January 1998 saw the formation by the Daughters of Charity Service of the Horizon-funded project ‘Clean Sweep’. Identifying a need for meaningful work opportunities for a particular client group, the services explored several work areas. Examination of clients’ skills and possible openings in the marketplace led to the concept of a garden and grounds maintenance service was identified. An action plan for ‘Clean Sweep’ was submitted and it was approved for EU funding as a Horizon project.
A horticulturist was appointed as supervisor/driver, and a van, tools and protective clothing were organised. Then the business of selecting the crew began—five suitable candidates were chosen—and potential customers were also identified and approached. To many, starting a garden and grounds maintenance service in the depths of winter, with no firm contracts of work in place, appeared a daunting task. However, with the huge support given to the manager by the administrator of the Enterprise and Employment area of the service, no stone was left unturned to secure work for the group—and slowly it began to come their way. Once-off local garden-clearance jobs, industrial units needing tidying, small landscaping projects—all added to a wide variety of work for the new crew.
Their induction programme completed, the crew began to establish a good team spirit. Much work went into building this, with emphasis on the equal value of each participant’s work skills within the group. From the outset, the crew were seen, and saw themselves, as valued workers. Their van was kept in pristine condition; they wore the best of protective clothing, and their suggestions were listened to. This was their ‘company’, with staff available to support them. Weekly team meetings offered a platform to address their issues and concerns. The services of social workers and psychologist were available if needed. Within a short time, Clean Sweep’s promise of the delivery of a quality service at affordable prices was acknowledged. More and more companies sought the crew’s services. By October, the number of potential clients and contracts necessitated the formation of an additional crew—the second van hit the road.
The early days of trying to keep the work diary filled have long gone—demands for the service continue to grow. Clean Sweep is now in the enviable position of choosing whom they wish to work for, and consideration is given to the skills and needs of the members of the crew, rather than just the need to provide ‘work’. Of course, problems were encountered along the way, but the support of management, the dedication of the crews, and the total commitment of the supervisors have all surmounted the initial difficulties.
During 1999, President Mary McAleese secured the services of Clean Sweep to maintain and develop the walled gardens in Áras an Úachtaráin, in a five-day week contract; both crews spend some time at the Áras each week. Other valued customers are the Department of Defence, Members of the North Dublin Chamber of Commerce, O’Dwyer Property Developers and W.I. Ltd.
All participants in the Clean Sweep enterprise receive the maximum top-up income allowed by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Clean Sweep were delighted to receive a cheque for £5000 as one of the ten Leinster finalists in the 1999 Bank of Ireland Better Ireland Awards. Horizon programme funding came to an end in December 1999; as other Horizon projects have done, Clean Sweep looks forward to joining other successful enterprises within the Daughters of Charity Services.