“ This really is the opportunity of a lifetime. Every moment of my working day is dedicated to helping the people that need it most. From a personal development angle it is second to none, and extremely fulfilling at all levels. I am very proud to be working for Lloyds Banking Group and to be involved in such an amazing and selfless initiative. The rest of my career will never be the same again. ”
Business Connector role overview
The London borough of Westminster has a high level of perceived prosperity as it lies in a central location surrounded by successful businesses, upmarket retailers, and high value. However, Westminster also conceals some of the most deprived and impoverished wards of the UK.
The Church Street and Queen’s Park Wards are Belen’s main areas of focus. In these areas, the number of young children living below the poverty line and the levels of unemployment and violence all well exceed national figures.
Belen is working alongside housing associations, volunteer centres, community groups and charities in order to address education and employment challenges.
There are plenty of very generous and well-intentioned groups in the area; however, there is a huge lack of understanding in the private sector of how much need and deprivation there is within the communities they operate in.
Her goal is to increase awareness of this disparity and to encourage local businesses to play a part in the regeneration and prosperity of the communities on their doorstep.
Case study – The Paddington Development Trust and Innocent Smoothies
One of the key challenges for charities in Westminster is to support the growing number of unemployed young people.
Belen is working closely with the Paddington Development Trust (PDT), a Social Enterprise working on economic, environmental, and social regeneration in the local community – with a focus on youth unemployment in the Queen’s Park area. PDT operates in a number of youth centers where they support young people to find employment.
Queen’s Park is home to an estate with the worst child poverty in the country, 60% of school children living in this area don't achieve 5 A-C GCSE. Youth unemployment is high, and with careers advice services cut, the future for many is bleak.
With whole families unemployed many of the young people have no access to role models in employment and even the best youth workers struggle to instil work ethics.
Yet at the heart of the Queen's Park area is Innocent Smoothies’ Fruit Towers headquarters. After approaching Innocent Smoothies (IS) on behalf of PDT and some initial discussions, Belen gained commitment from Innocent to run regular get together between their employees and young people from the local community centers.
As a young and fashionable brand this project gives young people a phenomenal opportunity to understand what an entrepreneurial work environment actually looks like, and that an office doesn’t have to be an intimidating place full of grey suits.
Working with youth workers, Innocent is creating regular bespoke sessions; including a tour of the premises, careers talks to explore the range of job roles within the organisation (which range from smoothie creator to brand manager), the personal qualities that Innocent looks for in its people, and an insight into a working day.
A great example of how a local business can inspire local young people into the world of work!
London Tigers are a charity who target health related issues within black and minority ethnic communities. Belen connected them with Vielife, an international health and wellbeing company, to become their corporate sponsor. London Tigers now have license to use Vielife’s extensive health questionnaires in order to gather data from BME communities. They will receive support to write research papers based on the findings in order to raise awareness and campaign for change. They will also be able to tap into a wealth of expertise from their health coaches and nutritionist for the benefits of the community.
CityWest Homes (CWH), is the largest housing association in Westminster with over 20,000 homes. The introduction of universal credits, as the new welfare benefit in the United Kingdom will mean that tenants will now be required to manage their money as they start receiving benefits in a lump sum instead of at intervals.
Belen connected City West homes with Money for Life, Lloyds financial capability and personal money skills programme, which is free for not-for-profit organisations. 23 CWH employees have now signed up for a ‘money mentors’ course and an additional 10 will be signing up for a ‘teach me’ and ‘teach others’ financial capability courses.
CWH is now better able to support, advise and mentor tenants as its staff are equipped to deliver financial advice in dedicated centres across their housing estates over the coming years, benefiting thousands of tenants across Westminster.
Since Belen’s made the connection, Pimlico Toy Library and HomeStart, two charities supporting the education of young children and their families, have received bespoke health and nutrition programmes on their premises from Mini KickStart, an NHS initiative. This involves weekly workshop sessions for families with children aged 2-5 who want to learn about nutrition and play activities to help keep the family fit for life and will be run by qualified dietitians, nutritionists and child play experts.
Secured a specking slot for the CEO of the Paddington Development Trust at a Lloyds’ next SME customer event presenting to over 150 businesses about it’s Employment Programme. This will allow PDT to engage with a large network of potential employers and encourage them to crate job opportunities, apprenticeships or work experience for less fortunate candidates in Westminster.
Laxfield Capital, who deal with loans secured on UK commercial real estate, have recently agreed to take on a work experience candidate as well as provide interview training and job mentoring to a number of individuals through the charities Belen represents in Westminster.
In collaboration with the New West End Co, the company representing all 600 West End retailers and The Crown Estate, the company that own and manage the West End buildings, Belen is helping to secure unfilled jobs for young people. To date, 7 candidates have been put forward to the Thistle hotel in Marble Arch for entry level catering positions.
“ To help advance the Business Connectors we are delighted to announce that as well as seconding 20 colleagues, we have committed to fund the training of all Connectors, whichever business they come from with a £600,000 investment over three years. ”
Seconding company quote
“We are proud to have played a part in helping secure the Big Lottery Fund for Business in the Community. Lloyds Banking Group is the biggest corporate investor in UK communities and therefore we are in a powerful position to help local communities across the UK tackle the issues they are facing. Our Group's ambition is to help Britain prosper and become the best bank for customers. To do so, we recognise that we must be the best bank for communities. To help advance the Business Connectors we are delighted to announce that as well as seconding 20 colleagues, we have committed to fund the training of all Connectors, whichever business they come from with a £600,000 investment over three years.”
Graham Lindsay, Retail Director of Community and Social Responsibility, Lloyds Banking Group (June 2012)