The Poppy Factory

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Poppy Factory's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Poppy Factory is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
Veterans Ian and Andrea both received
support from The Poppy Factory to
move back into employment
The Poppy Factory operates a nationwide employability
scheme that helps find appropriate employment for
some of the most challenged wounded, injured and sick
ex-service personnel. Research has found that the service has
a positive impact for veterans, the NHS, the state and wider
society. It is estimated that for every £1 invested, the social
return now and for the next five years is £4.80. CEO Deirdre
Mills tells
The Parliamentary Review
The Poppy Factory was founded in 1922 to provide employment for veterans
injured during the First World War. In 1925, it moved to Richmond-upon-Thames
and began producing remembrance products for the Royal British Legion and
the Royal Family. It continues to do so to this day, with its setting providing a
stable and structured environment for veterans with health conditions on both a
permanent and transitory basis.
In 2010, we launched an employability service to help veterans back into
employment within their own local job markets. Now our service has expanded and
we operate across all of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. By gaining meaningful
employment, the veteran’s self-respect and financial independence are restored, a
sense of purpose is re-found and a further contribution to society is made.
Supporting vulnerable veterans
The start point for success is a clear vision and mission which stakeholders can
believe in and communicate. Staying true to our original objectives, we updated
»CEO: Deirdre Mills
»Established in 1922
»Based in Richmond-upon-
»Services: Nationwide
employability service and local
employment for veterans
»No. of employees: 75
»Ministry of Defence Employer
Recognition Scheme Gold
The Poppy Factory
CEO Deirdre Mills
our mission to focus on the needs of
today’s veterans: “...the delivery of
an exemplar and specialist national
employability service. Ledfromthe
iconic Poppy Factory in Richmond,
the service will enrich our society by
enabling wounded, injured and sick
veterans to move into meaningful and
These veterans face not only the
difficulty of reintegration into civilian
life but the additional challenge of
doing so with a disability, vulnerability
or impairment. Yet here, we are
also able to highlight the benefit
that veterans bring to the workplace
and, in doing so, are better able
to connect with today’s businesses
Why are we different?
There are many military charities, but
by concentrating on employment for
a well-defined cohort, we are able to
fill an identifiable gap in the market
where no charitable or statutory
support currently exists. Our operating
model is unique. We are community-
based, going out to the veteran rather
than expecting the veteran to come
We use an evidence-based
methodology based on Individual
Placement and Support principles.
We drill down into individual
motivations and help the veteran
find the work that they truly want to
do, wherever they might be based.
We work with local businesses to
identify opportunities and we help to
find ways of accommodating health
conditions. We act as the intermediary
and engage with employers who are
willing to adapt and provide support
for wounded veterans.
Crucially, we don’t fund roles
ourselves and the intensive support
we provide is far from a box-ticking
exercise. Getting a job is a competitive
process, and the veteran needs to
know that they have got there on
merit. We also provide an in-work
support service to help veteran
and employer alike navigate their
new environment. This is especially
pertinent for veterans with mental
health conditions, for whom our
consultants offer reassurance and
guidance to keep them in work.
Our geographically dispersed
consultants are highly skilled, often
working with individuals who have
complex needs and who are referred to
The Poppy Factory by other charitable
Former soldier Dale,
who lost one of his legs
in Afghanistan, found
a new role as an HGV
driver with support from
The Poppy Factory
Here, we are
able to highlight
the benefit that
veterans bring
to the
Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
organisations that are unable to assist.
Results speak for themselves. We have
now supported over 1,300veterans
into employment over a nine-year
period and every year the number
rises. Our sustainability rates are
exceptional, and on average since the
service began, over 70 per cent are
still in employment after 12 months.
The work we do is life-changing, but
to sustain the service, we need to
Contributing to society
This year, research has shown that
the social value of our employability
service is worth £5.7 million. By
helping a wounded, injured or sick
veteran into employment, the impact
on public services, including the NHS
and the benefits system, is much
reduced. Societal contribution is
restored, and employers find that
the Armed Forces values that our
clients bring – including resilience,
resourcefulness, integrity and
adaptability – are of real value to
Our biggest challenge comes, as it
does with many charities, in securing
sustainable funding. In many ways,
we are lucky. When our founder,
Major George Howson MC, built
accommodation on the Richmond
Estate, it was for factory workers.
Now, two-thirds of our flats, together
with two factory floors, generate funds
through commercial let.
Even so, we remain dependent upon
the generosity of funders for our
employability service, and we engage
with a truly diverse range of partners
in the public, private and voluntary
sectors to find the further £1.3 million
needed to support our veterans. In
addition to all of the above, we are
having to refurbish much of our estate
to update current working conditions
and make our environment truly
inclusive and accessible.
We understand the importance of
working collaboratively, and to this
end we play an active part in The
Confederation of Service Charities
and chair the Wounded, Injured and
Sick Veterans Employment Group. On
the ground, we engage with other
organisations so that our veterans
can access the right specialist services.
We map charitable activity and come
together whenever it makes sense. The
needs of veterans are challenging and
complex and a multiagency approach
is often required.
The Armed Forces Covenant says that
no veteran should be disadvantaged,
but that additional support should
be available for those who have
given more, such as the injured
and bereaved. The Poppy Factory
works with those who have given
so much to their country, to support
them into meaningful and sustained
employment. It is the right thing to
do, and we are confident and resolute
in our mission, in our unique service
provision and in our collaborative
approach. With employment,
Army veteran Vicki
(left) with Kirsty, her
employability consultant
at The Poppy Factory

This article was sponsored by The Poppy Factory. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development