A fund to increase skills + employment designed by local residents, for local residents

In Summer 2022, we were grappling with a number of challenges as a Foundation.  We wanted to give the community more of a voice in how we invest our funds, in a way that is meaningful and recognises their valuable contribution and insights.  We had also identified in our 2021 research report, ‘Poverty and Prosperity in Kensington + Chelsea’, that our borough has a high unemployment rate but services and support for unemployed residents often did not reach those who needed it most, or address their complex barriers to work. 

In response to this, we launched a new fund – Increasing Skills + Employment - that was designed and informed by 6 K+C residents with lived experience of unemployment.  Thanks to our fantastic supporters, we had raised £200,000 to be invested in projects likely to have the greatest impact and benefit to residents looking for work.  Our 6 residents formed a Grants Panel and, after intensive training sessions, developed the application process, set the criteria for the fund and assessed how well the short-listed projects addressed them.  

The panel’s insights were incredibly valuable...several spoke of their frustration at how they were treated during their search for work by statutory services - their qualifications, experience and ambitions ignored in favour of being shoe-horned into the nearest available, usually low paid, job. They were adamant that any projects chosen should offer a tailored approach for each client, listening to their needs and goals and developing bespoke support plans rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all conveyor-belt, which destroys their self-esteem and, as one panellist said, ‘totally ignores any ambition of its clients’.

The panel worked really hard through some cold winter evenings and were extremely diligent in their assessment of all the applications, ultimately selecting 7 projects with enormous potential to make a difference in our community. 

“I really, really enjoyed it – I was born and raised here and when you look at problems in your borough that you want to change, it’s hard to find a voice or a platform to do that, but this panel gave us a voice to see how we can contribute to fixing the problems in our borough and give back to our community.” Salma, Skills + Employment panellist.

Panel members at Bay 20 Community Centre - relieved and happy at the end of the 3 month process. 

From construction skills training for women, to coaching and mentoring for people with learning difficulties, we will be tracking the progress of all of our projects over the next 3 years and look forward to sharing their impact on residents like Katarina, who has already benefited from one of the services chosen: 

Katarina is 29 years old and was diagnosed with Autism and a Learning Disability at the late age of 18 years old.  She had been through her whole academic life not fitting in nor being given the right support to thrive. Katarina spent some time trying college and working in part time jobs but was isolated and lonely and struggled to make friends. Since joining this programme, Katarina’s confidence has blossomed. She has had support to expand her social circle and her keyworker supports her to better understand social interactions so she can progress friendships and relationships. She has also been supported to find meaningful paid employment in advocacy, her long-term career ambition, and linked volunteering opportunities. Katarina says “I wish I’d found this programme earlier because only now am I on the road to meeting my dream.” 

If you are interested in supporting local people into sustainable employment, please contact us for more information – [email protected]