Stan Hazell visits an award-winning community initiative focussed on jobseekers
The sale of some church land to Tesco left members of Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth wondering what they should do with the proceeds. The result is its work club, which, since it was set up on church premises in 2011, has become a lifeline for the area’s unemployed – not just for finding jobs but also for providing help, advice and, above all, a listening ear.
“We wanted to do something with the money that would help the community,” says Glenorchy URC’s minister, the Revd Robert Jennings. With unemployment in the area high, and the Exmouth jobcentre having closed down three years earlier, there was nowhere in the town for jobless people to seek help. The nearest jobcentre is in Exeter, 10 miles away, where the unemployed still have to travel to sign on.
The decision by the church to establish a weekly work club providing information and help for those who needed it was made easier by having a former county careers adviser as a church elder and member. Sarah King, an experienced jobcentre worker, became the Glenorchy URC Work Club’s first coordinator. Advice also came from Exeter Community Initiatives, a church-linked body, and Glenorchy URC’s church hall was refurbished and a glass-fronted entrance built, creating a more accessible exterior.
A team of volunteers – first from the congregation but soon joined by others from the town – have been trained to assist clients in honing their IT skills, preparing CVs and making job applications. Other volunteers provide a warm welcome for those who walk through the glass doors from the street. The service offers none of the formality and form filling of the regular jobcentres…
This is an extract from the July/August 2016 edition of Reform.