Social enterprises are businesses set up to reduce inequalities and will be needed more than ever to support communities recover from the effects of Covid-19. One of the defining features of social enterprises is that many are set up to specifically create opportunities for groups disadvantaged in the workforce such as the long term unemployed, people who are homeless, ex-offenders, veterans and people with physical or mental health issues. It is this ability to both bring these groups into the economy whilst simultaneously transforming the terms on which the economy works that make social enterprises vital to a sustainable, equitable post-Covid recovery.
One group of people that has historically been marginalised from the workforce are asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum seekers are legally prohibited from working and even once granted refugee status, many find it hard to find employment.
Social enterprise Breadwinners is one business which is seeking to change this. It sells artisan bread and other baked goods from its street stalls across London farmers markets, running a series of programmes designed to support both refugees and those seeking asylum. It runs a volunteering programme ‘Risers’ for young people claiming asylum which offers work experience as market stall assistants whilst their claim is being processed – helping them find a sense of community and giving them mentoring and training to help build transferable skills. 84% of all participants on the programme, who have gained the right to remain, found at least part-time employment.
Its ‘Breadwinners’ scheme supports those with refugee status by creating employment for them as Market Stall Managers, being paid the UK Living Wage. Whilst working, individuals are supported with 1:1 mentoring, helped with their English and to gain qualifications. 100% of refugees who have been part of the programme have moved on to full-time jobs. In the last two years, Breadwinners has created life-changing opportunities for 83 refugees and young people seeking asylum
Covid-19 led to a shutting down of all market stalls and the social enterprise was forced to adapt, focusing on e-commerce, with the team investing in IT training and up-skilling individuals to run the business digitally. Find out more in this short film from Director, Martin and Market Stall Manager, Jamal who came to the UK as an asylum seeker from Sudan and also explains some of the major challenges faced by refugees in finding work.