The Wallich held an event at the Senedd this week exploring how businesses can provide employment opportunities for people who have experienced homelessness.
The event was attended by representatives from the political and business sectors as well as people with experience of finding work after a period of homelessness. Lesley Griffiths AM, previously the Minister with responsibility for Housing, sponsored the event and highlighted the positive changes to tackling homelessness in Wales over recent years.
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Business Partner Panel
Some of The Wallich’s business partners took part in a panel to discuss their experiences of successfully offering employment opportunities and training programmes for homeless people. They attributed their successes to seeing past potential barriers at the outset of their schemes:
Andy Tonkin, Laing O’Rourke: “You can’t focus on what might go wrong. The Wallich is good with people and breaking down barriers and we work with Acorn who offer a good employment model”.
Wayne Phillips, PS Group: “There’s always an element of trust and we trust The Wallich to signpost us to good people and we saw that during their workshops. There is a stigma around homelessness that we must get away from. We need to give a person a chance and someone with a ‘give it a go’ attitude is a no brainer. I’ve seen that the work ethic is strong. Our jobs can be a stepping stone back to aspirations. It is difficult to conceive what being homeless is like”.
Kenny Brown, HM Prison Service: “Partnership working is our strength and we need to get our Prison Officers signposting offenders towards rehabilitation”.
Service User Panel
Finding work when you have been homeless can be difficult. At The Senedd, Alex, Dee and Stuart took seats on a panel to answer questions about their experience of finding work after being homeless. They have each received support from The Wallich to help with their housing issues and were encouraged to undertake learning and development opportunities as part of the support they received.
Alex, who previously worked in higher education, found it daunting to get back into work having spent time outside of a professional environment and was unsure about disclosing a criminal record as part of job application procedures. Taking part in the WISE scheme with The Wallich, he learned about how to approach these issues and discovered that he could take a new career path using the existing skills he had.
Stuart and Dee said that work experience and volunteering was key to them moving back into employment, allowing them to build their confidence as they took on more responsibility. Taking part in training and volunteering schemes with The Wallich has helped them both return to employment.
The Senedd event was held in partnership with Acorn who have been working with The Wallich to find employment opportunities for ex-homeless workers. Dan Langford, Group Marketing Director, Acorn, said
“Acorn is delighted to partner The Wallich in their support for people affected by homelessness. As Wales’ largest and one of the UK’s leading recruitment and training agencies, we recognise how essential it is to provide opportunities for people to get back into work.
This event gave us the opportunity to remind everyone that responsible business should be engrained within the DNA of every organisation – it should be strategic and behavioural, not short-term or tactical.”
The Wallich works closely with the business sector in Wales to change perceptions of employing ex-homeless workers – but we’ve also challenged our own procedures to ensure we’re leading by example. Supporting our service users to volunteer both internally and externally is key to gaining work experience and we have recently celebrated the milestone of ensuring that 1/5 of our workforce have lived experience of homelessness.
In business and want to help homeless people find work? Contact us or visit our Corporate Partnerships page to find out how you can get involved.