Select committee members visit Melior Street Gardens

Members of the House of Commons work and pensions select committee have visited a community garden at London Bridge.

Select committee members visit Melior Street Gardens
Dame Anne Begg MP with committee members and Putting Down Roots participants at Melior Street Gardens

The cross-party committee of MPs met participants in the Putting Down Roots programme run by homelessness charity St Mungo's.

The visit – led by Dame Anne Begg MP – was part of the committee's inquiry into the effectiveness of the Government's Work Programme for different groups, including people who are homeless.

Putting Down Roots provides homeless people with training in gardening and food-growing skills to help them find paid employment.

The Melior Street Gardens are maintained by Putting Down Roots clients under a contract with Team London Bridge.

"We are delighted the committee has chosen to visit our employment and skills services today to see how programmes focused on the individual can transform their journey back to work," said Charles Fraser, chief executive of St Mungo's.

"Work is the best way out of homelessness and our clients want to be working, but a lack of basic skills or poor physical or mental health can easily hold people back.

"We believe that the Government should provide pre Work Programme training to help people to develop the skills and self belief they need to engage with the Work Programme. This would consist of training and learning specifically targeted at those who face the most severe barriers to finding a job much like the ones St Mungo's provides."

Dame Anne Begg added: "Surveys suggest as little as six per cent of homeless people are in paid employment.

"Homeless people are, therefore, a key Work Programme user group, and it is vital the Programme works for them. The visit to St Mungo's allowed the committee to hear first hand from homeless people. This will prove invaluable in assessing how the Programme is working for this particularly vulnerable group in our society.

"St Mungo's provides a variety of employment services for their clients, but currently not within the Work Programme. The visit therefore also enabled the committee to hear the views of an experienced, expert employment scheme provider operating outside of the Government scheme."

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