Independent plumbing and heating merchant Pochin has won an award for its pioneering work giving ex-offenders and the homeless a chance to gain work experience and a reference to help them find a job.

To date 18 men who have been released from prison or have been homeless have been given the placements at Pochin, in an initiative with business and community charity Leicestershire Cares.

Two of the men have now been given permanent work by Pochin and are thriving at work and in rebuilding a home life.

In recognition of its commitment, Leicestershire Cares has chosen Pochin as the winner of ‘Placement Provider of the Year’ in its 2015 Awards.

The award was presented to Pochin’s Ben O’Keefe, whose team has taken the men under their wing at the firm’s Murrayfield Road headquarters in Leicester.

David Pochin, managing director, said: “The men have impressed us all with their positive potential and their desire to work.

“This award reflects the work many people at Pochin have undertaken to support individuals with work experience in order for them to gain a chance to become employed again.

“I would particularly like to single out Ben O’Keefe and his team at Murrayfield Road who have been especially supportive and very committed to this project which has had very positive results.”