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Project helping London’s most socially excluded has helped over 800
An evaluation into the Peer Circles project has shown that it has helped 824 people from across London who were experiencing chronic and multiple disadvantages.
Peer Circles, a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, supports people to overcome challenges and increase levels of confidence and skills. It works with them at their own pace with the long-term aim of helping them into employment.
The evaluation, which looked at the project’s work since its start in April 2017 up until December 2019, found that it was effectively supporting people experiencing a highly complex mix of several challenges such as homelessness, mental health and substance misuse issues, domestic abuse, having a criminal record and poverty.
It uses peer-led support to help clients progress and inspire positive change in others. One Peer Advisor working on Peer Circles said in the evaluation: “We can reach the parts others can’t because we have that lived experience.” A client commented on the support they received from the Peer Advisor : “They have more of an understanding about how you feel and how hard it can be sometimes.”
Up to December 2019, 137 people have been helped into employment and 82 into education and training. Work is continuing with the remainder of the active caseload to help them make small, steady steps.
On top of employment, education and training, significant work has taken place to help people with life skills, building confidence, address housing problems and access other services around mental health and substance misuse. Specialist support has been available for women to help them address their specific needs such as those around childcare and housing.
Once clients secure employment, support from Peer Circles continues to help ease the transition to independence.
Mohammed* was helped to secure a cleaning job through Peer Circles. Since arriving in the country as a refugee over 20 years ago, he had been a virtual prisoner in his room due to trauma brought about by the exposure to war in his home country, falling into a state of depression and shutting himself away. When he was referred to us, he had not worked for over 20 years and had no idea of what he could do. His caseworker chatted to him over time about what he spent his day doing and he replied that he cleaned his room. We started to look for cleaner jobs with him and introduced him to other people where he could play football, go to the gym and reduce his sense of isolation.
As is confidence increased, Mohammed successfully applied for a cleaning job and was ecstatic. However, the thought of the commute on a train was very stressful for him so his caseworker helped him plan a journey by bus which he found easier to tolerate. He is now settled in his job, doing well and continuing to receive support from Peer Circles to ensure his positive progress continues. He has asked for more hours and now manages other cleaners.