Wakefield's long term unemployed are being encouraged to overcome barriers to employment by creating their own careers.

Sustain Wakefield, part of Yorkshire charity Turning Lives Around which works to prevent homelessness, has secured £20,000 from the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Community Grants Programme to roll out a 20 week programme to help up to 16 people aged 16-50+ set up their own businesses.

The programme – Self-Employment: Create Your Own Career! – is due to start in the New Year and will be delivered in partnership with social enterprise See Ahead which specialises in helping the long term unemployed set up their own businesses by working with them to develop ideas, do market research, write a business plan including the financial elements and then launch.

Sustain is working with the referral agencies delivering Wakefield’s Supported Housing Pathways to recruit people who often live is some of the UK’s most deprived areas for education and skilled jobs. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, nine of the 12 weekly workshops will be online with three delivered in person at St Catherine’s Church Community Hub where Sustain is based. There will also be one to one coaching sessions plus peer networking.

“We want to give people the confidence to start their own business and return to a place of work whether it is at home or elsewhere. We want them to understand there is flexibility in the workplace and they can work the hours they want while earning a living wage,” explained Fran Lomax, Volunteer and Peer Development Coordinator for housing support service Sustain which works with vulnerable adults, couples and families at risk of homelessness in Wakefield.

A regular income and the self-esteem that comes from being self-sufficient is a significant factor in enabling people to live fulfilling independent lives and reducing their risk of homelessness.

Previous participants on programmes of this kind have gone on to a wide range of self-employment opportunities including lifestyle businesses such as home helps, cleaning and gardening services, window cleaning and childminding.

Fran added: “Many of the clients we support are capable of working but lack the confidence and self-belief to do so. They have found traditional routes to employment challenging due to a lack of qualifications, experience and skills. Some, due to mental or physical ill-health or offending history have found themselves excluded from the workplace. This programme aims to improve confidence, provide a viable alternative to paid employment and the support to succeed.”