To mark Social Saturday 2016, Nicola visited Aspire Oxford to learn more about their inspiring Social Enterprise initiatives helping to transform the lives of disadvantaged local people.
Social Enterprises help to support people who have faced significant difficulties or who may be vulnerable to move in to work and to integrate in to the local community, and Social Saturday celebrates the 70,000 plus Social Enterprises across the UK who employ a million people and contribute £24 billion to our economy. All Social Enterprises trade for a social or environmental purpose, reinvesting their profits for good.
Aspire Oxford has been running for 15 years and supports people with severe and multiple disadvantages by providing work placements and training. as well as delivering services to enhance community life. In 2015-16, Aspire supported 160 trainees who, on average, had been out of work for four years. These can be people with a background of homelessness, substance misuse or offending histories amongst other thing. As well as providing skills training, Aspire also runs regular jobs fairs, sports activities and a community transport service for vulnerable elderly people.
Aspire have a Grounds Maintenance Contract at the Net Centre in Abingdon, where trainees are working to complete high quality maintenance jobs under the tutelage of an experienced team leader. Nicola met with the Chief Operating Officer, Paul Roberts, Team Leader, Lars, and a group of trainees completing an ‘introduction to grounds care’ course to hear more about how people are moving towards work, moving in to their own homes and integrating in to the community.
Trainees told Nicola about the vital skills they are gaining on the job, how these can be transferred to different work environments and how the Aspire team is tailoring support to individual needs as well as providing essential services to vulnerable people across the county. You can see the tangible difference Aspire is making to people’s lives through their Social Impact report, available here.
Nicola says: I always enjoy visiting and learning about local Social Enterprises, they are a fantastic way to help disadvantaged people into work and Aspire is leading the way across a broad range of work initiatives. The work underway at the Net Centre is instrumental in helping people to gain not only skills and essential links to employers, but also helping them to gain confidence.
I look forward to seeing trainees here go from strength to strength with the help of Aspire, and would encourage locals to take advantage of their community transport services and sports activities to combat isolation for vulnerable people.