Severn Trent have announces plans to help tackle the underlying causes of poverty across the Midlands in a landmark scheme designed to help up to 100,000 people find employment, while supporting them to reach their potential.

With households facing the most acute cost of living pressures in decades and the Midlands home to a large number of high deprivation postcodes in the UK, Severn Trent has launched a partnership programme to help address these challenges.

Working in partnership with Birmingham City Council – as part of their East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Programme – East Birmingham is set to be the first community to benefit from the initiatives.  

As well as specific locations, the programme will help individuals most in need of support, in particular young people not in education, employment, or training (NEETs), along with re-entrants to the workforce and people looking to explore a new career path. Research shows that young people who do not undertake work experience whilst at school are six times* less likely to go into meaningful employment when they leave school, and that figure rising in areas of deprivation. 

Over the next 10 years Severn Trent will establish partnerships with schools to deliver a work experience programme set to benefit 300 young people by the end of August 2023, which will increase to 500 a year by 2032. Initial school’s partnerships in Birmingham will include Bordesley Green Girls’ School, Aston Manor Academy, Tile Cross, St John Wall Catholic School and Waverley Secondary School and Sixth Form.

The water company will also work with other organisations to understand and remove the barriers that could prevent children undertaking work experience, such as affordability and transport. Severn Trent is also committing to giving 10,000 hours of free skills training and employability training in communities and schools to support individuals into their first job, or back in to work. 

In addition, Severn Trent will embed themselves directly within communities through pop-up learning and support hubs, which will take over unused retail spaces and community hubs such as Unity Hubb in Ward End where it will be first, to offer a range of workshops and advice, supporting both employment and affordable bills starting in East Birmingham. By 2024 it will have aimed to have engaged 5000 individuals. 

Neil Morrison, HR Director of Severn Trent said: “We understand the challenges that so many people are facing across our region, which is why we are invested in supporting the communities we serve -whether it’s through our £10million Community Fund or the additional £30million fund we have pledged to support customers right now. Today we are proud to build on existing work and announce the next step in supporting communities for the long term.

“As a large employer with eight million customers across the Midlands, we are passionate about helping households across the region. We know that this ten-year plan is a huge undertaking but we are focussed on delivering long lasting change and will achieve this by working closely with communities and partner organisations.”

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “I am delighted that Birmingham City Council is partnering with Severn Trent as we work together to tackle poverty in our city.

“42% of children across Birmingham grow up in relative poverty, and there are huge structural barriers that we must overcome if we are to change this for the better. Severn Trent’s 10-year vision complements the Council’s aims and ambitions for East Birmingham, and together we can help people into work and training, delivering real change for our communities.”

Sukhbir Farar, Executive Principal of Waverley Secondary School & Sixth Form said: “We’re proud to be joining Severn Trent, and other partners, to provide our students with opportunities to apply their classroom learning into real life context. Meaningful work experience and the chance to learn new skills will help inspire and motivate our students, and give them the exposure to the world of work.

“We all want all of our students to fulfil their potential and to realise their dreams. We’re really excited about the opportunities this programme will offer our students and we hope it will be the start of an ongoing partnership with Severn Trent in the future.”

Rashta Butt from the Unity Hubb in Ward End said: “It’s great to see companies like Severn Trent being ambitious and bold in their support for our Birmingham communities, and I’m really excited that Unity Hub is playing a part in this. It’s so important for us all to come together to help one another through challenging times.

“By breaking down barriers and helping people to realise their potential we have can all thrive. Unity Hubb is a place for all to come together, to learn, share and grow – and I’m really excited about what opportunities will be coming to Ward End through this work.”

The programme is a long-term commitment, a 10-year vision, to deliver real change in the region. The work will begin in East Birmingham, with plans to move the work to Derby in 2023, and then other parts of the Midlands which would benefit from the short and long term support. 

This new programme builds on Severn Trent’s existing support for individuals who are struggling to pay their water bill. The Big Difference scheme, received an additional £30m funding in May 2022 and has this year supported 20,000 customers save up to 90% off their bill. 

The threshold for accessing this scheme has now been changed to help even more customers, and in total, Severn Trent is aiming to support 315,000 of its most vulnerable customers by 2025.