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Breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion

Challenge Poverty Week blog by Wheatley Foundation Director Lorraine McLaren.

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The Wheatley Foundation is Wheatley Group’s charitable trust. It was established in 2016 to help break the cycle of poverty and exclusion that many of our customers experience. We do this in partnership with local and national organisations.

The foundation tackles the barriers that people face growing up in poverty and creates opportunities to help people achieve their ambitions.

The foundation’s five big key areas of interest are:

  • reducing social exclusion and taking people out of poverty
  • helping people find jobs, careers and training
  • helping customers get into further and higher education
  • increasing much-needed digital knowledge and access in communities
  • creating local activities, links and opportunity so that people can lead their lives to the full.

With the support of our partners, we deliver projects that support the foundation’s aim to address the imbalance of disadvantage that occurs within our communities.

Last year, we launched Wheatley Works to help Wheatley customers develop the skills, work experience and confidence they need to apply for jobs in the wider labour market and to access opportunities created by Wheatley Group and its partners, contractors and suppliers.

We mentor customers on a one to one basis, so they can try out placements, work tasters and other options that go a long way to help them become more work ready. Customers can benefit from different stages of training, building up core work skills and their confidence before making the move into work.

Wheatley Works supports people to direct their own path and overcome barriers such as money or debt issues, managing care responsibilities and lack of prior work experience.

The Wheatley Works team chats through the best options with customers and provides support and advice.

This support helps people make the most of their potential. Customers who were finding it hard to get into the job market, or felt they would never be able to start training, become able to thrive and take advantage of quality opportunities.

Support to people struggling with their finances or to manage their home is also crucial. Our My Great Start financial advice service supports customers with budgeting, income maximisation and managing or reducing debts and all the stress that goes along with them.

Our advisers and frontline staff can identify any other immediate support needs; for example, our Home Comforts service provides free recycled furniture and white goods to customers facing financial hardship. This helps saves money and makes a house a home. And since 2016, our Eat Well programme has provided free food packs to 2,000 customers under real financial pressure and facing stark choices on very low incomes.

The foundation also awarded 150 Higher Education bursaries to disadvantaged customers and helped people get online through a network of Click and Connect centres based in Wheatley communities.

Last year, we supported over 12,000 people experiencing hardship. Wheatley Foundation Chair Sir Harry Burns said: “These programmes become vital as the full impact of Universal Credit is felt across our communities.

“Taking people out of poverty and helping them access new opportunities, training and jobs will change their lives for the better.”