Barnardo’s charity scheme is stuff dreams are made of

Linda Williams would love to work in fashion. Picture: Peter Jolly
Linda Williams would love to work in fashion. Picture: Peter Jolly
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“MY DREAM is to get a job working in fashion and retail and I’m determined to do it,” says nineteen-year-old Linda Williams.

Ms Williams, who is attending the Barnardo’s Work programme in Inverness aimed at getting young people aged 16-24 into employment, could perhaps one day follow in the footsteps of the most famous former “Barnardo’s boy” – designer Bruce Oldfield, OBE.

His creations have been worn by celebrities such as Rihanna, pop princess Taylor Swift, and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. Diana, Princess of Wales, was, perhaps, his most famous client.

This year The Scotsman’s Christmas Appeal is supporting Barnardo’s Scotland, the charity which works to give children and young people whose lives have been affected by family crisis the opportunities they might otherwise miss. The charity has 120 projects helping more than 14,500 children in Scotland and needs to raise £3 million ayear. All donations, no matter how small, make a difference.

Peta Garbett, children service manager for Barnardo’s Works in the Highlands and Islands, said the project finds out what those attending the course want to do with their lives then pulls out every stop to help them achieve it.

Staff use a range of techniques to build up participants’ confidence, including away-day snowboarding or more town-based activities. Those attending have been long-term unemployed for a variety of reasons including having been in care, may have had problems with substance abuse or simply be lacking in confidence.

“We work with people’s ­aspirations. We are all about creating solutions and knocking down barriers,” Ms Garbett said.

“For example, living in rural areas can bring added problems. When someone finds a job which might have a 6am start we’ll maybe give them a lift for the first week until they meet someone driving in.

“Other times we’ve bought bikes or funded driving lessons. This kind of thing has a massive impact on whether they feel motivated – knowing ‘we’re behind you’, especially if they haven’t got a family or there are issues at home.”

Activities such as driving lessons, or accredited training courses including food hygiene certificates, forklift licenses and CSCS cards are funded by the European Social Fund.

On successful completion of the 26-week programme which involves a two-week induction, an 11-week placement and a 13 week paid employment, those leaving will be awarded the Certificate of Work Readiness, part of the Scottish Government’s Skills Development Programme. This also includes feedback and assessment from employers.

Ms Williams said the programme had built up her self-esteem and given her confidence to approach employers. She said: “On my first day I was scared to come in. I didn’t know who I was going to meet. But this group has made me find myself.

“We did CVs and lots of confidence- and team-building which got me ready to go on a work placement. I learned that if there was a difficulty at work to speak to the manager. The main thing was not to hide away from our problems.”

Currently there are six Barnardo’s Works projects in Scotland. These are located in the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Cairngorm, Edinburgh and Renfrewshire.

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Barnardo’s works services give disadvantaged young people the opportunity to gain work experience to help them find employment and provide local companies with motivated employees. The partnerships we have established shows that, even during a recession, companies are still committed to providing opportunities for young people. And it makes financial sense for them to do so Barnardo’s Works gives young people a chance to gain employment and provides local companies with trained and motivated staff.”

• If you are an employer or young person looking for more information about Barnardo’s Works contact Tommy McDade, employment services manager on 0141-222 4700.