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London Reclaimed: helping young people step up into employment

London Reclaimed logo London Reclaimed
8 min

The most recent ONS (Office for National Statistics) statistics suggest that around 9% of London’s 16-24 year olds are classed as NEET (a young person who is no longer in the education system and who is not working or being trained for work). 

In a competitive and saturated jobs market it can be a challenge to get a first job, but for some young people it can be an almost insurmountable obstacle. For some a prison sentence or criminal record has put them at a disadvantage, for others it may be poor educational attainment; others still face housing challenges, complex family situations or problems with mental health. It is often a combination of a number of challenges that result in these young people failing to gain employment. It is important to point out that it is not for lack of trying, but too regularly these young people are rejected before they can even get an interview. 

London Reclaimed was set up to provide these young people with the opportunity of a first job and a springboard into long term employment. 

Finding work; legal, honest work is incredible. I wish I’d found London Reclaimed sooner!

- Workshop alumni, Goldfinch Furniture  

Michael Biddulph, CEO of London Reclaimed, shares two stories of success thanks to the generous support of donor funding.


Steve's progression to a Young People support role

"In 2022 we met Steve*. He got in touch with us through our Youth Project Manager after successfully finishing college, but finding it impossible to get his first paid job as a furniture maker. Steve is deaf, and after applying for countless jobs in workshops found that nobody was willing to give him a chance.

Steve was a very different prospect to our usual young people, in that he had training that needed polishing. Most of our young people have never held a saw before, and therefore start at a much lower level.

Steve is pretty much non-verbal and usually communicates with sign language. He can also lip read. The team of existing makers have been more than happy to learn the very basics, but for most of our communication we are using speech to text apps, which work amazingly well. 

Our usual youth offering lasts for a year, during which we help our young people find the right career and help to get them started in it. However, we are able to tailor our programme to the individual, and with Steve we have decided to keep him on as a junior furniture maker. With the fantastic donation from Stewardship, we are getting ready to increase our offering, and part of that will be Steve’s new position. 

So much of our physical work with young people requires the complicated bits of machining timber to rough size and shape to be done prior to the young people getting involved. Taking furniture makers off paying jobs to enable this is difficult, as we try to make 80% of our overall charity costs through sales, and this requires as much efficiency as possible. With the role we have been able to create for Steve with this funding, we’ll be able to provide a steady flow of materials for our young people to learn with. We’ll also have the capacity to research new products for our young people to make and sell at our coffee shop/deli so they can see that they have a direct hand in making beautiful things that people are willing to pay money for."


John’s journey through a local church to educational attainment

"Mike (our founder) has known John* since he helped run a children's club put on by a local church in North Peckham thirteen years ago. John was an energetic 8 year old, who used to charge around at the speed of light causing fun and leaving chaos in his wake. He could be the life and soul of the party, leaving us all laughing, or a terminator style disrupter who could leave other kids (and occasionally volunteers) crying!

His home life was complicated, and his school attendance patchy, but his magnetic lovable character shone through in spite of the large challenges he faced. Although he has a very sharp mind, and love of learning new things, he found formal education a real challenge. He felt misunderstood and overlooked, and this coupled with the main emotion he could exhibit being anger, meant that school and college became very difficult to complete.

John stayed in touch with Mike into adulthood, and he joined our youth employment programme last year when he was 20 years old, after a particularly difficult time at home culminating in police intervention.

To find the right space for John, we spread his time between Goldfinch Furniture and our coffee shop/deli Lumberjack. He is now enrolled in one of the best joinery schools in London, having received a near full bursary through the efforts of our Youth Employment Manager."


Who is London Reclaimed?

London Reclaimed started in 2011 as an employment charity with a passion to help young people who struggle to step up into employment. It provides job-specific training, employability skills, tailored mentoring and paid work to 16-25 year olds in South East London.

Since 2012 it as been training and employing young people in Southwark. The team believe that running viable businesses gives young people the best opportunity to gain experience of the realities of work: providing real products to real clients and customers, for a real wage. London Reclaimed started out with one business, now named Goldfinch Furniture, employing and training young people in furniture making and joinery. Goldfinch creates ethical furniture of outstanding quality and provenance. They’ve produced items for homes, business and institutions across the country, engaging many talented young people in designing, making and selling along the way.

In 2016 it started a second enterprise, Lumberjack cafe in Camberwell. This bustling cafe provides it with a location to employ train and mentor young people. Before it started many local young people told them that they felt working in a cafe would enable them to make the first step into employment, this would allow them to get into the swing of working life in an environment that encourages and supports them.

London Reclaimed has found that having employment experience is the single most important factor to gaining future employment. The charity continues to build on this model of supportive employment to impact the lives of young people and their communities.



As well as generating income from its furniture at Goldfinch, and its tasty treats at Lumberjack, London Reclaimed relies on donations from individuals, grant making bodies and businesses. To fully support and employ the young people it works with, the charity has to raise about 20% of its income through gifts and grants.

Support London Reclaimed



London Reclaimed is currently collating the data and experience of the last 10 years to build a truly replicable model, so that it can launch new enterprises into new locations as the need and funding allows. Please pray for the following 4 goals:

1. Provision of first ever dedicated space for training and support.

"To keep our project in Bermondsey, we have, for many years, sublet the back unit of our workshop space. On Easter Sunday 2023, a fire destroyed the inside of that unit. Though the structure of the building will be restored, the business that has been renting it will need to move on as the restoration may take several months. We intend to seize this opportunity to develop this space into a youth training hub, providing our first dedicated training space rather than ‘in placement on the job training’ only."

2. Increased value and reach of it's training offering to better equip young people.

"We acknowledge our position in our communities, and the value we bring to those we work with. To make sure we continue to be relevant and improve our offering, we regularly seek feedback from our young people, staff and community. We commissioned an independent charity audit in 2019/20 which recommended bolstering our youth provision team. As a result, we have recently employed China, our Youth Employment Manager, and senior Youth Worker who oversees the holistic support of the young people and developing the training we provide and we are looking to increase this support further."

To increase its reach, London Reclaimed will launch an ‘Access to Employment’ course that it will manage and deliver locally.

3. Launch of new enterprises and sustainable growth of the charity.

"We love launching new ventures and have a proven track record with things we launch becoming self-sufficient. The wider the breadth of our enterprises, both geographically and business type, the more young people we can employ. We do not have a scatter gun approach, but also know that one size does not fit all. We want to formalise the launching of Bristol Goldfinch and are also hoping to open a Lumberjack Bristol in 2024/25, which will also increase capacity hugely."

4. Investment in structures to enable growth towards multiplication.

"We’ve recognised there is a ceiling to what we can achieve with our current setup, and the limitations in the skillset and time of our core leadership team. We have been incredibly resourceful, entrepreneurial and aspirational, and want to continue to be, so the learning over the last 10 years shifts into a model that can be replicated and rolled out more widely. Now is a moment of step change, and so we intend to employ a full time Business and Charity Development Manager to help take us to the next level." 


*All names have been changed. Photo not of story subjects, provided by London Reclaimed


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