Five Lamps was established in 1985, originally as ‘Thornaby Impasse’ with support from Churches Together, with the aim of alleviating increasing levels of unemployment in Thornaby and the surrounding areas brought about by the closure of local steelworks. Initially grant-reliant, the enterprise has since grown to employ 82 staff and 21 volunteers and last year generated a turnover of over £2.5 million from contracts alone.
The Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees based charity and company limited by guarantee works across the whole of the North East delivering a range of contracts on behalf partners including local authorities, the Department of Work and Pensions, Business Link, the Skills Funding Agency and the Young People’s Learning Authority around four strands: Employability, Enterprise, Youth Services and Financial Inclusion.
Five Lamps’ Employability team works to support hard to reach individuals in gaining employment through the provision of advice, guidance and training and in 2009-10 helped 315 people find employment and a further 302 gain a qualification. The organisation’s Enterprise team, under contracts from Stockton Council’s ‘Enterprise Gateway’ project and Business Link, delivers business support services including business training, business plan development and funding information to support clients into self-employment.
The social enterprise’s Youth Service, developed ten years ago in response to demand from the local community, delivers an Entry to Employment (e2e) foundation learning tier programme that aims to help support 16-18 year olds categorised as NEET – ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’ – to gain qualifications, skills and employment. From 2009-10 the organisations e2e programme helped 39 individuals into jobs, training and further education. Over the past year, the Youth Service has also introduced a successful volunteering programme which saw a group of young volunteers re-develop an allotment space in Thornaby while learning new skills. The Youth Service, from its base at ‘The Youthy’, also offers a range of evening and weekend activities for young people aged 7-18 years, including a ‘Friday Night Youthy’ for young people with special needs.
A relatively new addition to Five Lamps’ range of services is its Financial Inclusion strand. Originally developed in 2007 under a Northern Rock Foundation fund of £80,000 that aimed to provide affordable loans to financially excluded individuals in Tees Valley who may have resorted to high interest, ‘door stop’ lenders in the past, this service now extends to the whole of the North East region under the Department of Work and Pensions Growth Fund, and Five Lamps is now the fastest growing Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) in the country, providing 30% of all CDFI loans. Under a contract with the Association of North East Councils (ANEC), Five Lamps Financial Inclusion team also delivers a Regional Decent Homes Loans Scheme through which individuals in all North East local authority areas can access loans to bring their homes up to a decent standard. What perhaps is Five Lamps’ biggest success are its integrated services, in that through accessing the services of just one organisation, an individual can alleviate their financial circumstances, gain new skills and improve their children’s future. “We believe our integrated ‘whole family’ service offer is a unique model of delivery – where else could someone apply for a personal loan and progress towards their first ever educational qualification; or approach our Enterprise team and finish up turning a hobby into a business; or sign up as a volunteer and secure their first job for years, as well as getting their son or daughter on a foundation learning programme. We create possibilities and improve lives,” says Five Lamps’ Executive Officer Nicola Hall.
This integrated, ‘whole family’ service is clearly appreciated by beneficiaries of Five Lamps’ services, yet the social enterprise sees more value in the initiative of its clients and customers to take advantage of its services to transform their lives, evidenced in its People Matter Awards – an annual awards scheme that celebrates the achievements of individuals who have changed their lives by accessing the services Five Lamps offer communities. Callum Miller, a local man from Thornaby who approached Five Lamps’ Enterprise team after being made redundant started his own successful business following advice from Five Lamps, and last year was the recipient of a People Matter Award. “I was speechless at receiving an award and it now takes pride of place in my living room. Five Lamps put people at the forefront of all that they do. Without the support of Five Lamps, my business would not have been able to grow to the level it has,” says Callum.
Five Lamps itself has achieved recognition for its successes also. The enterprise gained Investors In People Gold Standard in August 2010, was ranked number 32 in the 2010 RBS SE 100 Index, achieved 2 Star status in the Sunday Times ‘Best Companies to Work For’ Accreditation and was described as ‘truly remarkable’ by independent think tank the Centre for Social Justice following a visit to Five Lamps. In addition to such high recognition, Five Lamps is also proud to have celebrated its 25th anniversary last year; “Who would have thought 25 years ago that Five Lamps would be receiving client referrals from high street banks to provide business loans; providing mainstream employability services; making personal loans to financially excluded people unable to access affordable credit or financial services; delivering youth services from a purpose-built youth centre, and competing for and winning contracts often against national or multi-national companies. Who also would have thought that the need for our services would be as great, or greater, today than it was back then,” says Graeme Oram, Chief Executive of Five Lamps.
Five Lamps will no doubt face challenging times in the coming years, yet the enterprise intends to take advantage of both the gaps generated by public sector cuts and the governments’ vision of the ‘Big Society’: “We envisage continued growth – establishing a Great North Loan Fund from April 2011, creating the largest social enterprise-led financial inclusion initiative in the country by 2014, a £20 million loan fund making 50,000 loans each year; our integrated employability services are attractive to prime contractors; our enterprise activity is strongly endorsed by our Local Enterprise Partnership and we expect substantial asset transfer and commissioned service opportunities,” says Graeme with regards to the future.
With the organisations’ evident success in its past 25 years of existence, despite the current challenges presented in society, Five Lamps is a social enterprise that will find innovative ways to survive and thrive, and continue to transform the lives of people across the North East.
Nicola Hall (Executive Officer) on 01642 608 316