Veolia’s ‘Road to Work’ programme will have helped 100 homeless and vulnerable people to get back into work in London by the end of the month.
The scheme employs people in admin or street cleaner roles in Westminster, and provides specialised support services such as counselling and housing advice, as well as flexible working hours.
Veolia has put the scheme together with Westminster City Council and central London homeless charity The Connection.
Once a person is employed through the programme, he or she also has access to the full range of training and career development offered by Veolia.
Due to the scheme’s success, it has now become a permanent part of the company’s employment targets within Westminster and could be expanded into other contracts.
Veolia senior contract manager Helder Branco said the 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”.
He added that the success of the scheme was due to the collaboration and strong relationships it has with the council and charity.
He added: “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 that 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.”
Council member for housing services Andrew Smith said: “Sometimes all people need is an opportunity, in an environment where they will be supported.
“Veolia is making a 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.”
Successful ‘Road to Work’ candidate John Richards* said: “I’d worked all my life and had more than 20 years’ experience in the catering industry as a chef. When I moved to England from Italy in 2010, I 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 affected my ability to pay for the 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 is 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 judgment 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 would 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.”
*Name of candidate has been modified for privacy reasons