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Council partners with leading homeless charity to offer learning and life skills

Photo caption: Recovery College students can learn horticultural skills to help them get back on their feet.

THE city council is celebrating the official launch of a new service that offers learning, training and employment support to people recovering from homelessness.

Based in the council’s Dawn Centre, the Recovery College has been brought to the city by leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s.

Delivered in partnership with the council, local businesses and the community, the St Mungo’s Recovery College first opened in September 2019, and has since supported hundreds of clients to take up free courses, vocational training and learn vital skills as they rebuild their lives.

Briefly forced to close during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now offering a redeveloped programme, with an increased focus on employment, gardening and maintaining work.

A team of employment specialists are providing  intensive, individual support to those facing unemployment and homelessness, and building relationships with local employers to create opportunities in line with clients’ skills and interests.

These include St Mungo’s award-winning garden training project – Putting Down Roots – which has a permanent site on council land in Highfields. The project is supported by St Mungo’s corporate partner Barrat Developments. It provides a gardening trainer who works alongside clients to teach them the horticultural skills needed to grow a wide selection of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

And with the support of Taylor Wimpey and the city council, a new construction skills programme will train and prepare Recovery College clients for finding work in the construction sector.

After completing the course, clients will have access to work placements, apprenticeships and jobs through St Mungo’s partnerships with local employers, as well as employment support and funding for tools, clothing and professional certifications.

Other courses on offer include Arts and Crafts, IT skills, Maths and English, Life Coaching, Digital Confidence and Digital Employability. Referrals to the St Mungo’s Recovery College primarily come from housing providers, job centres, hostels and supported accommodation, and homelessness service providers across the city.

Adam Rees, Service Director for the St Mungo’s Recovery College, said: “After such a challenging past two years, we’re so proud that the Leicester Recovery College is once again able to offer our clients the chance to learn, grow and be inspired. 

“The relaunch is a testament to the hard work of our dedicated staff and volunteers, and the collaboration with Leicester City council and the local community. And none of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors and partnerships with Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments, whose staff volunteered so much of their time and resources to bring this to life.

“We know from previous Recovery College clients that learning can be a life-changing experience that makes a real difference to people’s recovery and wellbeing. By offering a variety of development opportunities, we hope to empower our clients in Leicester with confidence and skills to progress towards work.”

Councillor Elly Cutkelvin, Leicester Assistant City Mayor for Housing, said: “People who have been homeless for a long time need much more than accommodation to rebuild their lives. They also need help to obtain the skills they need to find work, manage their income, and keep the accommodation they find. The lack of employment, education and training opportunities on offer to them makes this extremely hard.

“We’re therefore delighted that St Mungo’s chose to come to Leicester and work with us to provide this vital support. They have a wealth of skill and knowledge in this area and an excellent track record in working with people to end homelessness and rebuild lives.

“Although the Recovery College was forced to close during the pandemic, we’ve already established a fantastic partnership, which has grown to make use of our construction skills centre in Beaumont Leys, and has also won the backing of Barratt Developments who have enabled St Mungo’s garden training project to get under way in Highfields.

“We look forward to working with more local businesses and the local community, as we develop this exciting initiative.”

David Thomas, Chief Executive of Barratt Developments, said: “We are proud of our BD Living employees whose volunteering work was really useful bringing the new Recovery College to life. As the country’s largest housebuilder it is important that we support homelessness charities and our work with St Mungo’s through their innovative Putting Down Roots programme helps to do that. It will be great to now see their Leicester clients learn new gardening skills aiding their recovery.” 

Anne Billson-Ross, Chair of the Taylor Wimpey Charity Committee, said: “We are delighted to be working with St Mungo's on developing a new Construction Skills programme which will provide exciting training opportunities in a dedicated facility at the Recovery College. Our partnership further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to help bridge the skills gap within the construction industry.”

The city council’s Dawn Centre project provides temporary accommodation in 42 rooms, as well as help with housing, health, life-skills and education for homeless people. Located in Conduit Street, it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

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Photo caption: Recovery College students can learn horticultural skills to help them get back on their feet.