People should not have their life chances limited by where they live, their family circumstances or their physical and mental health or disability.
We stop talent and lives from being wasted due to long-term unemployment, a lack of aspiration or opportunity, or poor physical or mental health and wellbeing. Our environmental education officers, employment project tutors, youth workers and mentors help people improve their own skills and prospects while taking part in events and activities that help them play a more active role in their local community.
We provide a range of services which are constantly being adapted to new economic circumstances, the changing nature of the labour market and the talents and aspirations of those we support. We focus on building skills and employability, motivating and supporting disadvantaged young people to raise their aspirations, build self-confidence and plan for their future, and on helping people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Groundwork offer people a second chance to equip themselves when life has dealt them a twist of fate.
Huntingdonshire District Council
Providing a support group for isolated young people
Recently the young people of Leighton Buzzard and surrounding areas in Bedfordshire who identify as being part of the LGBTQ community have benefitted from a new support group, run from the Leighton Buzzard youth club.
There was previously no provision on offer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and those young people questioning their sexuality or gender within Bedfordshire. So with support from the Terence Higgins Trust, local schools and colleges, Groundwork now offers young people from the LGBTQ+ community a safe place to make friends, and access support on a weekly basis, as well as take part in fun activities with their peers.
Alex* is 18 and attends the LGBTQ+ youth group ‘Happy as I am’ in Leighton Buzzard to access support and spend time with others from the LGBTQ+ community.
“I found out about the LGBTQ+ sessions from a poster displayed in my school. My boyfriend and I contacted the youth worker who runs it and met up with him to discuss what the group was about, and why we felt it was important to have a safe place in town for LGBTQ+ young people.
“I started going to the sessions because at the time I saw the poster I was just starting to come out to the people around me as transgender. Finding the poster was amazing, as I had been looking for somewhere I could go where I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I was safe, or encounter problems because of who I am.
“For me meeting new people who are experiencing similar things and being able to make friends is very important. The group is a safe environment where I am able to relax and just be myself, talking with friends and learning about LGBTQ+ matters that we don’t necessarily cover at school - including how to stay safe.
“I enjoy the relaxed nature of the group and the freedom that we all have to be ourselves, as there is no pressure to be one way or another. I like that we have the option to be quiet and sit in small groups or to join the table for bigger conversations. Overall the supportive and caring atmosphere of the group makes me feel like I belong.
“I have found that the sessions help me to deal with challenges and problems. During my time attending the group, I have been able to talk to people about coming out at school, what to expect and how to handle it. Being able to do this gave me the confidence to talk to the staff at my sixth form, very quickly after this my teachers had been informed and my name badge changed to the name I use. Without talking to others at youth group I feel it would have taken me much longer to build up the courage to do this. I’m very grateful for the advice I was given because now I go to school and wear my badge with pride rather than shame.
“I think that other LGBTQ+ young people would benefit from having the supportive and accepting environment the group provides, as well as the freedom to be themselves, learn about things specific to the LGBTQ+ community and meet others who have similar experiences and views.”
*name has been changed to protect identity
Laura’s* son Ryan* has been benefitting from Groundwork’s mentoring scheme and after the first four sessions, Laura is extremely pleased with the change in her son’s behaviour and attitude, and has seen a huge difference already.
“Thanks to mentoring, Ryan should be proud of himself now, in comparison to previous reports about his behaviour.
“Ryan has been talking to me about certain things discussed in his mentoring sessions, which for me is a great thing, he is sharing it with me so it shows he knows what you are telling him is the right way to approach things. His Dad and I are both working together with him, and supporting what you are doing. For example if he is misbehaving at school then we are stopping him from doing things he enjoys and sees as rewards at weekends. Thanks to you, Ryan now has the support in school that he needs, he just needs to keep his behaviour consistent.
“He also opened up to me about what you have said about reflecting on the situation he was involved in, or had got caught up in. He didn’t go into it in a lot of detail, but the fact that he was honest and said that he knows that it wasn’t the right choice to make by being around those people, spoke volumes to me. Now he has a new group of friends and I have never heard Ryan laugh so much when his friends call him on his temporary old fashioned phone! (Ryan was given an old phone that didn’t have access to social media).
After having just four sessions with you, I cannot thank you enough for the support, help and advice you are giving to Ryan and then in turn me too, as I have already noticed a big change in him.
*names have been changed to protect identities
Mentoring a young person to change their behaviour for the better
Giving the unemployed the tools to realise their potential
“At the end of the course, the Employment Project Tutor running it asked for my CV as there was a job available in Groundwork’s PIT (Practical Implementation Team). I was the successful candidate and joined PIT in summer 2017 on a temporary basis as a Landscape Assistant. Following a successful three months, I was offered a one-year contract, and part way through the year, I progressed to the role of Senior Landscape Assistant. During that time, aside from regular duties, I got involved in the delivery of three Green Teams and a corporate team building day. Once again, I was helping others to learn new skills, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“So naturally, when the role of Employment Project Tutor became available, the idea of teaching landscaping skills couldn’t have appealed to me more, so I applied, and got it!
“I am thoroughly enjoying the role - I wanted to offer support, guidance, and to give people the skills to learn and develop – working for a charity is the most satisfying job I’ve ever had
Tony took part in Green Skills – Groundwork’s employment and skills course. He benefitted from learning practical horticulture and landscaping skills, and Green Skills facilitated his career change. “I was made redundant from my job in IT
– an industry I’d been part of for 20 years and I found gaining employment difficult due to my age. I spent three months extensively job searching, but then I decided to go back to doing something I’d done 25 years previously, and started doing gardening work for friends. I used to run my own gardening company, but as it had been so long since I’d been in the industry, I felt I may have missed out on new techniques and skills since my company was last in operation. So when I saw advert for Green Skills - the opportunity to volunteer on a community project and learn new skills - it caught my eye.
“During the course, I found myself offering help to other participants as well as completing my own tasks. I helped them use certain tools when they were struggling, and gave them encouragement to boost their confidence in landscaping. I really enjoyed guiding them, and I felt like I had something to give.
Inspiring a career change
Sam, a participant on a Green Team, boosted his employability and skills whilst improving the outdoor space for residents on a housing estate.
“I felt I was stuck in a dead end job with many responsibilities but no hope of progression or advancement. As soon as I heard about the Green Team course at the job centre I enrolled and since the start I felt a massive sense of achievement.
“Taking part in this course has been very fulfilling and enjoyable; I have learnt various new skills, such as learning how to mix cement, build raised beds, identify many plants, and use power tools. On the academic side, I have learnt about Health and Safety and interview skills.
“I never missed a day of the course, even though it meant cycling eight miles a day. It was physical work, especially in the extreme heat when the ground was rock hard. But, I feel fitter than I ever have.
“I have gained confidence, been inspired, and am hopeful for my future. My goal now is to start an apprenticeship and this will lead to a better future for me.”
"We have sponsored a number of Green Team initiatives and fundamentally agree with their practical and inspiring approach, which provide support, training and access to local opportunities."
Helping students boost their mental health and wellbeing
University can be a time packed full of deadlines, reports, and essays, and often a large proportion of time can be spent in solitary study. Time spent alone and stress can have a damaging impact on students’ mental health but it has been proven that exercise can counteract these negative factors. We have been running our Get Outdoors, Get Active programme at universities to offer students an alternative to traditional exercise and sports.
“Honestly, when I saw the course poster I wasn’t quite sure but I thought it’s kind of important to put yourself out there and try new things. Just being in nature and being outside is really important for your mental wellbeing. As a university student you can sit in your room and isolate yourself, it’s really easy to do but it’s really bad. So to get yourself outside and do something like this, where you can see what you do come to fruition in front of you, you can physically see your efforts turn into something is a very rewarding thing.
“I liked meeting new people who were so nice and so friendly; I wasn’t expecting that from the course.
“When you’re in your room and you’re typing out a 1,500 word essay in two days it can get really stressful. Gardening teaches you to be present; you really learn how to be grounded and present in the moment, and that’s something I think is really important.”
"At the University of Hertfordshire we’re keen to give students the opportunity to get outside, de-stress, meet new people, and spend time doing something they enjoy with the opportunity to learn new skills as well."
University of Hertfordshire
“I’m studying visual effects for film and television and because it is all computer based, it means that I spend many hours a day - before the time the sun rises until the time the sun sets - inside looking at computer screens.
“During my first year of university I found that I got really overwhelmed with the lack of time I was putting into taking care of myself. So when I saw the course advertised I thought it sounded like such a fantastic opportunity.
“When I started the course, I filled out a form about my fitness and mental health. On the fitness one I was taken aback by how little I actually did to get outside. Gardening is quite a nice alternative because I don’t really enjoy competitive sports, so it’s a really nice way to get fitter and stronger without having the stress of competitive sports, it’s just fun!
“The night before I started the course, I was on the phone to my mum really upset about how stressed I was and I had had quite a bad time that week, but since I’ve started the course my mood in general throughout the week has improved vastly. I can’t really think of anything that has changed, other than on Wednesday afternoon I spend a couple of hours outside gardening with some really lovely people.
“I’ve already requested for shovels and things to be available outside of Wednesdays, I would really like to do a bit more in my spare time, because I think it’s really good for me as I’m really happy at the moment - it’s good to get outside.”