Social Bite debuts initiative to boost job opportunities for homeless

Social Bite has launched what it says is a pioneering initiative to help transform the access people who have experienced homelessness have to job opportunities across the UK.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 4:46 pm

The social enterprise said that through its new Jobs First programme, it will work directly with some of the UK’s biggest employers to help break down the barriers people who have been homeless face on their path to employment

To date, businesses including hospitality food service provider BaxterStorey, restaurant, pub and bar operator Mitchells & Butlers, and Andron Facilities Management have signed up with a plan to help create 60 employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. The program is being part-funded through a grant from the Oak Foundation, which says it addresses issues of global, social and environmental concern.

Social Bite stressed that its initiative, which guarantees living-wage employment for each participant, will provide “wrap-around” support for both the employer and employee.

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Josh Littlejohn, CEO and co-founder of Social Bite, with George Watson - who has kick-started the programme. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

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Each Jobs First employee will be allocated a support worker from Social Bite who will help them throughout the programme and their employment contract, meeting weekly to offer practical support on bills and forms, as well as emotional guidance to adapt to working life.

Social Bite will train each employer to help them appropriately guide the employee while the support worker will help facilitate appraisal processes and employee progress.

The social enterprise said the move comes amid fears that more people are set to experience homelessness, due to the end of the furlough scheme, and increased living costs, for example – while there is also currently a lack of workers to fill vacancies.

A worker named George Watson has kick-started the programme, taking on his role with BaxterStorey, which supplies Royal Bank of Scotland’s Gogarburn base where Social Bite recently opened a café.

Josh Littlejohn, chief executive and co-founder of Social Bite, said: “Social Bite started life nine years ago by offering jobs in a small café to people who had experienced homelessness, and over that time we have seen the power of employment to change lives.

“Too often, the response to people experiencing homelessness is to ‘get a job’ – however, it’s not that easy. That’s why the Jobs First programme is so important.

Blueprint

“At a time when the UK is facing a serious labour shortage, we are incredibly proud to be partnering with major employers to deliver a program of scale throughout the UK that can act as a blueprint for how we can provide employment opportunities for homeless and marginalised people.”

Social Bite added that over the past four years, it has supported 34 people into employment from a background of homelessness and in total, one quarter of its workforce has been homeless at some point.

Of the 34, many have moved into jobs with other companies, some into higher education, “and in many cases, they have developed careers within Social Bite”. These learnings have formed the basis for rolling out Jobs First across the UK, the organisation added.

Caroline Bacigalupo, operations manager at BaxterStorey, said: “Jobs First is a fantastic programme and we’re proud to be working with Social Bite to offer training and employment opportunities to people who were previously homeless.”

Mr Watson said: “I am grateful for the Jobs First programme and hope it will help many others into employment."

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