Ireland: Good practice examples -
Homelessness and Employment

Education and Training

Foundations Project, Dublin

The Foundations Project was established by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee in 2000 to work with homeless services in order to increase access to education for people experiencing homelessness.
This involves a multi-faceted approach including:

  • the direct provision of educational programmes for homeless persons in homeless services and education centres (including programmes for single people and families in B&Bs)
  • support work and follow-up work with participants around their wider needs.
  • referrals to other programmes, training courses and services through an advice and information service
  • provision of training for staff and service-users regarding literacy and, awareness raising actions with staff and homeless service-users regarding educational programmes and services available.

The project networks closely with both the education and homeless service sectors and aims to increase awareness and create linkages between the two sectors wherever possible. The Foundations Project has a team of workers including a full-time Co-ordinator, a Literacy Worker, a Peer Worker and an After-Schools Worker.

The Vocational Education Committees also run a number of Back to Education Initiatives (BTEI) with 4 projects (1 in Galway, 1 in Kildare and 1 in Dublin) specifically targeting people who are homeless. The Community Strand of the initiative also involves 5 projects in Dublin city and county involving mixed groups of early school leavers and people experiencing homelessness. The Back to Education Initiative provides a flexible adult learning programme prioritised for those with less than secondary education.

Spokes Programme, Dublin

The Spokes Programme run by Focus Ireland offers people experiencing homelessness the chance to take part in education, employment and training programmes. Many of the training programmes offered in Spokes are Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) accredited. and courses include computers, photography, maths, preparation for work and childcare. Spokes operates one-to-one courses on an ongoing basis focusing on topics such as Computers, Maths and English. Support with a more personal development focus includes a course covering Social Skills and also an innovative Preparation for Work course run in conjunction with Hibernian Insurance. Spokes recently employed a dedicated Guidance worker that can link clients into agencies such as FAS and the VEC and provide practical advice and support on accessing education, training and employment opportunities.

Read about it in the Employability and Homelessness Newsletter

PDF - 331.3 kb
Employability Newsletter Issue 3

Parks and Gardens Work Scheme, Cork

The Parks and Gardens Work Scheme has been established as a pilot initiative via a partnership of Cork Simon Community, FAS, the Bessborough Centre and Cork City Council to deliver training for the Community’s residents and service-users.

Based at the Bessborough Centre in Blackrock, it offers a wide range of training modules, many of which lead to FETAC certification. These include Computer Skills, Personal Development, Literacy Skills, Office Procedures, Counselling and Amenity Horticulture. The Amenity Horticulture module focuses on the practical application of amenity horticulture in enterprises such as landscaping, garden centre operations and food crop production.

A second project has been developed with Meitheal Mara, a Cork based community maritime boat-building organisation. Here service users develop a range of skills that lead to FETAC accreditation and obtain practical work experience within a wider community setting.

Dublin Simon Training Project, Dublin

The project was operated from Chapelizod, Dublin over the last few years to offer training courses that are tailored to the needs of people who are homeless or who have experienced homelessness in the recent past. The project delivered a FAS (Irish Training and Employment Authority) supported initiative offering up to 15 people a part time programme focusing on activities including foundation level woodworking, glass craft, basic computing skills, literacy, numeracy and personal development.

Dublin Simon developed links with employers to secure work placements and employment opportunities for the participants. It also linked in with the Business in the Community "Ready for Work" initiative (discussed further below) to avail of such opportunities from major companies such as Marks and Spencer and Brown Thomas. Recentlyn the training project moved from Chapelizod and has been restructured to focus on learning and development interventions within the other Dublin Simon services. Now based in Dorset Street, it will concentrate on broader lifeskills development for Dublin Simon clients on an outreach basis rather than the vocational training delivered previously.

PACE Training for Employment Project, Dublin

PACE is an education and training project dealing with up to 24 individuals at any one time that are experiencing homelessness and have recently been released from prison. By the end of 2007 this number increased to 40 places.

The project offers a wide range of education and training options focusing on coping with life after prison and preparation for progression into employment or further education or training opportunities. The project works in partnership with a wide range of external agencies to ensure that the trainees are getting the best package of programmes possible. The nature of the courses available range widely depending on client need and include woodwork and metalwork skills; computer skills; catering; Junior Cert and Leaving Cert subjects; core skills development; health and fitness; and literacy. The project has established an Open Learning Centre and offers vocational and educational guidance, counselling, mediation and placement services and personal development training. This can focus on anger management, coping with life after prison or addiction support. The project also links closely with the PACE transitional accommodation project in Priorswood House, with many participants resident in this location. The project is currently in the process of expanding and developing an off-site Horticultural Project, that is aimed at providing training and education in the area of Horticulture.

Dun Laoghaire Step Up Homeless Project, Dun Laoghaire

This project is an education programme run by Dun Laoghaire VEC (Vocational Education Committee) which caters for homeless adults in the Dun Laoghaire area. The project provides a range of courses including Cookery, Positive Thinking and Motivation, Literacy and Computer Skills. A summer programme has recently been launched delivering "softer" courses such as reflexology and music skills. Participation levels have been strong thus far, with excellent links built up with a major local homeless service provider, Crosscare. It also provides an education guidance service. The provision of this programme takes into account the multiplicity of social, psychological and physiological issues that may affect homeless learners. It’s philosophy is to engage those experiencing homelessness in education allowing them to build on personal motivation, self esteem and create a sense of structure in their lives on a consistent basis. The project also provides homeless people with viable progression routes to further education and employment opportunities. The project is currently expanding its services and is supported by ESB Electric Aid Ireland and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

St Catherine’s Foyer Project, Dublin

This project was established in 2004 to provide short stay housing and training for young people aged 18-25 experiencing homelessness to assist them in the transition from dependent to independent living. The Foyer, Ireland’s first such centre, offers living accommodation for 48 individuals grouped around a south facing courtyard and provides 8 cluster groups of 6 study bedrooms with their own shared kitchen and dining facilities, with communal rooms and classrooms for training on the ground floor. The Foyer is supported by Cara Housing Association, Dublin City Council, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and St Catherine’s Combined Communities Group.

Supported Employment Schemes

Ready for Work Programme

This programme commenced in 2002 and involves working with service providers and businesses to provide homeless people with two days of training and a two-week placement within a company, with follow up support provided by Training and Employment Officers.

The training was devised specifically for marginalised groups and centres on visualisation, motivation, plans and change. The benefits to those moving on from homelessness include improved self-esteem, work experience and a route to full time employment.

The benefits to participating businesses include a recruitment solution, team building, company profile development, reputation enhancement and enhanced goodwill among existing and potential customers. A review of the programme over the period 2002-2006 found that since inception, 76 people have completed the programme. Of these 53 have begun work and 44 candidates have accessed further education and training.

The jobs have been filled primarily in the areas of retail, office administration and hotel work, however placements have also for people with qualifications in engineering, teaching and linguistics. The Ready for Work programme is a division of Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) and works in association with the homeless service providers and the Homeless Agency and in partnership with FAS, IBEC and the Small Firms Association. The main sponsors of the programme include Anglo Irish Bank, Marks and Spencer (Ireland), KPMG, Brown Thomas, PricewaterouseCoopers and the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group.

FAS Community Employment Scheme

Although not targeted specifically at people experiencing homelessness, this employment scheme has been successful in providing a practical means for clients and former clients of homeless services to access work, sometimes within these homeless services themselves.

The scheme aims to help long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine. It assists participants to enhance and develop both their technical and personal skills which can then be used in the workplace. The programme is sponsored by groups wishing to benefit the local community, particularly voluntary organisations and public bodies involved in not-for-profit activities. FAS gives financial support in the form of allowances and funding to assist with the Community Employment programme, for example participant wages, supervisor grants, materials grants, and specific skills training grants. The training provided through Community Employment is delivered within a Quality Assurance framework and FETAC awards and qualifications can be achieved which lead to major awards on the National Framework of Qualifications.