The Long Road Back to Work

Posted on 7 October 2020


John used to work nights. Like many of the guys he worked with, having a few beers in the morning to help him sleep was just part of the routine.


Visiting the Beers, Wines & Spirits aisle in the local supermarket was an important part of the weekly shop. “It just sort of crept up on me,” he says. “I didn’t really realise how much I was drinking.” Eventually it came to a head and, over one month in 2015, he lost his job and his flat. With nowhere to go, he was out on the street.


Embarrassed to be seen, for a few months he slept in a churchyard until finally he took a room at a local hostel in Taunton, Somerset. Giving up alcohol was a lot harder than he anticipated, and the withdrawal led to seizures and 4 or 5 spells in hospital. But giving up the drink did not mean that his life returned to normal.


Another resident, who’d spent his life in and out of jail, told him that life at the hostel reminded him of being in an open prison. After universal credit payed for the food and board, John was left with about £100 a month – nothing like the amount he needed to get a deposit for a flat. And try as he might, he could not get back into work. “There was such a stigma attached to the hostel that the moment I gave my address in job interviews, I knew I wouldn’t get it.” Some residents had actually been at the hostel since it opened in the 1980s. “Getting out of there was so hard,” he said.


Then Sarah from COOK Puddings visited the hostel and said that we’d be willing to help find employment for suitable residents via our RAW Talent scheme. Aware of his burning desire to get back into work, the staff immediately thought of John. He started at COOK Puddings part time in November 2018 and soon he was offered a full-time position. Eventually, Sarah and her husband Oli, were able to help John move into a new flat in Ilminster.


John has now passed his forklift test, which had lapsed while he was out of work, and he is an important member of the small warehouse team. “I don’t think about alcohol now,” he told us. “It’s just not part of my routine. I don’t walk down that aisle in the supermarket anymore.”


To find out more about our RAW Talent Programme click here


And if your business is considering setting up a similar scheme, we’re more than happy to share our experiences and what we’ve learnt so far. Email the team at

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