….continued from “I don’t want a job, I want a career.”
“Warburtons, as far as I know, have always been interested in supporting the community that sustains them, so to speak. In Bolton, in particular. They’ve been heavily involved with Bolton Wanderers over the years and have done lots and lots of social enterprise-type projects. My understanding is they have pockets of funding they’re prepared to invest across their communities,” says Mick.
“The idea for our project is to support some Bolton at Home clients through this self-employment project. So we’re working with about 10 local people who might have been long-term unemployed or have some other barriers that stop them moving on.
“Warburtons are not looking for massive outcomes, and they’re not expecting all 10 people to suddenly become self-employed and self-sufficient. What they are looking for is the journey, for these individuals to make some progress.”
“They’re being realistic about what can reasonably be achieved,” I suggest.
“Very much so,” says Mick, “and Chris, at the moment, is a roaring success.”
“So, how does it work?” I ask Chris, “Are you still on benefits?”
“Yes,” he says, “but that’s because I work for less than 16 hours a week. A lot less. I have to declare each week to the JobCentre advisor how much I have worked in case it affects my money.”
“We’re trying to gradually move people like Chris into self-employment so they can eventually come off benefits,” explains Mick. “It’s Catch-22, the lad’s got the get up and go to find the work but doesn’t earn enough to support himself.
“We’re putting in place what I call the building blocks of legitimacy, so he’s got a firm footing from which to build his business. We’ve sorted him out with insurance, got a load of leaflets printed – they’re in the boot of my car, Chris, I’ll give them to you later – bought him tools, with the hope he can build a client base that will sustain him over the winter.”
“There’s always plenty to do in the winter,” says Chris.
“And who, typically are your customers?” I ask.
“Households mainly,” he says, “and some businesses. Having insurance will be a big help with the businesses. Schools and churches won’t let you near the place unless you’ve got public liability insurance. But I mostly try the posh houses, with big gardens.”
“But where?” I ask, knowing there aren’t that many posh houses in Breightmet.
“Some round here,” says Chris, “but I will go further afield.”
“Tell him how you get your equipment around,” says Mick.
“I pull it along on a little box cart I’ve made because I don’t want to ruin the lawnmower, it’s only got plastic wheels. Sometimes I’ll go as far as Farnworth.”
I’m not familiar with the distances. “How far is that?” I ask.
“About four or five miles. It would take me about an hour and a half walking there and back.”
“And how much do you charge? What’s your hourly rate?”
“For my regular clients it’s £5 an hour, but generally it’s £7.50, but if I’m going that far, I’ll try and get a day’s work to make it worth my while.”
“Chris finds pricing difficult,” says Mick.
“That’s when I talk to these guys. They can help me out with all those gaps I’m missing. Sometimes I just ring them up and ask them random questions. It’s good to have someone to talk to, and if they don’t know the answers they’ll go out of their way to find them for me.”
“I haven’t told you this yet,” Mick says to Chris, “but I have a pal who lives near me and he’s a landscape gardener. He started off much the same way as you’re doing and now he has four or five people working for him. He’s doing all right. Anyway, he’s agreed to talk to you and give you some advice about the next steps.”
Chris smiles and nods his approval.
Got a garden within cart-dragging distance of Breightmet? Love 4 Lawns is on 07808 151 390