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London PR agency provides housing for interns to boost social mobility

Communications firm Golin is helping its interns with their accommodation costs

A London PR agency is providing housing for its interns in an attempt to boost social mobility.

Communications agency Golin employs 150 people and runs four-month internship placements several times a year, taking on five young people at a time. Interns are paid the London living wage and many end up in full-time positions at the company.

Managing director Bibi Hilton told HR magazine that because the pool of interns tended to be dominated by those from the South East “social mobility wasn’t good enough”. “The cost of living in London is a barrier,” she said. “It is astronomical.”

To tackle this issue Golin is introducing the ‘Golin B&B’. The five interns from the May intake onward will live in a London flatshare paid for by the company for one month. After that Golin will give them a 0% interest loan for a deposit and first month’s rent, to be used in finding their own accommodation and paid back over their time with the company.

“The plan is to rent a flat on their behalf,” explained Hilton. “The financial benefits aside, there’s also the human relationship benefit as London can be quite a hostile city.

“We want to take away the barrier of moving to London,” she added. “It means we are not eliminating the best and brightest because they can’t afford the cost of living in London.”

Social mobility is a key concern for Golin and the wider media industry, Hilton said. The agency recently commissioned a piece of research that found 63% of PR professionals and journalists did not believe social mobility is a reality in their industry.

Only 18% said people of all backgrounds have an equal chance of finding work at present, and just 7% of respondents said they were proud of the social diversity in their industry.

“Our industry is unfortunately very white and middle class,” Hilton said. “But our clients don’t want to only sell their products to a homogeneous group. We don’t want copycat ideas. We need more diversity. This is about saying 'is our talent diverse enough and how do we futureproof it?'”

Hilton welcomed moves by MPs to ban unpaid internships. “[Not paying interns] is really unfair and it is increasingly bad for diversity,” she said. “It means you end up with only privileged young people being able to take internships.”