By the end of this month Veolia’s Road to Work programme will have provided around 100 homeless people with a potentially life changing opportunity - the chance to join the dedicated team keeping the streets of Westminster clean.
In partnership with Westminster City Council, and working with central London homeless charity, The Connection, Veolia has designed and piloted a return to work scheme for the homeless and vulnerable, which combines specialised support services like counselling, housing and advice, with flexible workplace arrangements.
Once employed with Veolia, candidates will have access to the full range of training and development opportunities offered by the company. Veolia was recently awarded with the London Healthy Workplace Charter accreditation and aims to provide fulfilling careers, a positive working environment and a healthy work-life balance for all it’s employees.
Since the pilot launched in 2017, over 90 homeless and long term unemployed people have been offered workplace opportunities in the form of street cleansing and admin roles. Candidates are supported with modified work hours to assist with the transition, and are given on and off the job support, to ensure the candidate has every opportunity to succeed.
John Richards*, successful Veolia Road to Work candidate said: “I’d worked all my life and had over 20 years experience in the catering industry as a chef. When I moved to England from Italy in 2010, I even worked as a sous chef and head chef in gastro pubs.
During my last job at a pub in Camden, my weekly pay was switched to monthly. This instantly impacted my ability to pay for my long commute to work and to make my rent repayments. Within a few short weeks I’d lost my job and home, and found myself living between shelters and the streets.
After three months, the shelter I stayed at presented an opportunity to work with Veolia as a street cleanser. I had limited experience but I was determined to get back on my feet, whatever it took. I had always been a hard worker and despite my current situation I wanted to take the first opportunity I had to get back into work.
It’s hard to believe that I’m now coming up to a full year at Veolia. I’m happy with the environment I work in, the people are friendly and have shown no judgement for how I came to be here. I also have hopes to further my skills and progress within the company in the near future.
I rent a studio flat and am in a position where I can support myself financially again, which is very rewarding.
I’d like to give some advice to those experiencing homelessness, like I once did; There are options for support out there and the possibility to work again can be very real, if you’re motivated. My experience is that people have been more than happy to help me and I want those struggling to know there is hope and opportunities for a better life.”
As a result of its success, the scheme will now be a permanent part of Veolia’s employment targets within Westminster and has the potential to expand into other contracts.
Helder Branco, Senior Contract Manager for Veolia said:
“The Road to Work Programme is very close to my heart and one that I’m proud to say is working, and making a difference to those in need.
“The success of the trial is a reflection of the collaboration and strong relationships we have with Westminster City Council and The Connection, which allows specialised support services for the individual.
“Due to the size of our workforce, we have the potential to offer regular workplace opportunities and hope to bring a significant number of people through the scheme. However, we recognise the circumstances of vulnerable people entering the role mean they will need significant support to succeed. Our partnership approach makes the long term success of the individual a priority.”
Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council member for housing services, said: “Sometimes all people need is an opportunity, in an environment where they will be supported.
“Veolia are making a real tangible difference to people’s lives. We want Westminster to be a place where we try out ideas like this one, which can then be rolled out across the country and help more people.”
Veolia will join Westminster City Council at their upcoming job fair, where London’s homeless and vulnerable can meet directly with firms looking for staff, as well as a team of advisors offering tips to job seekers about live vacancies. The fair will be held on Wednesday 1 May at the Landsec offices, 80 Victoria Street (SW1E 5JL), between the hours of 12pm and 3pm.
*Name of candidate has been modified for privacy reasons