Employers across Birmingham are giving support to a record number of people who are homeless and keen to get back into work.

The latest initiative will help to launch the start of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week which runs until Sunday, February 3. The project, co-ordinated by the Business Action on Homelessness, BAOH, will work with 17 homeless, unemployed people in the Birmingham area. Each will begin a work placement with employers including Cadbury Trebor Basset, Carillion, Marks and Spencers, Royal Mail, ADI Group and Wragge & Co.

They will be undertaking a variety of work experience ranging from electrical jobs and administration to sorting post, storekeeping, retail work and maintenance operations.

Before starting the work placements, candidates undergo interviews to ensure they actively want to work. They then attend 'ready for work' pre-employment training to obtain work, life, CV and interview skills. Following the work placements, candidates will have support from job coaches - trained employee volunteers who help individuals find permanent work.

The scheme is popular with potential employers who are more likely to fill vacancies with people who have recent work experience, references and can demonstrate a work ethic.

Business Action on Homelessness, which is run by Business In The Community, aims to overcome the vicious cycle of no job, no home. Last year, 68 per cent of people who completed work placements in Birmingham went on to get a job within a year of the programme.

Mark Jones, head of manufacturing at Bournville's Cadbury Trebor Basset, said: "There is often a misconception amongst employers that people who are homeless have low skills, are unreliable and have other big issues that make them unemployable.

"Through offering work placement to homeless, unemployed people we clearly see this is not the case.

"By recruiting people from this background, we increase the diversity of our workforce as well as making an impact on a major societal issue.

Employers or agencies working with homeless people who want information on Business Action on Homelessness should phone Nikki-Dee Smith on 0121 451 2227 or visit www.bitc.org.uk.