Business in the Community has called for more employers to get involved in its 'Ready for Work' Scheme, which is aimed at helping people emerging from homelessness back to work.

The programme is marking its 10 year anniversary.

The scheme is funded by the Department of Social Protection, and works with companies to offer training, interview preparation and work experience placements to those referred to them by agencies working with the homeless.

Since it began in 2002, more than 360 people have availed of its work experience placements, and half of these where offered paid employment as a result.

"We know that employment is the most effective way to help people get out and stay out of homelessness, and this is a way for businesses to get really involved in that process," said Anna Greenhalgh, Co-ordinator of the Ready for Work Programme.

Among the companies taking part in the scheme are Marks and Spencer, Boots and the Maldron Hotel.

"In this store alone we have around five permanent members of staff who have come through the programme" said Martin Carpenter, Manager of the Mary Street Branch of Marks and Spencer.

"It’s a great way of working with your local community and giving something back, but also you get great people," he added.

One of the company’s newest recruits is Stephen Sherwin.

Before his work experience placement was even completed, Stephen was offered a contract, something he said really boosted his confidence.

Stephen was homeless for a number of years, and struggled with a drug addiction.

But recently he moved into accommodation, sought treatment for his addiction and no longer takes drugs and he has effectively turned his life around.

"I'd be determined to keep my life the way it is now. I have good health now, I have good friends, I have a few quid in the bank, good family and I have a job" Stephen said.

Dublin Simon Community is among the organisations which refers people to the scheme.

"There are training schemes out there, and educational courses, but in terms of offering job opportunities and hands on work experience, Business in the Community is really unique for that," said Claire McSweeny, Service Manager with Dublin Simon Community.