An allotment owner in Knowsley is helping to sow the seeds of success for a group of local residents being supported into employment through Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Households into Work programme.
Amy Hill, from Knowsley, has opened the gates to her allotment to a team of Households into Work clients who are preparing to enter the world of education, training and work, in the hope that it will help them to learn transferable skills they can take forward in their career.
Households into Work was launched in 2018 by Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, as a pilot project to support long-term unemployed people who have difficulty finding and sustaining employment.
Since the programme started, around 2,700 people have been supported, many of whom have either never worked or been long-term unemployed, with nearly 400 successfully finding work.
Amy, who is Knowsley’s Household into Work Employment Advocate, said, “I never thought my allotment would become part of a project like this. People all bring different skills with them and learn how to work as part of a team which will obviously help them when they return to work. There’s a lovely little community now and they’re starting to do things outside of the allotment as well. It’s brilliant to see it coming on and see other people get the same benefit out of it as we do.”
The aptly named ‘SucSeed’ project grew from a lightbulb moment in lockdown when Amy wondered if her clients would get the same benefits as she had from her recently acquired allotment.
Using it as part of the one-to-one dedicated support offered as part of the initiative, Amy and her colleagues began to use the allotment to provide sessions for their clients, planting fruit, vegetables and tending flowers while improving their mental health and wellbeing, developing confidence and building social skills, tackling isolation, gathering work related skills and getting into a routine of work.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region visited the allotment to meet some of the people taking part. He said, “For far too long, too many people in our region have been held back from fulfilling their true potential – not because of a lack of talent, but a lack of opportunity. Households into Work is helping to put that right.
“Thanks to the drive and selfless ideas of advocates like Amy, we’re helping to give local people opportunities that they wouldn’t previously have been offered. This is about helping them to get out of the house and build their confidence interacting with other people, improve their team work and learning other transferable skills that, hopefully, will help to put them in a position where they feel ready to take that first step on the career ladder, whether that’s through education, training or employment.
“Households into Work is a far cry from the sanctions-first approach too often taken by the government and DWP. We treat people as human beings and work with them to develop their confidence and abilities, offering them support rather than sanctions.
“I want people in our area who find themselves out of work to know that, thanks to devolution, we are here to help them get back on track and build a better future for them and their families. We’ve already made a huge difference to thousands of people’s lives by giving them the confidence boost they need to get back into the work environment and find their first secure job in years.”
Andy is one of the clients who has been benefitting from the SucSeed programme. He said, “I’ve been on the scheme for about five months and when my advocate Phil mentioned the allotment to me I jumped at the chance. It’s allowed me to get out of the house and gain new skills. I’ve always liked gardening and growing crops and I love being able to give what I’ve grown to my neighbours. It’s been incredibly beneficial to me.”
Councillor Janette Williamson, the Combined Authority’s Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector, said, “The way our Households into Work advocates go above and beyond to help the people they are working with is truly inspirational. The range of skills that people are developing by working together on Amy’s allotment, as well as the opportunities to gain new qualifications, will stand them in such good stead in the future. It is this human approach that sets Households into Work apart and has made it so successful and I look forward to it continuing to benefit local people in years to come.”
Knowsley Council Leader Graham Morgan said, “It’s such a positive way forward for the Household into Work clients in Knowsley to move back towards education, training and employment, particularly with a project that is supporting our environment and making use of the spaces within our communities.”
Mayor Joanne Anderson, the Combined Authority’s Portfolio Holder for Education, Skills, Equality and Diversity said, “What a fantastic idea of Amy’s to share the benefits of her own allotment with the people she works with and it’s great to hear that her project is being replicated in similar ways by Households into Work in the other areas of the city region. I look forward to finding out more about the horticulture qualifications that are on offer.”
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority recently agreed to a £2m package to sustain the programme until at least the end of March 2024, after its current European Social Fund (ESF) ends in December 2022. Due to Britain’s departure from the European Union, there is currently a 15-month gap until the programme can be funded from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which the government has introduced to replace European funding.
The programme has a team of 32 based in each of the six Liverpool City Region local authority areas. They work on an outreach basis with long-term unemployed people who are dealing with a range of issues, including financial crises, mental health problems, the risk of eviction or homelessness, domestic abuse, social isolation or chronic health issues.
Other members of the household are also encouraged to join the programme so that the issues can be addressed collectively as well as individually. To find out more or to refer someone to Households into Work, go to https://www.liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk/what-we-do/households-into-work/
Image: Mayor Steve Rotheram pictured with Households into Work staff and clients