16-67 with their mental health. In 1997 there were 40 clients and 5 members of staff. Last year, 40 staff members gave assistance to 877 people and there are currently 461 clients being helped, for periods anywhere from several weeks to several years. There are also 50-60 volunteers available. In 2021, 53 clients were helped to find paid or voluntary employment, and the “Pathways to Work” project gives tailored employment training and mentoring thereby helping clients to find work. It helps with interview skills, for example.

At their premises in Walnut Tree Close are their offices, but also rooms for counselling, IT training, meetings, talks and upholstery work on chairs and furniture. Furthermore, there is a “Safe Haven” room which is open 6pm-11pm every day of the year. It’s an informal place where a person can come for support for their emotional or mental health, and an appointment is not necessary. Trained staff will be there including a psychiatric nurse and crisis support can be provided. A Young Adult Safe Haven is also open every day 5pm-9pm, where a person aged 18-25 can talk openly and in confidence about their feelings and emotions. If they are in crisis they can be referred to the Safe Haven, which is next door.

Oakleaf has links to the Surrey Chamber of Commerce and at the end of 2021 the Mental Health Leaders Network was launched. It brings together Surrey businesses committed to addressing workplace mental well-being, and it gives them training and support so that they can better help their staff when needed.

Oakleaf pursues social enterprises and has some funding from the Enterprise Development Programme. It produces greeting cards, tea towels, oven gloves, wash bags and cushions, all using the original artwork of its clients. Furthermore, it earns money by supplying garden maintenance services, with three members of staff working full time.

The High Sheriff and his Chaplain Rev. Canon Robert Cotton warmly thank Jen Clay, Head of Partnerships and Engagement, and Clive Stone the CEO of Oakleaf, for giving them their time and for answering their questions. They now better appreciate the tremendous support being given to so many clients, enabling them to gain the skills, training and confidence needed to manage their mental and physical health and return to work. They help those who have become socially isolated or even homeless. Each client is given a pathway to match their needs, and regular one-to-one support. It’s a wonderful charity and very many congratulations are due to it upon its 25th Anniversary.