Multi-award-winning mental health organisation evicted for no reason by Virgin Trains as they endeavour to spread little kindness this Christmas. SOS.
Non-profit social enterprise, Creative Wellbeing, is being evicted from Carlisle Railway Station by Virgin Trains on Thursday 6th December. For no reason whatsoever. Just in time for Christmas.
Creative Wellbeing has been forced to close its doors and unable to plan further provision due to Virgin Trains. It seems Creative Wellbeing have served their purpose to VT who are now prepared to jeopardise the future of this voluntary community mental health organisation and the safety of its materials and equipment built up over six years.
Having secured the contract to profit from the West Coast Main Line (WCML), Virgin Trains no longer needs to create the illusion of supporting initiatives that cater inclusively for all within the community or provide bespoke mental health provision – i.e. Creative Wellbeing. After being strung along for over four years, our specific promise from Virgin Trains of a base from which to build a ‘secure and established’ organisation has come to nought.
While in the very recent process of negotiating our ongoing tenancy of rooms at Carlisle Railway Station with Virgin Trains, we were told, completely out of the blue, to vacate in 14 days. No reasons given. We appealed to their better nature for their reasons and a reasonable timeframe and were given 28 days, until 6th December to vacate.
Virgin Trains are fully aware that we have an enormous amount of materials which we are being expected to move at short notice, with nowhere to go, during the most busy shopping period at the largest railway station in the region. Safety considerations aside, it’s simply not possible.
Virgin Trains were aware that we were away, out of county, for much of November, and have knowingly offered an unworkable timeframe. They have demanded responses to letters that gave no return contact email and have created a hostile environment for Creative Wellbeing at the station, going so far as to specifically tell groups of vulnerable people and carers en route to our most recent session that ‘Creative Wellbeing isn’t on’. We were and had been for most Friday mornings for over four years.
This isn’t the first time Virgin Trains’ staff have been wilfully ignorant and misled vulnerable members of the public.
We were courted to be tenant in Carlisle Railway Station by Virgin Trains and offered our own dedicated space to support their bid for the WCML and, as we understand it, Creative Wellbeing was there to demonstrate Virgin Trains’ corporate responsibility commitments (CSR) to the community and was specifically included in the tender document for the WCML.
According to a recent Virgin Trains Facebook post, “Together with our charity partner, Rethink Mental Illness, we’re on a mission to spread a little kindness this Christmas” #ItsAWonderfulLine.
We’re wondering if these weighty words could be backed up with some consistent behaviour—a strategic partnership and messages of kindness mean nothing when not backed up with meaningful action. In fact, they simply become a noisy misdirection if concurrent actions within the organisation are directly making a voluntary non-profit mental health provision homeless in the meantime.
It makes a mockery of their CSR, the notion of the organisation having any concern for health or wellbeing, let alone due process and is a shame on the many Virgin Trains staff who do, and have, behaved professionally and humanely. Is this the kind of kindness Britain needs? It seems this corporate partnership to promote positive mental health and wellbeing isn’t so much a wonderful line as a wonderful lie.
Consistency matters, not mere PR stunts.
Personal and professional ethics aside, it has demonstrated that the ethos described and committed to in Virgin Trains’ published documents bears little to no resemblance to the reality of how some of their staff behave and how they conduct themselves as an organisation. It is shameful what they are doing, as so many vulnerable people and the organisations that support them will be directly left without their vital support network or a safe place to signpost people to go.
Virgin’s behaviour specifically contradicts not only everything we have been promised over the past four years but also Virgin Trains’ own CSR documents. We feel naive to have taken members of Virgin Staff at their word only to be let down so catastrophically and with such dire consequences for Creative Wellbeing and its many beneficiaries.
We are ground down by the local politics of the station and believe the continuation of our base at Carlisle Railway Station is being made intentionally untenable as a direct result of Virgin Trains’ staff and organisational approach, us being manipulated to believe that we were negotiating tenancy terms only to be told, without explanation, to get out, and the ongoing degenerate behaviour on site by staff that, had they treated a rail customer that way, would have surely ended up on disciplinary measures.
If our only option is to leave then we need a reasonable amount of time to vacate and make arrangements. We asked for a delay of execution until 31st January—just time enough—but were denied. We have been repeatedly promised, by multiple Virgin Trains staff, that there would always be a minimum of six months notice should they need us to vacate. Is it not reasonable for us to expect those promises to be honoured?
In practical terms, it is physically impossible to move the amount of stuff we have in the time given. During the course of this process, two of Creative Wellbeing’s directors and their child were involved in a road traffic accident resulting in severe concussion and whiplash, their car being written off and all of the concomitant hell that goes with such a crash.
Creative Wellbeing has been hailed as a lifeline for community members over the years and built up referrals from the statutory and third sector provision in the areas we deliver. Now all that is in jeopardy and our future up in the air. After years of reassurance and promises, we are truly having the rug pulled out from beneath us on what seems like a whim and in total contradiction to the process that we were specifically led to believe we were engaged with with Virgin Trains and their years of promises. We believe we have some rights and that there are legal protections against this sort of unethical behaviour.
To add to the layers of hypocrisy in Virgin’s behaviour. As they embark on their partner project to support positive mental health and seek to support people affected by suicide, their timing could not have been more acutely inappropriate for us. These abrupt eviction letters came on the week of the four year anniversary of someone extremely close to Rebecca killing themselves by suicide. It was an enormous effort to continue CW after that time but what CW was achieving and the impacts being so positive and life changing for the people involved, that it buoyed us on to continue through that difficult time.
We choose kindness and changing the world through positivity and actions consistent with our ethos and belief in humanity – these aren’t just words – they are a core belief manifested through what we do with Creative Wellbeing.
Can you help?
Can you help spread the word and rally support for us?
Could you help raise funds to support the logistics of moving?
Do you know of or have a venue that could house our supplies and a delivery space that could be made available to us?
Can you help us raise capital for the future of our provision?
If community initiatives, supporting positive mental health, inclusion and organisations that genuinely are invested in building a wellbeing based society and improving people’s lives are of interest to you, please consider what you could do to support us.
We feel that we are between a rock and an unmentionable place, please help.
This is a personal plea, as it’s a personal thing – Creative Wellbeing has made a positive difference to thousands of people’s lives over the years and all that stands to end at the hands of a partner that seemed so full of promise and now turns out to be just another uninterested and unethical organisation with some pretty words. An organisation that actively pursued Creative Wellbeing to be resident at the Station to bolster their offer for the WCML contract. This act of eviction suggests there was nothing to their promises, their pretty words, their CSR, and they are only interested in their own PR stunts and manipulating others to bolster their own profits. Rethink Mental Illness and Samaritans take note. Creative Wellbeing is something we have set up from scratch and presented at national events and conferences. It has been the thing that we have poured time, energy, finances, kindness and love into. Please help if you can.
Virgin Trains, please, see what you are doing in context, and reverse this decision to evict Creative Wellbeing immediately, and perhaps consider starting to deliver on your years of promises. If honouring your commitments is of no interest then please, at least, be reasonable.
#VirginTrains #CreativeWellbeing #DontEvictCreativeWellbeing
#VirginTrainsEvictsMentalHealthService #EvictionOnAWhim #GiantCorporationCrushesAwardWinningCommunityService
#DearMrBranson #RichardBranson #DoYouKnowHowYourStaffBehaveMrBranson
#HaveMercyMrBranson #VirginTrainsDestroysWellbeingServicesWellbeing #VirginTrainsCarlisleTargetsMentalHealthService #VirginTrainsNationalDisgrace #NationalDisgrace #VirginTrainsCreatesTheirOwnPRNightmare #VirginTrainsUnethicalRemovalOfAwardWinningSocialEnterprise #VirginTrainsNotDoingMuchForOurWellbeing #VirginTrainsHampersMentalHealthService #MHFoundation #Samaritans #ItsAWonderfulLie #WordsCountForNothingWithVirginTrains #IKnowTheseHashTagsAreGettingRidiculousButSoIsThisSituation #WhyCommitmentToCSRMatters #ActionsLouderThanPressReleases #StopCreativeWellbeingEviction #DoTheRightThingVirginTrains
Further reading: It’s A Wonderful Lie