Press Release   •   Sep 21, 2010 22:38 BST

Today, business leaders from some of Britain’s top companies came face-to-face with unemployed and homeless people and explored practical solutions for them to find work. 

The delegation was led by Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO of Britain’s leading outsourcing company MITIE, and included senior directors from companies such as Deloitte, Michael Page and Land Securities. 

It took place in Southwark, London and is part of The Prince of Wales’ ‘Seeing is Believing’ programme run by Business in the Community, which works with over 800 UK companies to help businesses build a more sustainable future for people and planet. 

The visit highlighted the crucial role that business can play in giving the homeless and unemployed the self esteem and support to get their lives back on track. 

The business leaders met with students whose learning difficulties don’t stop them from running Posyganza, a successful flower making enterprise born from the Young Enterprise’s Team Programme.

They then met with homeless people living in the Big House, a hostel in one of London’s most deprived neighbourhoods. The event finally showcased MITIE Group’s multi-award winning employability programme “The Real Apprentice”. 

There are 2.5 million unemployed people in the UK, of whom 52% have been unemployed for more than six months and 31% for more than 12 months. 

Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO of MITIE, said: “Long term unemployment is a major contributing factor in child poverty, ill health, re-offending and homelessness and I think it’s important society recognises this. 

“It’s therefore crucial we do whatever we can to help people get their lives back on track. The good news is that this is something the business community can do so much to address through our practical assistance.” 

The visit was a real eye opener for the group of business leaders who saw abilities where there were perceived disabilities, and understood the business benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Leaders came out committed to take this insight back to their businesses and convinced of the role they have to play in engaging their supply chain to take part in the movement.

The group was composed of high fliers such as: ƒ 

  • Richard Akers, Managing Director, Retail, Land Securities Group ƒ 
  • Anne Downey, Human Resources Director, Motability Operations Limited ƒ 
  • Elizabeth Ewen, Regional Director, Michael Page International plc ƒ 
  • John Kerr, Managing Partner, Talent, Deloitte LLP ƒ 
  • Andrew Quincey, Director of Group Procurement, Transport for London ƒ 
  • Cilla Snowball, Chairman, AMV BBDO ƒ 
  • Carmen Watson, Managing Director, Pertemps Recruitment Partnership 

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Editor’s notes 

1. MITIE Group We’re the strategic outsourcing company. What does that mean in practice? We manage facilities, properties and assets for our clients across the UK and beyond. 

We work with our clients in three ways; some take full advantage of our whole range of expertise, others may only need one aspect of what we do: ƒ 

  • Strategy and consultancy ƒ 
  • Facilities and project management ƒ 
  • Service delivery 

Our strategic input can add value at the highest level by helping clients to manage their assets, while our practical management expertise can save customers money and reduce their carbon emissions. We work with a vast number of clients in every industry across both the public and private sectors and deliver the broadest range of services that can be found in one place: from integrated facilities management to engineering maintenance to lifecycle energy management and much more. 

There’s a lot more to MITIE than you probably think. We’re a big company with big ambitions – a leading FTSE 250 support services business, with more than 56,000 people, revenues in excess of £1.7bn, and a reputation for being the best. 

The Real Apprentice, MITIE Group’s multi-award winning employability programme launched in 2005. Last year, the Real Apprentice opened to long term unemployed and disabled candidates including those with mental, physical and cognitive disabilities. To date over 82 people have successfully attended The Real Apprentice programme and secured employment with MITIE or with one of its clients.

2. Business in the Community mobilises business for good. We work with business to build a sustainable future for people and planet. Our approach to responsible business provides a framework to support and challenge business to improve its performance and benefit for society through our four areas of expertise - community, environment, workplace and marketplace 

We ask members to: Integrate responsible business across all areas of their operations; Collaborate to tackle key social issues in areas of greatest need; Communicate and inspire others by sharing their experiences and encouraging more to follow their example. See for more information. 

The Prince’s Seeing is Believing is Business in the Community’s flagship programme for engaging the UK’s top business leaders with key social responsibility issues. The programme was set up by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1990. Its purpose is to increase awareness and understanding of social issues, showcase and increase the positive impact which business can make in the community and to demonstrate clear examples of how businesses can make a difference both within the community and within their business. See for more information. 

Ready for Work, a Business in the Community programme which provides pre-employment training, work placements and job coaching for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness to boost confidence and improve employability. Since the start of the programme in 2001, we have supported more than 4,200 clients and 1,700 of these have found work.

3. Young Enterprise Young Enterprise is building a connected world of young people, business volunteers and educators, inspiring each other to succeed through enterprise. Young Enterprise is offering a range of enterprise programmes to young people between the ages of 4 and 25 years. Today, the organisation inspires more than 300,000 students per year and this achievement is made possible through the support of 3,500 UK businesses, and a network of 5,000 Young Enterprise volunteers. 

The Team Programme is a nationwide programme that offers real business experience and learning to students with special educational and support needs. Team Programme inspires over 4,000 students across the UK each year to develop essential skills for life and work through working together to set up and run their own real company. Through regular team meetings over 1 to 2 academic year groups of students work together to raise finance for their company by selling shares, carry out market research in their local community, develop a product or service and trade with the public. Each company is paired with a local business volunteer who brings their experience, skills and knowledge into the classroom to mentor and guide students throughout the course of the programme. 

Posyganza, a social enterprise which has been running at Lewisham College for 16 years and is part of the Young Enterprise’s Team Programme. Within the context of developing work skills and becoming work ready young people over the age of 18 experience running their own company which provides a fresh flower service to the college and its staff and students.

4. Big House The idea of the Big House was born after one of The Prince’s Seeing is Believing visit to the West London Day Centre in 1999. The company AMV BBDO took up the mantle and started to raise money for a hostel linked to the Day Centre. In April 2002 after a significant amount of money was raised (£400K by AMV BBDO) and grants accessed, the first residents moved into the newly refurbished Big House in Camberwell Road. 

Big House has 3 main aims: ƒ 

  • to house homeless people in a supported, calm environment where they can start to move on with their lives ƒ 
  • to learn the life skills they need to manage a tenancy and help them back to work or meaningful occupation ƒ 
  • to resettle people back in the community into appropriate accommodation for their needs. 

Big House counts 10 self contained studio flats with onsite support. The hostel is staffed by 3 core staff: a manager and housing support worker (both full time) and uniquely, a vocational guidance worker (part time). It works with residents with low to medium support needs who want to move on in life. It has been a Southwark Supporting People (SP) project since 2003 and more recently this has been the main referral source. It has also worked with referrals from homeless day centres and exservices organizations. 

For further information, please contact: 

Alice Durand, Business in the Community
T: 020 7566 8681 

Chris Watts, Bell Pottinger
T: (0)20 7861 2859