Almost 18 months after a high-profile report called for a racing industry shake-up, heralding improvements in pay, accommodation and staff recognition, proposals are under review for the start-up of a “foyer” system worth millions.

The plan, mooted by Racing Welfare, could result in the construction of a foyer or hostel in Newmarket by 2007. It is geared towards the most vulnerable staff: new recruits, aged 16 to 19, who have often left home for the first time to enter a challenging environment.

If approved, a pilot foyer (30 beds) in Newmarket is tipped to cost in excess of £1m, with similar projects earmarked for other racing centres at Lambourn and Middleham.

The foyers will not only provide reasonably priced accommodation, but also a support network, including training in life skills, covering everything from cooking to budgeting.

Racing Welfare chief executive Cedric Burton said the idea emerged from a working group charged with implementing recommendations of the June 2004 Stable and Stud Staff Commission inquiry chaired by Lord Donoughue.

In principle, the scheme already has support from the Jockey Club and British Horseracing Board (BHB).

Burton reiterated a key concern in the findings turned on retention of staff, adding the foyer model had worked well in France and Ireland. Discussions are underway to tailor the best system for British racing and explore funding avenues.

While accommodation was pinpointed by the inquiry as “a key issue from a staff retention perspective”, Burton said foyers would be open only to those aged under 19.

“We need to do more about retention in the industry, particularly for young people because it’s a real challenge for kids of 16 moving away from home for the first time and sitting on a Thoroughbred on the gallops first thing in the morning. They have to have a lot of nerve to do that.”

Rev Graham Locking, Newmarket’s racing chaplain, welcomed the move as an additional, invaluable support mechanism for vulnerable youngsters.

“When anyone of that age comes out of college or school, they can be easily influenced. It’s so easy for them to get in with the wrong crowd, and having support and guidance helps them reflect on the choices they make,” he said.

  • Read the full story in Horse & Hound (17 November, ’05)

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