HS2 contractors launch Empowering Communities scheme to tackle homelessness and improve skills

Empowering Communities is working with Buses for Homeless to get homeless people off the street and into full-time, sustainable employment and accommodation.

HS2’s London contractors – including major construction companies Costain, Skanska, Strabag, Mace, Dragados and Arup – are implementing a major social legacy programme that is intended to benefit communities along the final part of the HS2 route into London. 

Launched by HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP, Empowering Communities is the first programme of its kind to be led by the construction industry, working in partnership with HS2, to deliver long-lasting benefits for local people for generations to come. 

The programme aims to create jobs for those experiencing worklessness and homelessness and to support community projects and to help young people to develop new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills and access apprenticeships.

Working together with local communities, the partner organisations will enable local people to have a say in what the programme delivers for their communities. 

Empowering Communities is already reaping rewards and has provided STEM education support to over 11,000 young people across seven London boroughs. The programme has also created jobs for more than 200 previously unemployed people and supported nine homeless people into work on the HS2 project.

The partner organisations are working with local charities and community groups such as Buses for Homeless (B4H), a social enterprise which aims to get homeless people off the street and into full-time, sustainable employment and accommodation. B4H refurbishes decommissioned London buses into spaces suitable for their guests to live and takes them through an intensive 12-week training programme. The site is set up with separate buses for sleeping, cooking and eating, learning, and wellness and therapy.

Other commitments under the initiative include supporting young people, particularly those leaving care. The partner organisations are working with the Care Leavers Covenant, an organisation designed to support care leavers, ages 16 to 25 to live independently. We will be offering opportunities to this cohort of young people to gain an insight into construction through mentoring, work placements, apprenticeships and job opportunities, and will be working alongside Local Authorities to ensure those opportunities are given to those care leavers who are within the communities HS2 work is taking place in.

Andrew Stephenson MP.

At the launch, HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP said:  “This fantastic initiative highlights how being a good neighbour doesn’t just mean minimising the impact an infrastructure project has on local communities, it’s about maximising the benefits to the surrounding areas.

“The Empowering Communities programme will help unleash the enormous potential of communities on the HS2 route – addressing social issues such as homelessness and unemployment and creating a legacy of jobs, skills and community initiatives for the people and places along the line.”

Mark Thurston, HS2.

HS2 chief executive officer Mark Thurston added: “As we build Britain’s new low carbon railway, there will be lots of opportunities for local communities to get involved in the project.

“Our contractors are leading the way in creating career opportunities for local people, and providing benefits to communities all across the route, creating a legacy for generations to come.”

Louise Dailly, head of legacy at Costain Skanska joint venture, commented:  “This joined-up approach enables us to deliver more together than we could individually, boosting outcomes for local people and laying the foundations for innovative and powerful outcomes that the community can continue long after we leave the area.

Louise Dailly, Costain Skanska.

“Empowering communities works closely with vulnerable groups, including refugees, people with previous convictions and young people who have been in care.

“By targeting harder to reach groups alongside wider goals to support skills, employment and education, homelessness, young people and equality diversity and inclusion, Empowering Communities really can offer everyone an opportunity to succeed.”

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