Stranraer social enterprise builds case for Fair Work employment

A Stranraer-based social enterprise is working alongside South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) to encourage organisations across the South of Scotland to implement the principles of Fair Work in their organisations.

The Furniture Project (Stranraer) Ltd. (TFP) offers fulfilling work to long-term unemployed people within the local community across all of its outlets – by encouraging them to volunteer, learn new skills and share their existing skills with others.

Earlier this year, SOSE provided TFP with a grant for £16,500 – and part of this funding is being used to support the ongoing progression of the social enterprise’s Fair Work journey.

TFP began in 1997 by collecting, repairing, restoring and selling furniture to people throughout Wigtownshire – but in the years since, it has since expanded the services it provides substantially.

The social enterprise now operates the Community Reuse Shop, The Re:Loved Shop, Fed Up Community Café and Rhins Active and works closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Although each strand of TFP varies in its offering, each presents specific employment and volunteering opportunities for people who may otherwise find accessing a job a challenge.

Volunteers, who are often long-term unemployed, gain experience and practical skills which enable them to personally progress by increasing their prospects of gaining paid employment in the future – either with one of the Furniture Project’s businesses, or elsewhere.

Supported employment placements are also on offer, run in partnership with Community Job Scotland and Kickstart, to assist young people in getting employment ready.

Paul Smith, CEO at The Furniture Project, said: “One of the most important aspects of our Fair Work journey is giving everyone, no matter who they are, the opportunity to engage in employment.

“Often, people who have been unemployed for a long period have an appetite to work, but they don’t have the opportunity to do so – that’s where we come in.

“We understand that sometimes the best skilled workers are the ones that come with more baggage, but we believe in turning past mistakes into learning opportunities.”

Additionally, the organisation prides itself on the variety of training and development opportunities it offers its staff and volunteers – ranging from basic customer service and manual handling training, to more advanced business administration courses.

Employees are offered opportunities for progression, and those who join the organisation as volunteers are often given the chance to move into paid roles once they have acquired the skills and experience needed.

By taking this approach to align the tasks, work environment and employment conditions of workers to the skills, talents and aspirations they have, TFP has been able to increase levels of job satisfaction among its workers.

Paul added: “Everyone is different, so treating people as the individuals they are and offering bespoke courses is the most effective way to increase efficiency and drive up the standards of work our staff produce.

“We have motivated staff who feel valued and produce high quality work, which makes us more efficient and of course also helps us to raise the funds we need to sustain what we do.

“We have definitely seen Fair Work as being a mutually beneficial thing for us and our employees across all areas of our business – and so we would encourage other businesses to begin their Fair Work journey, too.”

Sandra Campbell, Fair Work Development Manager at SOSE, said: “When an organisation commits itself to embracing the Fair Work journey, it opens itself up a variety of benefits – such as an increasingly motivated workforce, higher quality output from staff and better job satisfaction.

“The Furniture Project’s story shows this perfectly, and exemplifies that Fair Work is a mutually beneficial practice for employers and employees alike.

“The only thing required for an organisation to be successful in implementing Fair Work is its commitment to embracing and implementing the principles of the framework, from whatever its starting point.

“SOSE is here to support organisations no matter what stage they are at in their Fair Work journey – and we strongly encourage people to reach out to us for help if they need it.”

Any business, social enterprise or community group looking to find out more about Fair Work should contact SOSE, with further information available at