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.


Thames Reach to host job clinic on 1 and 3 June

The event will provide training and advice to help people back into work

Thames Reach to host job clinic on 1 and 3 June

On Tuesday 1 June and Thursday 3 June we are hosting a job clinic at our Employment Academy community hub in Camberwell. Run by our Employment and Skills team, who help people to get back into work, the two events will be an opportunity for people to meet with the team, get advice, and make use of their expertise in order to better secure meaningful, long term employment.

The job clinic will run between 2pm-4pm on Tuesday 1 June and Thursday 3 June at the Employment Academy, 29 Peckham Road, Camberwell, London SE5 8UA

Areas covered by the job clinic will include:

– Searching for jobs

– Reviewing and improving your CVs

– Job applications

– Digital support

– Interview preparation and skills

– Personal development

– Support when you’re already in work

To book a spot at the job clinic:

If you are a Southwark resident:

email: giovanni.d’

phone: 07966 766 044

For all other boroughs:


phone: 07971 952 437

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



Interview with Tanja, Thames Reach’s job broker helping people get back into work

Tanja Mrnjaus is Thames Reach’s job broker, based in the Employment and Skills team. We chat to her about the challenges of the job market, how she is supporting people to get back into work and her predictions for a post-lockdown London

Interview with Tanja, Thames Reach’s job broker helping people get back into work

Can you tell us a bit about your role, and your career before coming to Thames Reach?

My role as a job broker is to support clients through search, application and placement into employment. I am also building new and managing existing relationships with employers and training providers. Previous to working here I was a brand and general manager for an international fashion brand and a lecturer for Marketing and Communications in Business of Fashion. I started my career as a personal stylist and have worked with shopping giants such as Westfield and John Lewis developing and recruiting styling talent and delivering retail training programmes.

What are the biggest challenges in your role at the moment?

The biggest challenges in my role at the moment are very much influenced by the global pandemic and the effects on the economic market. Many businesses have shut their doors and certain industries have struggled to keep afloat. As a result there is an increase of people who are looking for work in an environment where there are not as many roles offered. However there is always an opportunity and I am very much motivated to ensure that people I work with are placed in sustainable employment.

What are the biggest challenges faced by those supported by the Employment and Skills (E&S) team, and how are you able to help?

The challenges faced by E&S clients are very complex and varied.  Main barriers include communication skills, lack of training, lack of experience, confidence, technology access and funds. By working with clients personally, I can tailor a plan to meet their needs in terms of receiving additional support in areas they are lacking and taking steps towards their employment goals. I support clients by coaching them through their job search and helping them navigate through resources that are available to them so they reach their full potential.

Do you have any predictions for the employment market once London comes out of a full lockdown? What advice are you giving to clients based on this?

I am very hopeful for the rise in the employment market once London comes out of full lockdown. My predictions in terms of job vacancies would be that the hospitality and hotel industries will making a big comeback, the beauty industry will boom, IT and digital technology will continue to dominate, and digital skills will be much in demand; warehouse, delivery service and construction will continue to thrive. I am also seeing a rise in local social enterprise businesses; giving back to the community will be more important than ever. Due to the mental health effects of the pandemic, mindfulness and wellbeing services will become more sought after than ever.

What are you hopeful about this year?

There will definitely be exciting opportunities this year to start fresh and with a new perspective. There are many grants to support and help rebuild the economy and the best thing we can all do is to continue to be positive and work together to make a difference to those that need it the most. This year is all about cross-referring, cross partnerships and establishing strong networks to provide an improved service and create opportunities from within.

Gabriel’s story

Gabriel became homeless just before the pandemic, but was able to return to work and have a new start with the help of the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project at Thames Reach

Gabriel’s story

Gabriel* is a Portuguese man living in London, who found himself homeless for the first time in the spring of 2020. He had a history of substance use and when he became homeless, his drug use had increased, due to the additional stress and trauma of his situation.

He had support in place around his drug use, but was struggling to fully engage with this process; overcoming this first barrier was essential in order to begin his journey away from homelessness. A lot of the early support he received was around stabilising his use, which he actively engaged with, and was successful in doing.

Gabriel also had a strong skillset and a long history of employment. The key to supporting him was helping him feel empowered to make steps towards employment and increasing his confidence, which had suffered during his periods of drug use and homelessness.

On a practical level the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project (LNEP) team created a CV for him, provided transport costs so he could look for work and sent him job opportunities. Gabriel was encouraged to actively participate in the process, and by providing him with the tools he needed, he began taking steps to find employment.

Moving out of London was something Gabriel felt would be beneficial to his recovery. He found a job in Hastings as a cleaner in a supermarket, and needed to start within a few days. This is when support had to be as flexible as possible; the team needed to move quickly to ensure he was able to relocate in time to secure the position.

As soon as he was offered the position the team referred him to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) service within Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST), during which time he was secured hotel accommodation in Hastings and relocated immediately, to begin work within a few days. This gave the PRS team enough time to work on securing affordable accommodation locally and begin the resettlement process.

Gabriel is happy in his new job, it is a role that is not too mentally challenging for him; he says it gives him time to work on his recovery and rebuild his confidence. On his time off he is enjoying long sea walks and feels it is the first step towards a new future.

Marvin’s story

Having been employed for a long time in the music and film industries, Marvin found himself on hard times before being helped back on his feet by staff at Deptford Reach

Marvin’s story

Marvin is a service user at Deptford Reach. He sits down in Deptford Reach’s art room with a wide smile on his face; he is preparing to start his first full-time job in years after struggling to get past interview stages. While he is optimistic now, things started to change for Marvin in 2012, after his work situation changed. He had worked in facilities, audiovisuals and staging for film, music, theatre and television. He talks about the precarious nature of the work, it was always feast or famine, and these were the days before zero hour contracts. He looks back at these years fondly, having toured with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode, and worked for huge directors including Ridley Scott.

But the work wasn’t consistent and in 2012 he was signing on at the job centre; because he didn’t have a fixed address and his post was being delivered to his brother’s house, he wasn’t aware that he was being sanctioned by the job centre. It was over Christmas that year that he found he had no money, and he would walk miles between his support networks and the job centre to sort his benefits as he couldn’t afford public transport. He was staying in a hostel nearby in south London when someone told him about Deptford Reach; he describes the project as a bit of a life-saver for people with mixed needs, and was grateful for the food and social opportunities. He has been a regular visitor at the day centre since.

Marvin has a strong work ethic and loves keeping busy, which was why struggling to work was so frustrating for him. He took up volunteering at Deptford Reach, mostly working in the kitchen with basic cooking and cleaning tasks, and was offered a place on a Food Hygiene course as an added extra for his CV. He is currently living nearby in accommodation, which was found for him by a support worker at Deptford Reach. Marvin is taking the future one step at a time, beginning with looking forward to starting his new job as a Facilities Engineer in the theatre industry.

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.”

Thames Reach women use new painting skills to makeover community centre in Peckham

Women complete six week painting and decorating course at Thames Reach Employment Academy

Thames Reach women use new painting skills to makeover community centre in Peckham

A group of female trainees have successfully completed Moving In Moving On (MIMO), a six-week painting and decorating course based at the Thames Reach Employment Academy in Camberwell and the Bells Gardens Community Centre in Peckham.

The Thames Reach MIMO project, funded by the MariaMarina Foundation, aims to help people who may be vulnerable, socially isolated or those who have experienced long-term unemployment to build practical skills, confidence and friendships in a safe and focused environment, and prepare them in finding future employment.

The women spent the first three weeks at Thames Reach Employment Academy where they learnt basic painting and decorating skills in the classroom such as preparing surfaces, plastering, health and safety in the workplace and intricate stencil designs enabling them to create their own artwork.

On the final three weeks of the course, the trainees put their skills to the test in a real life setting as they redecorated the entire front of reception at the Bells Gardens Community Centre in Peckham, giving it a fresh new feel. A huge task which was well received from all staff members at the centre.

Margaret Onwuta, Senior Manager at the Bells Gardens Community Centre spoke about the project saying;

“On behalf of the organisation, I would like to say a huge thank you to all the ladies for a job well done.

“When I met with them initially I was not sure of what to expect until they started preparing the area.

“They were a lovely group who not only got on well with each other, but with our staff team and visitors”.

On completion of the course, each woman was presented with a certificate in recognition of their achievement and commitment. They now have the opportunity to undertake accredited City & Guilds training in painting skills which will be delivered at the Employment Academy in partnership with Flower Skills Training – an organisation providing specialist training and development for working in the construction sector.

The women spoke fondly of their time on the course and the chance it gave them to express themselves creatively and develop practical skills, all whilst getting to know a team of other women in similar life situations.

One lady, who has been a resident at Thames Reach’s Lambeth High Street hostel for the last year-and-a-half after losing her flat, spoke about her experience on MIMO, saying:

“To be honest, I thought it would be boring. But now I’m glad I took part.

“We were given a lot of choice and freedom to express ourselves on MIMO and the course educated me in areas that I never knew.

“It’s definitely helped improve my confidence and now I’m looking at doing other courses, maybe another six week course or a yearlong one”.

Another trainee described the course as;

“A very interactive and fun course which gives practical skills and confidence to be in social environments.

“It brings you out of your shell and helps create a sense of independence.

“I now want to try my hand at gardening”.

Historically, the outcomes of this course have been highly impressive with trainees going on to further their skills and knowledge, gain accredited City & Guilds qualifications and find and sustain employment.

Thames Reach is committed to supporting men and women with complex and multiple needs, and will continue to evolve its services ensuring every service user is supported to move away from homelessness