Social Enterprise of the month: PGW Rebuild with hope

Blog Created: January 2, 2024

Rebuild with Hope caused a stir earlier this year when it set up its flagship store in the former Debenhams store in Wigan’s Grand Arcade. The charity supports people who face barriers get to employment and to assist them into work after leaving prison. They also sell amazing High Street brand at huge reductions. We met with Louise Atherton to find out more

Louise said: “I have more than 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, working with men and women in prison. And obviously there’s a gap post-release. 

“The vision was to have hub in a local community where we could offer training, volunteer opportunities, progression into employment for ex-offenders.

“I did some work previously with an organisation called Remade with Hope who work inside prisons. They have contracts with major High Street retailers, where they take all the redundant stock in the prisons, and the prisoners would delabel the stock. It is then distributed overseas to their customers”

“Remade With Hope donated a lot of stock which was how we were able to establish the Rebuild With Hope charity in 2021 and generate income so quickly.

“Initially, community sales were set up in disadvantaged areas, selling at between 60 and 75% off retail value. We’ve grown exponentially, just trying to meet the demand because of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Around 126 community sales have been held at 26 community centres across the North West – Warrington, Lancashire, Greater Manchester – since we opened.

Central hub 

“The plan was to always have a central hub. I’m from Wigan, so when the opportunity to work in the former Debenhams store was presented, we snatched it up with both hands and got the keys at the end of June

“Not only are there training facilities, the volunteering, the work experience, but also a retail outlet. So now we sell from the ground floor. Upstairs, we prepare the stock and have a training venue, meeting rooms and spaces for other social enterprises to operate from. 

“On the retail floor, we also have a couple of social enterprises in a pop-up space sponsored through the Proper Good programme. The Wigan homeless charity the Brick has set up permanently on the retail floor to support people through the poverty crisis.

 And we have another North West charity that works with us called the Book Cycle that donates book. A repair and revive corner will provide a tailoring service. 

Debenhams used to have a cafe so we’re going to open that as a warm space over the winter. There is just so much going on.

Back to work

“We work with ex-offenders and people that have been out of work for a long time, working with Ingeus for the Restart scheme. We work also with social services people and volunteers with physical disabilities – anybody that needs a little bit of extra support.

“We are in a unique position in that we have volunteering, work experience and progression to employment opportunities. It is covering all bases for people that have been out of work for a long time or struggling to get into mainstream employment.

“Profits from our sales supports the training, work coaches, and mentors and other staff just to run the charity. Everything that’s raised goes back into the charity, whether that’s to purchase another minibus so that we can pick men up from prison or we so we can do some work with community payback. 

“Last year, in our first full year of operating, we supported 30 people into employment. 

“Our three-month rolling training programme covers the basic work skills; manual handling, first aid, PAT testing. Then we do specific training, for example we make sure they have the health and safety and the CSCS card for construction. For warehousing and logistics, we work with a provider to do the forklift truck training. Woven through the training is CV and interview prep and developing work skills, social skills, teamwork, communication – all those softer transferable skills.

“The men in prison volunteer with us for three months, we employ them for another three, and then we progress them into other employment opportunities. Some of them stay with us, or construction sites, hospitality, scaffolding and some have gone back to the employer that they will with prior going into prison because they proved that they had worked well with us.

“Our target for this year is to support 120 people into employment. They are not all going to be coming from prison but what we’ve realized as we’ve grown, and the demand has grown.

“We still deliver all the community sales across the North West four times a week and we have a team of people that go on to the sales and of course, we have the hub in Wigan and we have a small shop just outside of Preston. 

“We document the skills, especially for the men that have been imprisoned so they realise what they are achieving. It is about understanding the individual and making sure that they are going to fit into whatever organisation we’re going to refer them to. Obviously, we don’t want to damage relationships were built up with employers.

“Our motto is: Employ for attitude and train for skill.”

“We are very proud of the fact that we are a charity supporting people but also our shop happens to have some really decent products!”

To find out more about Rebuild With Hope follow them on Facebook

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      Wigan & Leigh Community Charity. Business Community Hub. Platt Bridge Community Zone.
      81 Ribble Road, Platt Bridge, Wigan. WN2 5EG
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