Activism

Lord Bourne and Lord Bird visit social enterprise Sheffield Futures

Minister for Faith Lord Bourne and Big Issue founder Lord John Bird take a tour of interfaith and social enterprise projects in the north of England

Sheffield skyline

Sheffield Futures greeted some very special guests on Friday as two House of Lords peers visited the young people’s charity to learn more about their work and impact on the local community.

Lord Nick Bourne, the Minister for Faith, was joined by The Big Issue founder, Lord John Bird, for a tour of interfaith and social enterprise projects that help confront social problems in the north of England.

After visiting the cathedrals of Ripon, York and Wakefield, Lord Bird and Lord Bourne – who recently wrote in The Big Issue about a tour he is carrying out visiting all 42 Anglican cathedrals in one year, and the valuable work that faith communities do to help those on the margins society – arrived in Sheffield to get an insight into some of the city’s unique social projects.

In particular, the Cathedral Archer Project – a homeless day centre based at Sheffield Cathedral – piqued their interest. The project aims to help individuals overcome homelessness by providing advice, training and services, including a dentist’s, which Lord Bourne described as “extraordinary”.

Lord Bourne and Lord Bird visit Sheffield Futures

The peers then headed to Sheffield Futures (above), a charity that provides mentoring and specialist support to the city’s young people across a wide range of services, which has received support from Big Issue Invest, The Big Issue’s social investment arm. Sheffield Futures’ work creates young leaders and helps disadvantaged youth gain valuable skills and experience, which will set them up for future employment.

In 2015 it received £350,000 from Big Issue Invest’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund I for a three-year contract to provide support and advice on training, employment, social inclusion and personal development for socially disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 17.

Lord Bourne and Lord Bird heard from both staff and young people who have gone on to become employees of Sheffield Futures, having made use of their services in the past.

Sheffield Futures’ Operations Manager Lynne Hilson described the visit from the peers as “very positive” and underlined its significance for the young people who shared their experiences.

“They appreciated how attentive both Lord Bourne and Lord Bird were, and how they gave them the time to share their stories and their involvement,” she said. “That will stay in their minds now and they’ll be able to share that with their friends, but also they’ll be able to share it in the work that they’re doing as a positive way of showing young people what can happen when they get involved.”

Both peers commended the charity for the impact their work has on the local area. Lord Bourne described hearing from the young people’s experiences as “fascinating” and expressed his thanks to Sheffield Futures for their work in Sheffield and in “setting an example to the rest of the country in the sort of work that can be done”. He also thanked Big Issue Invest for their financial support of the charity.

They appreciated how attentive both Lord Bourne and Lord Bird were

Lord Bird described how the day’s visits had revealed “an enormous appetite for entrepreneurialism” in the North. “Sheffield Futures is all about being entrepreneurial – trying to get the young people who come in to be entrepreneurial, also to burn the candle at both ends.”

He also let slip how the peers used the trip to discuss some novel retirement plans: “We’re going to go round the country and make a documentary about using architecture, churches, abbeys and minsters for brilliant projects. It’s going to be a fantastic programme!”

Words: Sophie Monaghan-Coombs

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