Life Change and Progression Award Winner
Nominated by: The Wallich
The Wallich has been housing and supporting people who have experienced homelessness for over 40 years. As well as helping its service users to find housing, it creates learning and employment opportunities to help break the cycle of homelessness.
The Participation and Progression team runs four programmes to help service users gain essential skills and work experience – The BOSS Project, an employability and well-being programme for those with a criminal record in South Wales; a Peer Mentor Scheme to actively engage service users; WISE, a structured employability programme and a Creative Arts programme. Previous service users are heavily involved in designing and delivering the programmes run by the Participation and Progression team. David Bennett, who manages the BOSS Project, says this is key to their success.
“People who have experienced rough sleeping and homelessness can be mistrustful of others – especially people in positions of authority. All our programmes are at least partly run or delivered by people who have lived experience of homelessness. We find this helps to engage service users and build trust, but it’s also inspiring.
“This was one of the drivers for setting up the Peer Mentoring Scheme. We currently employ six peer mentors across Wales. By offering service users support from someone who has ‘walked in their shoes’ and who understands the barriers they face, we’ve seen an increase in positive engagement and outcomes for service users. Similarly, the BOSS Project is delivered by people with lived experience of the criminal justice system who support clients to find employment, complete qualifications, and access counselling services. This also helps to create an employment pathway for previous service users. Employing people who’ve experienced homelessness or rough sleeping, or who have experience with the criminal justice system is really important to us.”
David continued: “We’ve seen some exceptional outcomes from WISE. In the last two years, 15 people have gained stable employment after completing the programme, with 11 more actively seeking employment. Almost 80 people have become digitally included or improved their computer skills and 28 have gained industry standard qualifications.
“There are lots of benefits to learning and the ‘soft outcomes’ are just as important. Like the 44 people who say they have improved feelings of stability and control, and the 15 who have improved mental health and wellbeing. Danielle, 39, graduated through the WISE programme, she said: “The Wallich gave me a chance when no one else would, who saw my potential regardless of my past, and helped me become the woman I am today. I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone I have worked with. You’re all amazing people, keep doing what you’re doing!”