Tech Lending Scheme takes steps to close the digital exclusion gap this winter

The Essentials Skills team, in partnership with Hubbub, Virgin Media and O2, are helping people gain digital skills and bridge the digital exclusion gap

Tech Lending Scheme takes steps to close the digital exclusion gap this winter

A tablet lending scheme, which sees people who are facing digital exclusion given access to a digital device for up to six months, is being trialled at Thames Reach. This has been made possible thanks to funding from Hubbub, in partnership with Virgin Media O2.

Managed by the Essential Skills team, 300 tablets will be lent out to people living in temporary accommodation, while they are receiving support to end their homelessness. Devices come with free calls, texts and data allowing beneficiaries to use them for anything they need, from accessing emails and messenger apps to online materials for education and drug and alcohol programmes.

The scheme has already been rolled out in Thames Reach hostels in Lambeth and will soon be expanded to other forms of short term and emergency accommodation. Feedback from the initial pilot has been highly positive, with hostel staff seeing improvements in self-care and increased independence for residents.

When device recipients were asked how they are getting along (via text), they said:

“I am really pleased with the tablet, it is really useful in my recovery. To have the minutes and texts and data is useful. Thank you for the trust.”

“The tablet is brilliant, it is really helpful. I’m thinking of running, as I was in hospital for 6 months and had to learn to walk again. And the Mind app is great.”

“I’m loving it, I use it 24/7. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have one.”

Alongside the scheme, all recipients will be able to develop their digital skills through Thames Reach’s in-house digital training programmes delivered by specialist staff.

Jobs Fair supports the Latin American community into employment

A jobs fair for the Latin American community has been one way in which the Southwark Works team are helping people access support and employment

Jobs Fair supports the Latin American community into employment

On 16 November, the Southwark Works team ran a jobs fair at Thames Reach’s Employment Academy, specialising in opportunities and support for the Latin American community in South East London. Employers from a range of sectors were in attendance to meet with people in the Latin American community who were looking for work in the capital. 

The fair was a unique event; from two years experience working with Latin American communities in and around Southwark, the team had established the need to connect people looking for work with potential employers. This is not always a straightforward task, given challenges including language barriers, right-to-work documentation and a sufficient understanding of welfare systems, and accessing a GP.

Opportunities available in construction, care, cleaning and hospitality were shared with attendees, as well as specialist advice from Southwark Works, support services and education providers. 

We spoke with Alvaro and Julia, originally from Colombia who attended the fair in Camberwell. 

Julia said, “I was really happy to get information on the English courses, as I am looking to improve my English; it was also interesting to find legal advice here around immigration.”

Alvaro said, “We came today to look for work opportunities, and to try and find new opportunities to improve our lives in London. Now we have taken contact details and will be hopefully receiving some support to get into work and test our English, to see where we need to improve our skills.”

The fair was very well attended, with almost 100 people in the local Latin American community coming to the Employment Academy. It was an incredibly positive event for attendees, employers and Southwark Works alike. 

Giovanni, support worker in the Southwark Works team, said: “This event has been a great opportunity for the Latin American community to find out about opportunities in South East London, whether they need general support, training or employment. Similarly, it has also been a chance for support services, employers and training providers to network together, find out more about each other’s work and create the basis for long-term collaborations, and possibly a development of a hub of professionals that liaise together in order to offer specialised and tailored help to this fantastic and hard-working community.”

Area manager Isobel discusses her experience with the Traineeship

The Traineeship provides experience and training for a career working with people experiencing homelessness, and great opportunities for development. Area manager for hostels, Isobel McKenna, discusses her experience with the Traineeship.

Area manager Isobel discusses her experience with the Traineeship

“I joined Thames Reach through the Traineeship in 2011. Having worked in organisations before which were more focused on policy and lobbying government, I was keen to get some experience of front-line support work. I was attracted to Thames Reach as a very practical organisation and hoped the Traineeship would give me a way in to the sector. I started in Stamford Street, as it was then known, and then moved to another hostel, Graham House, for my second placement. I found the Traineeship to be a really positive experience, a good mix of being thrown in at the deep end and getting support and guidance from the people I worked with. I learnt from my mistakes and saw the creative and consistent work done by our organisation first hand, often shadowing more experienced colleagues. I was able to stay on after my Traineeship ended, getting a job in the Graham House team, and have worked in a few of our different projects over the years, leading to my current job as the area manager for hostels. I think the Traineeship is a great opportunity for anyone looking to start their career in the sector, and I look forward to seeing who applies for this year’s scheme as a member of the interview panel.”

The deadline for this year’s Traineeship programme has been extended to 20 February. Click here for more details and how to apply.

The essential role of Employment and Skills in preventing street homelessness

Michael Buckley, lead manager of the Employment and Skills team, discusses the work they do, and why it is important

The essential role of Employment and Skills in preventing street homelessness

Can you tell us about how the Employment and Skills team are helping people Thames Reach are already working with?
We are always looking to increase the numbers of people we work with, and offer a range of support such as basic skills training, which includes digital literacy, traditional literacy and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). We have a job broker in our teams who can set people up with employment; we have strong relationships with many employers, especially in construction, hospitality, retail, and security sectors. We acknowledge that not everyone will be ready to go straight into a new job, and many people will have gaps in their CVs where life experiences have taken place, so we can also help people become job-ready, with CV support and interview preparation.

Once people are at that stage and in employment, we are also committed to helping people get better paid work, particularly meeting the London Living Wage. We often organise employer engagement events, where we invite employers in to meet potential candidates, so we can demystify the interview and recruitment process as much as possible. They are always popular and have been very successful. For those who may not be ready for work yet, we provide volunteering opportunities to help people gain confidence, experience and get into a good routine.

Why is it so important to work collaboratively with other Thames Reach teams?
Internal teams have good relationships with the people they work with, and know them really well; some of the work we do will be a brief intervention so that the individual can take that next step. It’s so important that the relationships of trust are maintained between the individual, their support worker and the Employment and Skills team. If we can understand the challenges and the barriers that are preventing people from moving forward, we can use the resources we have to help them in the most suitable way. We work with the TST (Tenancy Sustainment Team) a great deal, all outreach teams, and sometimes hostels. We also have a strong relationship with the EUSS (European Union Settlement Scheme) team, and a good track record of signposting people to the right service to complete successful immigration status applications. This is a vital part of the process of helping people avoid street homelessness.

Do you offer support to people with a range of needs?
When we have referrals from all different teams at Thames Reach, as well as the wider community, we work with a wide range of people; some may be currently sleeping rough and receiving support through outreach teams, while some people will be in secure housing. To maintain contact, we need to find out if they have access to a mobile phone. We work with an organisation called Community Calling to get people phones so that they can keep in contact with not only us and their support worker, but of course their wider support networks. We then need to know if they are available for work, when they last worked, and what kind of upskilling they might need. Even if people are staying temporarily in hostels, night shelters or hotels, without long-term fixed addresses, we can still help them into work. For some people without fixed addresses, they may have limited entitlement to benefits, so finding work quickly is important.

Our work lies in both preventing street homelessness and helping people recover from it. Getting people into work is not always straightforward and involves a lot of personalised support around improving confidence and self-esteem as well as skills. It is important that we facilitate up-skilling; sustainable work is one of the most important things in supporting people away from homelessness.


New project helps Lambeth residents into work

New project will help Lambeth residents aged 18-30 into employment

New project helps Lambeth residents into work

Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team have just launched their new project Bounce Back, a service led by our in-house job broker.

This two-year project will see Lambeth residents aged between 18-30 who are not currently in employment or training get advice and offers for employment. The team are accepting applications on a rolling basis, as the project will be running until 2023.

Applicants will also receive a grant of up to £500 to support costs including food and travel.

Bounce Back is kindly supported by the Walcott Foundation.

Please contact Thames Reach’s job broker, Telixia, at with any questions, or to apply.


Volunteers Week: Thank you!

To mark Volunteers Week, we chat with three inspiring volunteers: Desiree, Zuhoor and Elin, who give up their time to help our mission of ending street homelessness in London

Volunteers Week: Thank you!

To mark Volunteers Week, we caught up with some of our incredible volunteers, who work across our projects in a range of roles, and provide an invaluable service to staff and those using our services. Their commitment to our vision of ending street homelessness helps us make a real difference to people’s lives on a daily basis.

Desiree volunteers at The Greenhouse in Hackney

“My name is Desiree and I’ve been volunteering at the Greenhouse since April this year.

“I always had a passion to do more for vulnerable people, but I didn’t really know where to turn to. My boyfriend works for Thames Reach, and he spoke so highly of the work they do to support for vulnerable people. I checked the Thames Reach website and liked what I saw and read, and decided I would like to be a part of that.

“I love Thames Reach’s strong ethos and commitment. I live my life with the same kind of values: never give up on people; always be positive, respectful and compassionate about others. After my first day at the Greenhouse I was absolutely sure to have found people who really believe and work with those values.

“I’m really touched by the hard work we do at Thames Reach. I have not spent a long time volunteering yet, but I can say the benefits of volunteering are twofold: it gives help and support to people in need, and is also really rewarding in return.

“I’m learning new skills, I’m meeting a lot of nice people, I’m being part of a community and I’m challenging myself to try something different, achieve new goals and discover hidden talents. Last but not least, I’m coming back home knowing I’ve done a little something to help people change their life, and this feeling has no equal.”

Zuhoor volunteers in the Employment and Skills team

“My name is Zuhoor, I volunteer in two teams at Thames Reach: the IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance within Employment and Skills) and the volunteers team. I have been volunteering since June 2020.

“I started volunteering after meeting staff at Thames Reach who said I would be a good volunteer, and offered me experience. I love the environment here, staff have helped me a lot when I needed help and now I want to give back.

“I believe it builds and rebuilds confidence, helps with professional relationships and gives people a chance to give back to those in need, which is important when you yourself have been there.

“I have learnt so much, and can see that I can give back and that there is a lot of joy in volunteering, yes I am not paid for it but I get more joy out of this!  You can see the impact you’re making and that gives me great satisfaction!”

Elin volunteers at Southwark Works

“My name is Elin and I’ve been volunteering at the Employment Academy for Southwark Works for about nine months.

“I started volunteering after I received a notification from Do It, an online volunteering platform that helps you find the sort of volunteering you are interested in, letting me know that Thames Reach were looking for new volunteers.

“I wanted to volunteer with Thames Reach primarily because it’s a homeless charity, and I was feeling frustrated by the way I was seeing homeless people being de-humanised on the street in London. I hadn’t actually heard of Thames Reach before I started volunteering but quickly learned about the incredible work they have been doing for a long time.

“When you volunteer, you witness a side of life that might be very different to the one you live, which is important, and work along side some of the most inspiring, dedicated and compassionate people you will ever meet.

“Something I’ve learnt from volunteering is that the system is not working for everyone; poverty and homelessness are everywhere, the number of people that need help are huge, the class divides are just getting bigger and too many people are happy to turn a blind eye.”

From the entire Thames Reach community, we would like to thank all our incredible volunteers for their work, as well as their enthusiasm and dedication for ending street homelessness. Our work would not be possible without your input. You are all fantastic!

If you or your team are looking to take part in volunteering, and are passionate about ending street homelessness, please get in touch with volunteer programmes manager Kelly McLoughlin:

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Tackling digital poverty

Digital poverty is especially concerning at a time where we have all been reliant on technology to stay connected. The Employment and Skills team at Thames Reach run the iReach project to help people access the internet and learn digital skills; we spoke with digital skills support officer Annabelle to see how the project works remotely.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Tackling digital poverty

20 May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which looks to increase awareness around issues of digital access and inclusion. At a time where we are particularly reliant on technology to keep us connected, it is a concern that ‘digital poverty’ is affecting people who do not have access to either a device, a computer or data. The support required must come from a place of understanding and patience, and Annabelle Ferary, who runs Thames Reach’s iReach project, helping people develop digital skills, is an expert at providing this.

“I’m Annabelle, a digital support worker within the Employment and Skills team.  I first started at Thames Reach in 2016 as volunteer; I was impressed with the wrap-around service that the Employment and Skills team were delivering, and this inspired me to take on a paid role to help people develop and utilise their IT and digital skills in Southwark.

“This also led me to take on a further role delivering IT skills within the iReach digital project, which has been funded by the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists for several years. I delivered this within community and housing settings, supporting clients across Thames Reach.

“iReach consists of on-going weekly classes for those who would like to improve their confidence with accessing the internet and other online services independently. For example, many of the people I work with face challenges of setting up and accessing email accounts, accessing their Universal Credit independently or completing job searches.  The importance of IT skills has grown significantly since I started running iReach; it is becoming increasingly important to gain digital skills within a supportive environment.

“Since the pandemic I had to adapt how I delivered iReach. For example, many did not have access to a device, laptop, tablet or smart phone and broadband due to limited income.  This meant delivering the sessions remotely, leading to clients feeling isolated and frustrated. Several attendees shared that they wanted to have classes face-to-face due to anxiety levels and lack of confidence using devices. Digital poverty is a serious issue in society today, even more now than five years ago when I started, especially for the cohort of people we work with.

“Many of the clients I have supported have gained the confidence to complete a range of accredited courses; a great deal have been successful in obtaining employment. It is an exciting time for digital skills; the need for them will only keep growing, now that so many programmes have moved online.”

Thames Reach recently featured on Hubbub’s podcast ‘Down to Earth’, which discusses digital isolation through lack of tech access. Alessy Beaver in the Employment and Skills team discusses the ‘Community Calling’ project with her client, Paul. It’s a lovely podcast with a powerful message, available on Spotify here.

Meet the Employer events at Thames Reach this Spring

The Employment and Skills team are hosting guest employers for their ‘Meet the Employer’ series this Spring, open to all people looking to enter employment.

Meet the Employer events at Thames Reach this Spring

Meet the Employer events are being hosted at Thames Reach HQ, the Employment Academy in Camberwell, this Spring. In a safe face-to-face environment, they are a great way for anyone looking to (re)enter the workforce. In a range of sessions, employers who are currently hiring from a range of industries will be present, with a different organisation each time coming to meet attendees. Please see below for full details if you are interested in coming along, and contact Tanja, whose details are at the bottom of the page.

Event schedule

Hosted at the Employment Academy under social distancing guidelines.

5 May, 11am-1pm – British Transport Police, People and Development – police/security 

Presented by Michelle Pidgen, Positive Action Recruitment Team
– industry overview
– available opportunities
– apprenticeships
– recruitment process
– key dates to apply

19 May, 10am-12pm – Blue Bird Care – soft services

Presented by Alice Cerilli, hiring manager
– overview of the care service industry
– available vacancies
– how to apply and stand out
– best practice interviews
– career progression in the industry
– 1-2-1 interviews

20 May, 10am-1pm – Mitie Group – soft services

Presented by Diana Castro, soft services manager
– overview of the soft service industry, cleaning and facilities
– available vacancies
– how to apply and stand out
– best practice interviews
– career progression in the industry
– 1-2-1 interviews

28 May, 10am-12pm – Pret a Manger and Pret Foundation – hospitality

Presented by Juanita Cracchiolo, Pret Foundation employment and housing manager
– Pret Foundation overview and social impact
– Pret a Manger opportunities
– training and development
– hiring process
– opportunities

28 May, 2pm-4pm – Vistry Partners – construction

Presented by the community engagement officer
– find out about latest construction roles and vacancies
– application support
– recruitment process

For more details and booking, please contact Thames Reach’s job broker, Tanja Mrnjaus: or call 07971 952 437



Elishia’s story

After volunteering at the Employment Academy, Elishia is now enjoying her permanent role with Thames Reach

Elishia’s story

Elishia had spent most of the past four years indoors. She had not been able to find much work and, suffering with chronic pain and mobility issues, she became very isolated, stuck in her flat without much fulfilling activity in her life.

Thames Reach was mentioned to her one day by a friend who had just completed the Work Ready Programme, a week-long activity course aimed at helping people develop the skills to better find employment. Elishia lived close to the Employment Academy, Thames Reach’s community resource centre in Camberwell, and decided to investigate.

Liking what she saw, Elishia applied to become a volunteer receptionist, and was soon working part-time alongside reception manager Michelle, whose support proved invaluable in helping Elishia settle into her role.

Volunteering her time in an environment she found warm and welcoming, Elishia’s mental health began to improve, and she soon realised how much she enjoyed working with visitors to the Employment Academy.

“I felt very comfortable on reception,” she said. “I felt like I was meant to work here.’”

After a few months, she became a permanent member of staff. Her role involved welcoming visitors and clients, many of whom attend in order to meet with the Thames Reach employment and skills team, and also taking room hire bookings and preparing for the wide range of events that take place in the building.

“We have so much going on here,” she said. “We have meeting rooms and office space that gets booked up, but the building is also used for children’s birthdays, church services, theatre groups and community meetings. We even have a wedding licence, and we have lots of weddings here along with parties in the courtyard in the summer.

“It’s my job to get the place ready for anyone who’s made a booking. I work hard to get everything just right and, every event I’ve covered, I’ve always felt appreciated by clients and visitors and that’s what makes me want to stay here in this job.”

Elishia feels that volunteering has opened the door to a more fulfilling life for her. 

“I really want to carry on here. I was really struggling before but now I get a lot of joy from what I’m doing. To other people who are thinking of volunteering but are unsure, I’d tell them to not be scared, you won’t know what you enjoy, and what feels worthwhile to you, until you go out and try. You can get so much out of it, it feels great to contribute, and it can help you with finding a permanent job in the future.”