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Five minutes with… Sarah Bentley

Sarah Bentley is chief executive at Tandem, the Darlington-based charity providing tailored support to help people back into employment. Here, she tells Steven Hugill about its mission, the importance of service flexibility and how a recent name change is helping it push forward growth plans.


Founded nearly three decades ago, Tandem provides skills, training and personal development guidance to around 500 individuals across Darlington and the Tees Valley every year. How do its frameworks help people find employment?

We help people in Darlington and the local area reach their full potential.

We particularly support people who are struggling to find employment, helping them gain skills and qualifications, and increase their wellbeing and confidence through positive experiences, so they have a wider choice of opportunities and earning potential.

Our flexible frameworks allow us to tailor support to an individual level.

People need our help for lots of different reasons; it is much more than just gaining skills and qualifications.

We can provide training and access to accredited courses and qualifications, in a welcoming and positive space, and have strong connections with employers.


The world of work is constantly evolving, meaning employers’ skills demands are equally ever-changing. How is that reflected in Tandem’s support?

Our wide network ensures we stay up to date with the needs of employers and the barriers people face.

We are a small team, so we can adapt our provision quickly, which ensures our support is dynamic.

Our flexible approach ensures we provide exactly what is needed by both employers and the people we support.

We became an accredited training centre a few years ago, meaning we can deliver a range of accredited in-house training, further increasing our flexibility to respond to changing needs.

As well as our base at Tandem Hub, which is our meeting and conference space, we work on an outreach basis from community venues across Darlington.

Our networking links with local and regional providers, organisations and employers mean we stay informed about what works well, so we can adapt our offer and help more people.


The organisation was, until recently, known as Morrison Trust. What was the reason behind the name change, and how will the new moniker support future goals?

We’ve loved being Morrison Trust, but we thought there was an opportunity to have a name and identity that made what we do clearer.

So, after 27 years as Morrison Trust, we are now Tandem and Tandem Hub.

Our new name came through a collaborative approach that involved our whole team, as well as participants and other stakeholders.

We chose Tandem because it works so well to describe what we do; we have two sides to our organisation – our projects and Tandem Hub.

We worked with design company Sail Creative on the rebrand and our new name, and we’re delighted with the results.

Our new identity feels authentic and really shows the values that drive what we do – inclusion, collaboration, valuing people and equality.

However, while our name and logo may have changed, genuine care and tailored support remains as important to us as ever.


Tandem has received support from Tyne and Wear Community Foundation’s Growth and Resilience Fund. What will that be used for?

We were fortunate in securing the funding to raise our profile and increase awareness of the support available through our projects.

We have some great, flexible space at Morton Park, which works well for companies and organisations to use for training, meetings, staff away days, conferences and exhibitions.

And all of the profit we make from Tandem Hub is reinvested back into the charity.


With the organisation set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2025, what does the next decade and beyond hold for Tandem? How do you plan to continue its successes?

We want to continue to be accessible and available to everyone in Darlington, becoming even more integral within the support network across the town by developing our relationships with local organisations.

We want to help more people have greater employment choices and deliver economic growth in Darlington.

We know many people are struggling with the impact of the pandemic, and we are seeing an increase in need for support around mental health, anxiety, worry and isolation.

Over the last few years, we have increased our support around wellbeing and we now hold regular relaxation sessions, with an arts and crafts group meeting every other week.

We offer a range of personal development sessions, including confidence building, assertiveness, anxiety and boundaries, and work with a trained counsellor.

It’s very difficult to think about moving into work if you’re struggling with these issues, so we want to continue to build on our holistic support.

Our focus over the next five years will be to increase access to our support, develop our links into communities and continue to recognise the importance of quality in all we do.