Jenny’s Story

In desperation after many years of domestic abuse Jenny fled her home to stay with friends in Edinburgh, leaving behind her in the Borders her job and three young children. This was last December. Understandably in the circumstances her mental health took a dip over the following weeks, putting strain on her friendships and contributing to her making some bad choices.

On the edge of collapse Jenny got help from our Homeless Prevention Service. The service got her into a refuge, sorted out her finances and supported her in making plans for the future. Part of this was to get a home and work in Edinburgh. An internal referral to Cyrenians Social Enterprise Training Programme saw Jenny involved at the Training Kitchen in Leith and referred to one of our many corporate partners for a 3-month placement as a commis chef. Last week Jenny bounced in to tell us that she is now employed there. She also has a new home, her kids are back with her and settled into local school. She feels she has a bright new future.

I tell the story this week because we’re at that exciting stage of starting a new project to scale up the social enterprise trainee programme so that Jenny’s story can become hundreds of stories. Financial and business backing from JP Morgan is enabling us to employ a new worker to spearhead development.

In view of the new Government’s plans on welfare to work let me say that in Cyrenians experience the people we have contact with really do want to work. There are real problems in how some people financially transition from benefits to paid work and I know that Iain Duncan Smith has it in mind to resolve this.

There are also big challenges for people in developing the skills, attributes and confidence for not just getting a job but performing in it and thriving off it. Our new programme will explore the best way of meeting these challenges.

While deeply satisfied to hear from my team about her story, I shudder to think of how the future would have unfolded for Jenny and her family if she hadn’t got the breaks and the support to make the most of them, and for all the other Jennys out there.

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