Former UK Defence Minister helping lead charity giving work permits to overseas workers

Former UK Defence Minister Ivor Caplin rolled up his sleeves and joined seasonal overseas workers to pick cherries while announcing his new chairmanship of a historic charity.

Sussex-based Concordia was founded in 1943 to recruit volunteer labour and encourage peace amid the aftermath of the Second World War. Now, it is one of only four Government-trusted organisations providing work permits to people from all over the world.

The charity’s new chairman, former Hove MP and UK Defence Minister Ivor Caplin, joined the scheme’s workers at Oakdene Farm in Maidstone to pick cherries while laying out plans for Concordia’s future.

New Concordia chairman Ivor Caplin said: “Uncertainties caused by Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine have highlighted the vital work of these overseas workers in their efforts to help feed our nation. While the UK continues to feel the impact of these events, our charity’s work continues to be an essential service for the farming industry and a safe passage into the country for hard-working overseas labourers.”

Concordia, based in Brighton, works tirelessly to support the UK farming industry through the supply of labour, skills and resources, offering people of all ages from all over the world the opportunity to work in the UK on agricultural farms.

Ivor Caplin

The scheme protects workers from human rights abuses, such as modern slavery, while offering the chance for overseas workers to learn skills, gain work experience and earn money. Last year, two-thirds of the UK’s seasonal worker visas were issued to Ukrainian workers.

Oakdene Farm owner Tim Chambers says his family-run business has been working with Concordia for more than two decades.

Mr Chambers said: “The visit was interesting and informative. It’s great to have someone from a different perspective, someone’s who’s been outside of the industry looking in, and I feel very optimistic going forward. We’ve grown and been able to take advantage of the fact that berries have been a growing category every year. We’re lucky to be in this position and fortunate to have a good labour supplier.”

Speaking about his new appointment as chairman of Concordia, Mr Caplin said:

“I’m honoured to be taking over the chairmanship of Concordia, overseeing this vital farming work as well as the charity’s other, brilliant initiatives such as delivering the National Citizenship Service, international volunteering, and well-being and volunteer programs for young people in the UK.

Staff at Oakdene Farm

“For nearly 80 years, Concordia has been changing the world for the better with its volunteer projects in communities across the globe. Concordia’s work is important as ever in this current climate, and that’s why I’m thrilled to be helping to lead its fantastic efforts which continue to enable people to thrive across Sussex and beyond.”

Concordia works to improve local communities in Sussex by empowering young people with the skills needed to make positive changes in their areas through Concordia Youth Action. The charity also offers international volunteering opportunities for people of all ages and is a proud delivery partner for the National Citizen Service programme.

In 2020, Concordia launched a new Wellbeing Programme, which runs in schools to provide young people with the skills and tools to manage their emotions, mental health and wellbeing.

For more information, visit Concordia’s website here.

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