Top Church Training
Top Church Training (TCT) in Dudley runs a community café to break the cycle of disengagement, helplessness and loneliness for vulnerable young people. By providing a community hub and offering work placements in the TCT Café Connect, they help around 200 young people to get ready for work each year.
TCT received their first three-year grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation in 2015 and have been awarded a further £57,105 for the next three years. Their Head of Operations, Karen Fielder, said:
‘Through the café we wanted to reach young people who have been excluded, have drug or alcohol issues, or complex family situations. Many people we meet are the third generation in their family to be relying on benefits. Over time we try to change their attitude to work by giving them an understanding of routine and helping them see the benefits.’
Charlie’s parents moved away to start a new life without her when she was 17 and left her outside TCT :
‘They helped get me into a temporary hostel and within eight weeks they found me a place to live. With their support I got a job as a retail supervisor, and they taught me how to manage my finances as I was living on my own for the first time.’
However, after everything Charlie had been through, her vulnerability meant she found herself in an abusive relationship:
’He attacked me outside my front door. He grabbed me and strangled me up against a wall. I still don’t know how I got free. Top Church helped me go to the police, but they couldn’t do anything. In the end I had to leave my home and quit my job for my own safety.’
Top Church helped Charlie, now 22, to find a new home and support worker Lauren has been a constant for her:
’If it wasn’t for Top Church I think I’d be homeless now. Lauren helped me grow into an adult and gave me the support and knowledge my parents didn’t - if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t go out my front door.’
TCT were invited by their Grant Manager, Peter Cunnison to be part of Reconnect, an employment programme in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group for vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the West Midlands. The programmeprovides them with skills, experience and confidence to prepare for work by giving them the opportunity to work alongside Lloyds colleagues. Karen says:
‘At first I was hesitant about young people being taken into a corporate environment. They had the ability to take part, but I knew they’d find it hard to apply themselves; but Reconnect was a great opportunity for them.
Through being involved in Reconnect Karen was introduced to Jane Heighway, Head of Direct Business Banking and as a result Jane now mentors TCT.
‘Jane has offered me different perspectives and has been a sounding board through some challenging times. I’m not a business person myself but we wanted to get our business plan right; to promote the café as social enterprise, but I needed help, and Jane has been a huge support.’
Jane was initially nervous about becoming a mentor but quickly realised she didn’t need to know the charity sector to be able to support Karen and TCT, as the things she took for granted in her day to day job were a huge support to Karen, such as HR and recruitment support and extra business resources. Jane is also really proud that her team supports TCT in the Lloyds Banking Group Birmingham office:
“All my team at the bank know who Top Church are. The young people sell the cakes they make at the café in our offices and for me it’s about more than raising money, it’s about giving the young people an opportunity to practice their social skills and engage with different people in a new environment.