Torso shot of Jill Clifford wearing angel wings

Jill Clifford

Jill Clifford has been nominated by Nickala Torkington of Flourish CIC. Jill says “I have always been interested in helping others and set up various projects to benefit the community from local fundraising activities to promote local small businesses in the Saddleworth and Oldham areas.

Ever since I came across Flourish several years ago and first heard about social entrepreneurs, I realised that I am one! With a background in teaching and an interest in mental health, wellbeing and supporting others, I just needed to find my purpose and how my skills could best make a difference.

Through mentoring, I saw I needed to re-look at my ideas and have spent the last few years re-training as a counsellor, even delivering training in mental health and counselling (Levels 2&3) for a local charity.”


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Who have you helped/who will you help?

“My vision is to see a world where mental health is openly talked about as much as physical health is and one where everyone is able to access the mental health support as and when they need it.

My mission is to provide affordable counselling to those that currently are on long waiting lists or not able to access services due to costs of going private. I’m about to complete Level 4 training at Level with the aim of setting up my own organisation to provide counselling and teaching of mental health training and counselling.

I set up Guardian Angels Help for inspiration and information on all things mental health on social media in 2012. Once rebranded, this will be a social enterprise providing both one-to-one counselling support and a wider range of health, wellbeing, and personal development activities.”

I have supported many people in my community in a range of ways and it’s great that I was able to approach Flourish last year as I was coming to the end of my official counselling training, reciprocating by mentoring others, sharing my journey, and speaking at events in the hope of inspiring others.

We’ve also set up a win-win partnership where I have carried out one-to-one counselling support free of charge to women who are unemployed or underemployed on the ‘Time to Grow’ Programme.

This has helped me build my portfolio of experience whilst also helping a diverse range of women who are overcoming a broad range of setbacks to lead the change they see needed in communities.”

What’s worked?

“Connecting with like-minded women through Flourish has both inspired me, challenged me, and helped me get to where I am. It has been a great place to help me and my venture evolve, offering support to dip in and out of when I need it.   Friendly faces online and offline have been a boost and helped me to access wider opportunities.

The counselling training that I have received has been a real turning point and has helped me tie my skills and interests together.  I can now see how I can create a sustainable social enterprise to help me get into work that is meaningful whilst supporting others and is a benefit to the community.

My person-centred service offers a non-directive therapeutic approach by listening and helping to facilitate and structure their thoughts and feelings to clarify the issues that are coming up for them. Those who have experienced it say it has been invaluable in allowing them the time to spend on working on both their personal goals and business plans.

I’ve helped them by holding space for them to develop their self-worth, to see their value as a woman in the marketplace and home, and with exploring their barriers, fears, and deep-rooted anxieties in a safe and non-judgemental environment.”

What have you learned? Any challenges?

“Despite having a long-term illness and my own mental health challenges, I have been able to move forward with my plans to set up a sustainable business to improve my own physical, mental, emotional, and financial challenges alongside those in my local communities.  It has not been easy but with the support of Flourish CIC, it has definitely been easier than doing it on my own.

Financial challenges have always been a barrier. Once diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2000, at the start of my teaching career, I have struggled with time in and out of remission and flare-ups affecting my ability to work full-time and sustain employment.

I’ve learned a lot about self-care and now include this in my practice.  I have used this challenge of time limits to create a new way of working for myself via self-employment, where I plan around my self-care needs with an aim of providing myself with an income to be able to sustain myself instead of having to rely on benefits.”

What’s next?

“I’m currently looking at my business plan and how to move forward with a counselling and mental health training social enterprise, rather than my information and inspiration social media Guardian Angels Help.  Financial aspects are important if I want to become financially independent so income generation is my focal point initially.

Subsequently, this will be followed by rebranding to attract the right audience that is ready to buy my services at a ‘transformational change rate’ that will allow me to offer affordable counselling for those that can not afford to wait or pay, whilst providing me with a steady and reliable income and allowing me to be able to work ethically and in a person-centered way with my services, rather than being restricted by funding.”

What advice, contacts, or resources would help you?

“I currently need help with market research so that I can find out who my target audience is for selling my services to and how much they would be willing to pay. I am also trying to build my contacts with corporates and third sector organisations.

I would also be interested in any financial resources and funding opportunities to help fund my pre-startup costs, as I am currently struggling to find funds for travel, insurance, and supervision costs to provide the voluntary free counselling service via Flourish, amounting to approximately £520 whilst only receiving Universal Credit.

Why we’re sharing these stories

Each year, an individual or organisation from each of our five categories plus one exceptional judges’ choice individual is recognised at our annual Igniting Inspiration celebration event.

We publish each and every nomination to raise awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North. While, this year, our physical event had to be deferred, our campaign to spread stories of positive social impact continues – good news is needed!