Groundbreaking Initiative Is A Tower Of Support For Ex-Offenders And Those In Recovery
Not many social enterprises can boast attracting half a million pounds of funding and employing five people in the first six months. But then, Jobs, Friends and Houses is not like most social enterprises.The driving force behind the communiy interest company is a serving police officer and Sergeant Steve Hodgkins has seen how the abstinence community and ex-offenders are bottom of the pile when it comes to getting a job.
“What they need are Jobs, Friends and Houses,” said Steve.
So, with the blessing of his senior officers in the Lancashire force, he initiated the social enterprise that would essentially buy, renovate and sell houses using the skills of the people that the company aims to support. The idea is not new. Similar projects have taken place in Bristol, the Midlands and North Wales so Steve contacted their leaders and is now part of a loose consortium that is bidding for private finance.
Sgt Hodgkins was supported by staff at Social Enterprise Solutions CIC in Blackpool who were working on the ERDF-backed Start Up Lancashire programme, which is administered by Regenerate Pennine Lancashire and the Social Enterprise Lancashire Network, Selnet. The team helped to incorporate the new company as a CIC, explained the small print of the company, worked with Steve on the governance issue for the board and then scoped out a business plan.
The new enterprise has hit the ground running and was successful in a partnership bid with Blackpool Council to attract £450,000 because of the innovative way it was helping to get this community from benefits and into employment.
But the surprising aspect of the business has been how a range of organisations have been quick to offer their services to help Jobs, Friends and Houses CIC get off the ground.
• Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner
• Arts Council
• NHS England
• The Rank Foundation
• Rider Levett Bucknall, a global property firm
• Building contractors Eclipse Development
• Blackpool and the Fylde College’s Build Up centre
• Napthens Solicitors
• And a range of local universities, keen to evaluate its success
One private sector company in particular, Blackpool-based Danbro Accountants, were so impressed with the work that they are now planning to train one of the new recruits in accountancy skills so eventually he will be in a position to manage the finances of the CIC.
And, while Sgt Hodgkins is happy with the progress, he is also keen to ensure that it has a firm foundation. More work is being done to strengthen the board of directors to incorporate public, private and third sector representatives and ensure transparency so that the company can start to tender for property contracts and secure preferred bidder status. A local firm of HR specialists is also preparing bespoke contracts for the members of staff, tailored around the personal circumstances of the new staff.
Start Up Lancashire was also able to offer support to Jobs, Friends and Houses CIC when it came to procuring a website. Through the Enterprise Voucher initiative, 50% of the cost of the web design agency have been met.