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Location: Reading
Date: June 2, 2021

Smart Works Reading, a women’s employment support organisation, has been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

Smart Works Reading tackles a root cause of poverty by helping disadvantaged women in the Thames Valley into work. Since we opened in 2015, we have helped around 700 clients to get jobs.

Our charity provides free interview and career coaching, and free, high quality workwear. We help women feel confident, succeed at interview, and transform their lives.

Who we support

Our beneficiaries experience some type of disadvantage. Some have disabilities or have lived through challenging, life-changing or traumatic events, including domestic abuse. Others have been in the criminal justice system. Clients can be young women starting their working lives after school, college, or university. Some clients were made redundant during the pandemic, have been long term unemployed or are returning to work after caring for family. These women often lack self-confidence, and all are given individual support.

New service launched in response to pandemic

In the last year, we  launched remote service delivery to support women, and people who identify as women, through the pandemic. Coaching is now available to all female identifying job seekers, not just those with a confirmed interview, so that Smart Works Reading can help when it is most needed.

Smart Works Reading clients say:

“This is an amazing charity that deserves all the recognition and respect for what you are doing to help women (like me) achieve in quite dark moments. Feeling as if age gender, appearance, were all against me… not anymore.”

“The team at Smart Works Reading are phenomenal!”

“I’d definitely had my confidence knocked after 2+ years of job searching and rejections, and it was really good to feel back on track and be reassured of my abilities.”

“I felt very daunted by the prospect of graduating and looking for work in the midst of the pandemic, but Smart Works Reading’s interview coaching and dressing appointments really helped to boost my confidence and made me feel prepared for my interview.” ⠀ ⠀

Recipients of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Smart Works Reading is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including an inclusive tennis club in Lincolnshire; a children’s bereavement charity in London; a support group for those living with dementia and their carers in North Yorkshire; a volunteer minibus service in Cumbria; a group supporting young people in Belfast; a community radio station in Inverness and a mountain rescue team in Powys.

Representatives of Smart Works Reading will receive the award crystal and certificate from Mr. James Puxley, Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from Smart Works Reading will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022 (depending on restrictions at the time), along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

The difference our volunteers make

Sarah Burns MBE, Chair of Smart Works Reading, said:

“We are proud and delighted to be awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteer groups.

“We couldn’t do what we do without our amazing group of hard-working, professional and dedicated volunteers. They share their skills and expertise to help so many disadvantaged women into employment.

“Every single Smart Works Reading client is given tailored support to help them overcome their personal barriers to securing work. Everyone who comes to Smart Works Reading is treated the same, with respect, courtesy and professionalism, so that they leave us with their heads held high and ready to excel at interview.

“Our volunteers are continuously adapting and innovating so that our beneficiaries get the help that they need when they need it. With the full support and backing of our volunteers, we were able to pivot to online delivery during the pandemic, meaning that we still supported through lockdowns and are now in a strong and ready position to meet post-Covid-19 demand.

“We are so proud of our volunteers, past and present. We know how hard they work and the impact they have. We are thrilled this award will help more people understand and appreciate the difference our volunteers make.”