Unemployed Colne dad given lifeline by next door building site

Hugh and James on site
Hugh and James on site

A long term unemployed father of three was given a lucky break whilst on the school run.

James Hawkes (27) from Colne, had not worked for three years when the manager of the building site next to his house handed him a lifeline.

After a couple of weeks of exchanging pleasantries, site manager Hugh Sneddon got chatting to the former sandblaster, who walked past the Bright Street site every day with his three children.

He discovered that James, whose children are aged eight, four and two, had not worked for over three years since leaving his job as a result of a mental health condition.

On hearing about his employment status - and willingness to work - Hugh checked with his boss Mark Harris at construction company Clement Dickens and a job offer was forthcoming to the site's friendly next door neighbour.

Hugh said: "I'd watched this guy for a couple of weeks, leaving the house at 8-30am every day to take his kids to school and then just pottering about his garden.

"He seemed like a lovely, conscientious sort bloke and so I decided to ask my bosses if we could take him on. They trusted my judgement and let me offer him a Living Wage position.

"We are building bungalows for the charity Making Space, which will provide supported living for people living with learning disabilities, mental health conditions or physical disabilities as well as older people. It seemed really fitting that James, who is himself living with a mental health condition, has joined the construction team.

“He has been working with us for six weeks now, has fitted in really well and is a good, hard worker. I am pleased to say that the unusual decision made by me and my contracts manager Mark was not wrong."

James said: "I had to give it up my last job because of my mental health. I am much better now and was going to start looking to return to work next year. But when I got chatting to Hugh and he mentioned I could work next door on the site, I jumped at the chance.

"My partner Naomi was shocked at first that I went out on the school run and returned with a job, but now she's really pleased."

Ross Dickens, managing director Clement Dickens, said: "When Hugh told me he had a potential new recruit, I was more than willing to offer James an opportunity. As a company, we understand the importance of investing in the future of our industry and take on apprentices across the trades."

It was no twist of fate that site boss Hugh was prepared to take a chance on a stranger. “I'm 59 now,” he said, “but 33 years ago, a site manager stuck his neck out for me and within two years, I was running my own site. It's only right I help someone else now I am in a position to do so. Everyone needs a break.”

James is working towards his CSCS card, which proves he is safe to work on a building site. He plans to continue with all the training he can access and become a skilled labourer.

With more money coming in, James and his young family are feeling positive about the future.

Construction company Clement Dickens is a family-owned business, founded in Lancashire in 1947.

The Bright Street supported housing bungalows will each have one bedroom, a fully fitted kitchen and a modern, accessible wetroom. The 10 homes feature private gardens with levelled access for wheelchair users and street parking.

Developed by adult health and social care charity Making Space, the expected completion date is May 2020.

Anyone who wishes to find out more or to express an interest in a bungalow should contact Making Space on 07773 226 984 or via their website www.makingspace.co.uk