An introduction to The Poppy Factory, one of VOS’s partners within the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme
Veterans Outreach Support is proud to be the grant holder for the South-East region Portfolio of the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme, working with our partners to provide activities, services and support to local veterans. To showcase the excellent support and mental health resources for veterans that these organisations offer, we’re giving you a deeper insight into what they do and shining a spotlight on the hardworking people who run them. Today we’re going to introduce you to The Poppy Factory.
What is The Poppy Factory?
The Poppy Factory is a charity that offers employment support to any individual who has served for at least one day in the Armed Forces or Reserves, and who considers themselves to have any kind of physical or mental health condition. The charity supports veterans on their journey into employment, helping them overcome any barriers along the way and empowering them to plan their own future by getting into employment that reflects their individual aspirations, skills and circumstances. This support and the meaningful employment it leads to can be life-changing for veterans.
A brief look at the history of The Poppy Factory
The Poppy Factory was founded in 1922 by Major George Howson MC, a British Army officer who was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. His vision was to provide employment for veterans who had been injured during the First World War. Having received £2,000 from the British Legion, George Howson opened a factory where poppies would be made by disabled war veterans. The first factory was in two rooms at Mitchell’s Collar Factory near Old Kent Road, south London, and then in 1925 it moved to the old Lansdown Brewery site on Petersham Road, Richmond.
By 1931, the factory was making nearly 30 million poppies a year and 58 new flats had been built to house a community of 320 people living on the Richmond estate. A new factory building was started in 1932 and completed in 1933. Today, the production team is still based in this same building, making Remembrance wreaths for The Royal British Legion and the Royal Family all year round.
2022 marks the centenary of The Poppy Factory and 100 years after it was founded, the charity is continuing to support veterans with a wide range of health conditions on their journey into employment. Throughout the year they have been bringing together their community to celebrate the contributions of all those who have played a role in the history of the charity.
Over the course of her lifetime, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited The Poppy Factory four times. The first time was as Princess in 1946, and the further three times were as Queen in 1962, 1992 and 2012. On her visit in November 2012 for the Factory’s 90th anniversary, Her Majesty spent time with the production team and heard about the techniques still used to create Royal Remembrance wreaths.
What does The Poppy Factory do?
The Poppy Factory has employment consultants who are based regionally throughout England and Wales, and who offer regular one-to-one contact with veterans. The employment support these consultants offer includes advice on finding job opportunities based on each veteran’s skills and goals; writing CVs and job application forms; preparing for interviews; support with training and qualifications; working with veterans and their employers to overcome health and social barriers; continued contact with veterans after moving into employment; and joint working with partner organisations to ensure veterans have consistent support.
While physical health conditions are often seen as a somewhat more “obvious” barrier in terms of employment, The Poppy Factory recognises that mental health conditions can be just as much of a barrier. They have found that four out of five of the veterans they work with report having a mental health condition, so their employment team is ready to offer one-to-one support no matter the situation.
The Poppy Factory also works in partnership with the NHS, providing employment support to ex-Forces patients who are being treated for mental and physical health conditions. Through pilot projects backed by NHS England, health professionals can refer veterans to The Poppy Factory’s employment consultants for ongoing support.
Here’s what some Portsmouth-based veterans have to say about the employment support they’ve received from The Poppy Factory:
“Katy, my adviser, sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted something local and not too stressful. She was a rock. It’s about someone taking your side and pointing you in the right direction. With Katy’s support I was able to get a job as a veterans wellbeing adviser, The job is a 10 minute walk from my home, I’m doing something that’s close to my heart and I’m not in debt any more.”
Steve, Royal Navy veteran, Portsmouth
“Being unemployed affected my confidence. I’d see jobs and think I wasn’t good enough to apply. The minute I met my Employment Consultant, Lisa, that all changed. Lisa gave me wings. She encouraged me to apply for jobs that I was interested in. She helped me prepare, we’d talk through everything, and I knew she was only a phone call away if I needed support.”
Darren, Royal Navy veteran, Portsmouth
Plus, watch this video looking at Darren’s story, and how support from The Poppy Factory and the NHS has led him to a new job teaching at The Royal Naval Leadership Academy near Portsmouth:
(Written by Saskia Egeland-Jensen)
Veterans Outreach Support is proud to work in partnership with The Poppy Factory to provide employment support to veterans, serving members of the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy and their families.
VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service), please pass our details along. If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email email@example.com.