Claims that Bristol jubilee volunteers "slept outside"
Bristol jobseekers sent to London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations ended up sleeping outside, it has been claimed.
A national newspaper has reported that about 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages from Bristol as well as Bath and Plymouth were bussed to the capital – then told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.
Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London.
The Guardian reported that volunteers had to spend part of the night under London Bridge, one telling the newspaper that conditions were "freezing" and another saying it was impossible to pitch a tent due to the concrete surface.
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Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: "We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.
"The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.
"The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It's hard work and not for the faint-hearted.
"We had staff travel from several locations and some arrived earlier than others at the meeting point, which I believe was London Bridge, which was why some had to hang around. This is an unfortunate set of circumstances but not lack of care on the part of CPUK."
The charity Tomorrow's People, which set up the placements at Close Protection under the work programme, said it would review the situation.
Abi Levitt, director of development services at the charity, told the Guardian: "We have been unable to verify the accuracy of the situation with either the people on work experience or the business concerned.
"We will undertake a review of the situation as matter of urgency. Tomorrow's People believes strongly in the value of work experience in helping people to build the skills, confidence and CV they need to get and keep a job and we have an exemplary record going back nearly 30 years for our work with the long-term unemployed."