Raising Aspirations in South Leeds

Health for All (HFA) has been busy engaging South Leeds residents in activities designed to help them move closer to the job market. The Raising Aspirations project is funded by CLLD, Community Led Local Development, part of the European Social Investment Fund. Priorities for the project are families and people with disabilities who often face major barriers to getting a job.

Raising Aspirations was launched at the HFA AGM in early March, just before the lockdown was announced by the Government to reduce the spread of Covid-19. HFA had to close its centres so delivery of the project moved online. Prior to lockdown, the staff team organised three drop-in sessions in the area to promote the project and engage people’s interest.

Events took place at Middleton Family Centre, Beeston Village Community Centre and St Mary’s Parochial Hall, with a warm welcome and refreshments provided. Family Activity workers entertained the children to enable parents to relax and talk freely about the help they wanted. Partner Leeds City College, were also in attendance, providing information about further education opportunities.

Raising Aspirations Co-ordinator Danielle Newton said:

“Making that first step can be daunting, but we are getting amazing feedback from local residents in South Leeds. Our approach of providing one to one support and online training courses seems to be what many people need. Despite the lockdown, over 70 families have signed up so far and been allocated a key worker. The events gave us lots of useful insight into why people find it hard to access education or employment. People have told us of barriers such as lack of childcare, lack of basic skills in Maths, English and ESOL. Some simply lack the confidence needed to apply for jobs or courses and need that friendly helping hand.”

Recent weeks has seen the Raising Aspirations staff deliver four virtual courses including Confidence Building and Breaking the Barriers, ESOL & Functional skills, Photography and IT skills and How to set up your own business. More than 20 parents enjoyed the courses, joining online. For those without the necessary access to IT, HFA staff made sure they had access to loaned computers from the Council’s Access to IT scheme. Feedback from parents showed immense enjoyment and an increase in confidence.

One parent, Marufa, said:

“I really look forward to the Confidence Building course every week on Zoom – I even get dressed up for it! I’ve been able to say to the children that I am also learning so they have to do their homework too. I’ve learned so much that I’m putting into practice, even asking for help with the kids. It was made so easy for me being referred to the course. I’d recommend it to any other parent. Thanks so much Raising Aspirations”.

HFA staff also responded speedily to requests and referrals for emergency food parcels during lockdown, delivering more than 25 parcels each week from Middleton Family Centre, along with Family Activity Packs to keep the children entertained.

There are plans for more courses and with the HFA centres gradually and safely reopening, access to one to one support will start again. Parents with young children will get help looking after their children from the trained Family Activity workers.

Courses starting in early September include Confidence Building, Overcoming Barriers and Emotional Wellbeing. For more information on courses, one to one support and activities, contact Raising Aspirations  Co-ordinator Danielle Newton on 07487 664352.


Photo: Steph, Sharon, Danielle and Claire from the Raising Aspirations team (taken before to lockdown)