New Leaf Initiative uses £100,000 social investment boost to launch ethical recruitment agency

New agency will connect companies looking to increase their social value with people from disadvantaged backgrounds

More than 100 individuals looking to be placed in the first-year

Latest move welcomed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street as he sees how alternative funding model can help the region ‘level-up’


A Birmingham social enterprise that has supported nearly 1300 people with convictions has secured £100,000 of social investment to launch a new ethical recruitment agency and its refurbished training academy.

New Leaf Initiative, which is based in Allcock Street in Digbeth, is now planning to place 100 clients into work in the first year by supporting companies wishing to increase their social value to find and appoint motivated, local, work-ready people emerging from diverse and often disadvantaged backgrounds.

Backed by funding from the Sumerian Foundation, this latest move will provide a commercial boost for the CIC, as well as creating a clear pathway into employment for the individuals it has been supporting since 2014.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, marked the launch of the new service during a tour organised by Big Society Capital yesterday, where he saw first-hand how people with convictions are being supported to move away from crime and into work.

The visit comes just a few weeks before the Government announce how it will allocate the English portion of nearly £1billion of dormant assets that can be used to help levelling-up. Andy Street acknowledged that the initial allocation has paid dividends, and advocated for further support: “The decision that was taken to put dormant assets into different funding streams has actually proven to be incredibly wise. My message to government as I know they're considering another injection of dormant assets into social enterprise funding would be ‘please do it’”.

Marie-Claire O’Brien, New Leaf Initiative’s Founder and Managing Director, commented: “Our crucial work has received social investment twice now, and we are so grateful; not just for the money, but also for the guidance and support shown by investment organisations like Sumerian Foundation.

“Their friendly ear and words of encouragement, signposting and advice - when times have been tough - have been invaluable, and supported our growth, and that of our clients, as a result.

“The ethical recruitment agency is an important extension to our hugely successful service and will provide a missing link for companies wanting to ‘do good’ by investing in individuals from disadvantaged background. Bosses now have a clear route to tapping into a new talent pool that could help solve the growing labour shortage in the Midlands. Better still, we’ll support them all the way so that they can sustain that employment.”

She continued: “It is important to remember that the third sector and social enterprises like ours, does the Government’s work for it, by making it our mission to support the most marginalised, disenfranchised, and disadvantaged members of our society.”

“In order to do this, we need access to unrestricted funds with which we can pivot to the needs of our communities whilst responding to the demands of day-to-day business.”

New Leaf works to help individuals with convictions, and anyone struggling with multiple and complex barriers in the region, away from crime and into work, by helping people to stabilise, upskill and gain employment.

The organisation achieves this by using peer support workers to engage, inspire and progress the people accessing the service and, since 2014, it has been able to work with 1286 people.

Of its users, 82% accessed stabilisation support and 58% of trainees secured paid employment after training with the organisation.

In addition to the launch of the ethical recruitment agency, New Leaf has also refurbished its training academy with upgraded equipment, the employment of an experienced tutor and the creation of a graffiti wall that represents the journey of clients from institutions to employment.

Isabelle Irani of Sumerian Foundation, added her support: “We are very pleased to have been able to provide New Leaf with both patient and flexible finance that, together with skills support, will enable this pioneering social enterprise to increase the way it helps vulnerable people.”

Social investment sees funding used to generate carefully measured social impact alongside financial returns and New Leaf first received £25,000 of investment from Social Investment Business in 2019. Rob Benfield, Director of Investments, Social Investment Business, said: We are glad we were able to support them with a package of loan and grant funding in 2019 and are equally pleased that they have grown the organisation and have secured further social investment from Sumerian Foundation.”

The £25,000 then allowed it to take on a new member of staff and pivot services during Covid-19, supporting more people experiencing crisis when many third sector organisations were closing their doors.

Melanie Mills, Big Society Capital’s Senior Director, Social Sector Engagement, concluded: “The Mayor of the West Midlands had recently raised concerns about the allocation of levelling up funding and, while bids in the West Midlands were largely unsuccessful, the opportunity for organisations like New Leaf to receive more tailored investment directly provides an alternative model to centralised decision-making.

“The work Marie-Claire and the team have done in Digbeth is a fantastic example of how organisations can thrive and make a difference to their communities with the support of social investment.

“The model has a direct impact on people and offering support to those with convictions and other barriers to employment, helps both the individuals, employers and society at large. Social investment can help local experts transform lives, and hopefully the second tranche of dormant assets due to be announced shortly will deliver a welcome support boost to the West Midlands.”

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Please find an image of the visit attached. L-R: Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands; Jayden Lee McMahon, New Leaf client; Marie-Claire O’Brien, New Leaf Initiative Founder

About Big Society Capital:

Big Society Capital exists to improve the lives of people in the UK through social impact investing. We unite ideas, expertise and capital to create investment solutions for the UK’s social challenges, supporting organisations that deliver both positive social impact and sustainable financial returns. So far, we have helped channel £2.7 billion* into investments tackling a wide range of problems such as homelessness, mental ill health and childhood obesity. To widen access to social impact investing, we have partnered with Schroders, a global asset and wealth manager, to launch the listed Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust plc. As the portfolio manager, we provide investors with high impact investments that contribute to solutions to social challenges alongside targeting long-term capital growth and income.

*As at end of Q2 2022.