In the current political climate of austerity and cuts, the social care sector is under pressure. People are struggling or ‘Just about managing’ and support for those who need it is reactive rather than preventative – it doesn’t seem to appear until the worst has happened. At the other end of the scale, in the private business sector, there is the growing trend of encouraging employees to donate some of their working week to good causes. It increases morale, adds to employee skills and looks good for the company as a whole. One person saw the lack of funds in one place and the desire to help in another, and put the two together.
Rebecca White, founder of Your Own Place, is an experienced teacher and trainer, with time spent in Children’s Services, homelessness outreach, working with street gangs and running programs in prisons. She witnessed young people, often leaving care or being released from prison, failing at maintaining their first tenancy and become at risk of homelessness, or falling back into crime. The majority of these young people were at risk of losing their first tenancy simply through lack of day-to-day life skills. Things like managing a household budget, choosing the cheapest energy provider, being able to understand council letters and organising important documents. Not having these skills can make independent living difficult and ultimately lead to problems with paying rent and keeping a roof over their head.
Your Own Place was founded as a social enterprise to provide these skills and support through mentoring. Rebecca says “businesses can buy in as an HR service, and Your Own Place will train their staff to become our Volunteer Tenancy Mentors. We provide two days of training, DBS checks and interviews, at the end of which each volunteer will be matched with a young person in need of support. Volunteer Tenancy Mentoring is a great development opportunity for any businesses staff and the staff are able to continue their professional development and expand their own skills.”
Mentors usually give one hour a week or fortnight to their volunteer roles and provide a variety of support. “The key things we support young people with are employment skills, digital skills and money skills” says Rebecca. From just having someone to talk to over a coffee to invaluable budgeting guidance and computer skills, mentoring of this kind could make the difference between a young person having a solid start in their independence or living on the streets. “We’re trying to prevent the ‘revolving door’ – the cycle of someone moving into and out of supported living without ever managing on their own – and to actually be able to be successfully independent”. Currently based in Norfolk, Your Own Place has plans to expand into Suffolk and hopefully nationwide.
Local businesses who want to give something back, as well as give their staff a great development opportunity, need to invest time as well as money if they really want to make an impact. Social enterprise needs backing and support to really work. If your staff would benefit from expanding their skills and your business would like to give something back, contact Rebecca White at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07530 028446
Link to mentoring page http://www.yourownplace.org.uk/our-services/volunteer-tenancy-mentoring/