Labelled - a safe, supportive trading, training and enterprise environment for young people to thrive, Patchwork People CIC, Darlington

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Patchwork People Community Interest Company – not for profit, community based social enterprise.

Local authority/local area:

Darlington, North East


Patchwork People CIC has developed a safe, supportive, trading, training and enterprise environment on the high street for young people to thrive in. We work with young people furthest from the job market and offer valuable work experience in retail. Our success is measured by the difference we make to young people’s lives.

Context and rationale
Patchwork People Community Interest Company (CIC) was created in early 2011 by a group of people experienced in working in the public sector and with children, young people and their families. It is developing rapidly and has reduced grant dependency from 70% in Year 1 to 20% in Year 2 whilst doubling its turnover.

The idea originated from the drive to put young people at the heart of the social enterprise ‘by young people for young people’.  Alongside this was an ambition to create a real environment for young people to experience, engage with, develop and grow.  Over many years, by observing the experiences of young people in vocational training, it became apparent that what was missing from gaining skills in bricklaying, plastering, catering and art development, for example, was the link to business and customers.  Often ‘centres’ would be located on industrial estates or large educational premises and the ‘audience’ or ‘customer’ just weren’t evident.  A high street base was therefore seen to be important.

The stubbornly high levels of youth unemployment also offered the challenge – to do something different for those furthest from the job market. For young people with additional needs for example, it was also apparent that at the end of their school career they might attend a college course but often this was done with no real sense of how these young people might achieve increased independence – socially, emotionally and financially.  When their college career ends, some young people with additional needs can attend ‘day centre’ type provision and, although the focus is occupational, is not sufficiently developmental for them. The support that is currently provided for young people with additional needs creates a dependency culture. They are also unfamiliar with basic community resources and managing their personal lives. 

In order for Patchwork People to offer an effective, efficient alternative which would improve the outcomes for these young people it was vital to create an appropriate staffing profile. Our high street, community based venture would offer skilled, experienced staff to scaffold these young people to a greater independence.

Patchwork People’s social enterprise enables young people to learn the ‘business’ of business in a high street enterprise environment with a skilled staff team. Practical life skills training are offered which familiarise them with local community resources and help them to manage their own personal lives. This is delivered alongside a programme of enterprise development.

The practice

Patchwork People was registered, with three Directors, in January 2011 and began trading in April 2011. In addition to the Chief Executive, the Operational Director has many years’ experience in youth and community work and works on a daily basis in the business. The third Director is a qualified accountant.

From our significant public sector experience, it was decided to prioritise the safeguarding aspects of the business. A small group of skilled and experienced young volunteers became the core, sessional (unpaid) staff. Criminal Record Bureau checks were completed as well as creating a comprehensive set of policies and procedures, including safeguarding, and first aid training for example. Appropriate insurance was also sourced before we began to meet with any young people. Young volunteers from the Connexions one stop shop in Darlington were recruited, basically asking them if they might be interested in developing a shop ‘for young people by young people’.   The group met weekly and developed the young person’s brand ‘Labelled’. 

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t. 020 7833 6825

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