Companions Bakery celebrates core funding from Harpur Trust to secure their future

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Companions bread
Photo credit: Cat Lane

A community bakery that supports ex-offenders in Bedford is sustainable for the next three years, thanks to a major grant from the Harpur Trust to Companions Real Bread CIC.

The popular bakery on Howard Street, located in the Art Centre and Gallery cafe, is celebrating their successful application for a major grant from the Bedford-based trust, which supports many voluntary agencies in our town.

Companions CIC have been awarded £87,675 core funding over the next three years to ensure they can continue to offer voluntary training, work experience and other support to local ex-offenders wanting to build themselves a better future away from an offending lifestyle.

The grant means that Companions will be able to shift its focus from the constant need to fundraise, onto growing the business to become more self-sustaining, and giving its volunteers a really meaningful and professional work placement.

Companions’ Nigel Spencer and the Gallery’s Simon Gillett

With prisoners citing ‘getting a job’ as the most important factor after accommodation in helping them avoid reoffending, the aim of the bakery is to help ex-offenders enhance and demonstrate their work skills, both in food production specifically, but also more generally with things like motivation and focus, team-work, time-keeping and even basic confidence and self-esteem.

Companions is keen  to build links with other local employers who are interested in giving an ex-offender the chance of a job.

Lucy Bardner, Community Programmes Director at The Harpur Trust said, “We hope that our funding of Companions Real Bread over the next three years will give them the time needed to consolidate their business, adjust to their new premises and seek out new sales outlets, ensuring they are much stronger moving forward.”

Since it began trading in June 2016, 39 ex-offenders have volunteered in the bakery, 12 of whom have moved on to some form of paid employment, five of them staying to join the staff at Companions.

One volunteer came back to express his gratitude to the bakery when he found employment elsewhere, saying, “It’s down to you that I’ve got this job. You gave me the confidence to start applying again.”

“Ex-offenders often make great employees,” explained Sue Flynn, managing director of Companions.

“They really value the opportunity to take a job, so are strongly motivated to succeed in it. They know they have a lot to lose if they mess up, and are often really keen to give back to society.”


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