A one-man-band scheme to get the unemployed into work has been credited with getting 14 people qualified and into work since it was launched in a deprivation black spot last November.
The Dearne Electronic Community Village is operated by just one man, working from premises at Thurnscoe Library, and was launched in November with a grant of almost £15,000 from the Dearne Area Council, a body made up of councillors who represent the area, using money from Barnsley Council to support work which benefits the district.
Since then, 14 people who enrolled on the scheme, which provides access to ICT qualifications, have found work in a diverse range of jobs and there are currently 63 signed up as learners, putting in three hours a week over an expected 25 weeks to gain their own qualifications.
Jobs secured include warehouse pickers, shop assistants, care assistants as well as accountancy and cleaners.
All those involved in the scheme are unemployed and claiming Universal Credit, with many aged over 60 and – a report to the area council states – “feel they have nothing to offer the job market”.
“There is a rise in learners with mental health issues, usually linked to being out of work and financial worries. These are the most challenging to work with.”
Many of those who sign up to the scheme are struggling with arrears in rent and council tax, with many those who are new to the Universal Credit system and awaiting their first payment – though the report states the situation with that appears to be improving.
Most of those involved with the scheme are referred there via the JobCentre, with others recommended by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Salvation Army or the library where it is based.
Coun May Noble, chairman of the area council, said the service cost around £30,000 a year to operate, including wages and overheads.
“The impact of the benefits outweighs anything we have put in,” she said.
Coun Alan Gardiner said: “He is overachieving on the council’s objectives.”
The area council has been working to steer the service towards other funding providers, in the hope that money will be made available to help it continue on a stable financial basis into the future.