On Friday I attended the official launch of Shaw Trust’s Leicester Work and Health Hub, as part of Employability Day.
Employability Day is an event organised by ERSA for the employment support sector and employers to join together and show what employability means at the frontline and its impact in communities. As such, and with the sun shining brightly in Leicester, it was the perfect day to launch our new hub.
For me, it was a great experience seeing the hub, which consistently buzzes with activity. As I arrived, a tai chi class for Work and Health Programme participants and guests was taking place and as I write, a ‘knit and natter’ class is in action just across the room.
The launch was attended by a range of guests including local officials, Department for Work and Pensions representatives, local partners and employers, who all received first-hand insight into the services we offer. It was great to see so many of the guests joining the activities, including the yoga! However, the day was really a celebration of the fantastic staff and participants who have turned the hub into such a vibrant place.
The star of the show was the brilliant Nina Lee, who officially launched the hub, cutting the ceremonial ribbon and speaking about her own journey and the support she’s received. When Nina first came to the hub she was experiencing significant barriers in many areas including her own health, care and support for her children, and the protection and welfare of her family.
However, Nina has made brilliant progress since starting on the programme, and feels there is much more support available for the different challenges she faces: so much so, that she has now become a volunteer to help other participants. She created and developed the knit and natter group session, where she teaches other participants the art of looming. She also works with local charities to create hats for premature babies, and donates any funds to Young Minds, a charity that support children with mental health issues.
Nina was full of praise for her support manager, Paul Jessop, who has supported her and identified various interventions that formed part of her action plan, and volunteer coordinator Dipal Soni, who has coordinated Nina’s volunteering activity. Nina has a real talent for creating quirky jewellery and gift items as a hobby, and plans to launch her own stall in the coming months.
Two things really stood out to me on what I hope will be the first of many visits to the Leicester hub. First, the whole atmosphere and feel of the hub is fantastic: it feels relaxed and happy, vibrant and busy. Second, the passion of Shaw Trust staff for the work they do and their desire to really help to transform the lives of local people.
The employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people is thirty per cent in the East Midlands. Our hub aims to shrink that gap and get as many people back into work as possible to benefit the community as a whole. From what I have seen, I am sure it will live up to this aim.
Charlie Garnett is Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Shaw Trust