Cleckheaton foundation urges firms to give vulnerable people employment chance

Brighter future: Andy Howarth, left, has given Chris Sylvester, right, a job at the foundation.
Brighter future: Andy Howarth, left, has given Chris Sylvester, right, a job at the foundation.

A recovering addict is encouraging businesses to give vulnerable people in society the chance to turn their lives around, after securing his first proper full-time job.

Chris Sylvester was working with the Howarth Foundation as an ambassador but has now been employed as a business and client co-ordinator by the Leeds-based charity.

The charity was founded by former policeman Andy Howarth to help break the cycle of homelessness, addiction and criminality through employment opportunities.

Mr Sylvester said businesses should keep an “open mind” on hiring people from tough backgrounds such as his.

By the age of 13, he was a registered heroin addict. Mr Sylvester then spent a lifetime in and out of prison before finally hitting rock bottom and turning his life around two years ago.

“I think society on a whole massively benefits from what we’re involved in, what we’re promoting,” he said of the foundation. “We can help solve a lot of problems in society if we come at it from a business perspective.”

The charity identifies people who are ready for a second chance and then helps businesses hire them, using its employment law and human resources expertise to look after any issues along the way.

Mr Howarth issued another plea to businesses in and around Leeds to open up opportunities. Hiring people from difficult background is not only the morally right thing to do, he says, but can also provide commercial benefit.

“Businesses are missing a trick because Chris and all the other people that we have worked with are the most loyal and committed workers,” Mr Howarth said.

“We’re not asking businesses for money but we’re asking them for something that is far more valuable – time, patience and understanding,” he added. “It needs people at the top to engage and invest.”

The former policeman founded Cleckheaton-based Howarths Law in 2003.

However, he took a step back from the business five years ago.

He and his wife Helen then set up the foundation in 2017.