'Real wage' jobs organisation receives Queen's Award

Using public procurement powers to create sustainable community jobs 

Using public procurement powers to create sustainable community jobs - Credit: David Hare

A campaigning organisation that fights for local authorities to use their purchasing powers to help the homeless and disadvantaged in the East End has been given a Queen’s Award. 

Aspire Community Works, set up in Bethnal Green’s Minerva community centre, is one of 205 UK organisations receiving one of the Queen's Awards for Enterprise. 

Aspire beaming with delight at charity getting Queen's Award

Beaming with delight at getting Queen's Award - Credit: David Hare

The organisation reaches out to people outside the labour market with training and jobs with “real living wages”.

Aspire provides estate management services to local authorities, housing associations and charities and competes with the private sector through public contracts.  

“We are challenging discrimination and identifying the root causes of disadvantage,” Aspire’s director Katharine Sutton told the East London Advertiser.

"Treating people decently with respect promotes social mobility.”  

Aspire launched a Better For Us campaign in 2020 for “good public procurement” in awarding maintenance contracts and published a guide last month on how public bodies can use their purchasing power as "a force for the community".

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This helps shape local markets to the needs of people, strengthening public services and promoting inclusive growth, it said. 

Aspire charity finds jobs using contacts for housing estate maintenance

Aspire charity finds jobs with public contacts for estate maintenance - Credit: David Hare

The promoting opportunity through social mobility category of the Queen’s Award is a prestigious accolade in the UK for charities and community organisations like Aspire, which has been named for its Better For Us programme. 

Katharine added: “This award is down to the resilience of our employees who have done the best every day to make our community business a success.” 

The organisation is now in its 11th year, but transformed into a community business in 2015 with a sustainable “real living wages” policy to help anyone who has been left disadvantaged in the jobs market.

Get public bodies to use their purchasing powers to create jobs for the homeless 

Getting public bodies to use their purchasing powers for jobs to help the homeless - Credit: David Hare

Aspire is one of two east London community organisations receiving the Queen's Award for social mobility; Breaking Barriers, a refugee charity that runs sessions in Bethnal Green's Sundial day centre, was also given the accolade.

Breaking Barriers was set up in Shoreditch in 2015 to help asylum-seekers integrate through education, training and finding work in the same way Aspire Community Works helps those in the established community facing the same disadvantages.