Good Help in Employment Support: What’s Happening Already?
In our recent long-read Emma Kernahan and Jane Mansour explored how employment services must change to meet the Covid unemployment crisis. In this piece we’re spotlighting three organisations who are already demonstrating the kind of support we need.
This is just a small snapshot of the many employment support practitioners inside and outside the mainstream UK employment system who acknowledge the social determinants of work and specialise in providing Good Help. For us to have a chance at averting the deepening inequalities that are coming, we must redesign our employment services based on what they know works.
Working Well, Greater Manchester
Working Well is a family of services in Greater Manchester commissioned to support people experiencing or at risk of long-term unemployment. ‘Working Well’ refers to the relationship between employment and health. In short ‘good work is good for your health’.
Client B had been unemployed for 16 years with poor mental health and learning difficulties. He had been hoarding possessions for years and as a result could not access the rooms in his flat and was sleeping on a blow-up bed in the hallway. As Client B’s bond with his Key Worker grew, the Key Worker was able to encourage the client to open up about his hoarding issue. He also received mental health support through workshops and three-way appointments with a mental health practitioner and Key Worker which helped. His Key Worker liaised with the Well Spring about Client B’s hoarding and they advised him to speak with The Prevention Alliance (TPA) in Stockport. TPA assessed the client and coordinated with a team of volunteers at Age UK to clear Client B’s flat. Client B secured a job with City Facilities Management through the programme. To prepare for his interview he had a mock interview with Ingeus staff and his Key Worker also took him to Primark to help buy interview clothes. This is an example of how different support services coordinated to address a client’s uncommon barrier into work with support from local volunteers.
The Going the Extra Mile Project, Gloucestershire
The GEM Project is an employability and social inclusion programme, supporting individuals who are dealing with challenges to employment and moving these people closer towards or into work. It is completely tailored to the individual, focusing on the career path they choose to embark on; supported by Navigator Developers who work directly with people signed up to the project and guide each person throughout their entire GEM journey to help them reach their goals.
Over the last seven years Adrian struggled with his mental health and as a result had become socially isolated. After working with his Mental Health Nurse and the Community Wellbeing Service at CCP, Adrian was referred to the GEM Project.
“Before the GEM Project I had no confidence and wouldn’t leave the house. I didn’t even open my post which led to me getting into debt and arrears which also didn’t help me.”
Adrian was keen to get back into work and through the GEM Project put together an action plan to achieve this, initially focusing on voluntary positions to work towards securing a full-time role. Although his previous background was working at a multinational company in a senior managerial position, he was aware that technology had since moved on so was keen to enhance his skillset again. He completed various courses including a BTEC Diploma Level 2 in IT Skills which was funded by the GEM Project and helped him to regain his confidence.
Whilst volunteering at CCP, a part-time admin post came up in which Adrian applied for and, following interview practice and support from his Navigator Developer, he got the job. After working there for a while, a full-time position within the company was advertised and after applying for the role, Adrian is now a valued member of the CCP Finance Team.
“I chose to volunteer at CCP as they helped me, so I wanted to give a little bit back. It has now led to a full-time role and I have achieved my whole plan. I would definitely recommend the GEM Project – I’ve come such a long way!”
Clean Slate Training & Employment
Clean Slate provide drop-in employment support and training for people who have been unemployed for long periods, or who feel excluded from mainstream work. Their support is provided by Peer Workers, who have had similar experiences of the same issues, and are now trained and paid to help others. Clean Slate also offer paid work experience within their own enterprises, to provide a ‘bridge’ into other kinds of employment. In addition, their ‘Money Health Check Service’ supports people to stretch and manage a small income, access information on work and benefits, and avoid debt and housing insecurity.
Eight years ago, Peter came along to a Clean Slate drop-in at a local community centre for the first time. He had come because he’d heard about the service from a friend, and he wanted help finding work. At the time that he first met the staff at Clean Slate, Peter had recently moved into supported accommodation, having completed a stay in rehab. Substance misuse had taken up a lot of his adult life – he had very little experience of being employed, had been homeless on and off for years, and had a number of criminal convictions for drug related offences.
Peter had always wanted to be a postman, but felt like he really didn’t know how to get into this kind of work. After chatting to a Clean Slate Peer Worker, he joined a two day ‘7 Signs’ course. Clean Slate staff helped him to identify the skills he already had – and to acknowledge the resilience and resourcefulness required to overcome his dependencies and engage with support. Peter was given time and space to think about what his interests and priorities were, and what motivated him most. This translated into a clear set of long and short term job goals, and the steps he needed to take to achieve them. Peter then discussed what employers expect from their employees and how to present himself at his best. Finally, he was supported to put together a CV that was not a ‘cut and paste’ resume, but reflected his real skills and potential.
After the initial course, Peter was offered paid work experience within a Clean Slate enterprise, working in distribution. He was so good at the job that after a short period, he became a Team Leader, supporting others into work experience and overseeing projects.
During this time, he was also supported to improve his IT and admin skills, which really improved his confidence to apply for things. He participated in a number of talks to school students, alongside Clean Slate, about his experiences around substance misuse and homelessness and his transition back into work and a home of his own.
Around this time, Peter successfully applied for voluntary work with a charity supporting older people, and a second job as a cleaner. Those hiring him said that as well as having good references, his personality really shone through at interview. In addition, after accessing his own tenancy, his relationship with his children improved, and Peter’s sense of wellbeing and confidence continued to grow.
After nearly 3 years of working and volunteering, the Clean Slate Service Manager suggested that he think beyond his current roles, and Peter decided he’d like to work for a local mentoring charity for young people. He successfully applied for the role of Programmes Manager – setting up and running group mentoring activities with a range of other arts and sports organisations, which he found hugely rewarding.
After several years here, Peter made another shift – towards running his own business as a taxi driver. He really enjoyed travelling and meeting new people, and had support to put together a business plan for obtaining his private license and purchasing his own car. Just before lockdown he had a sizable income from both local and airport fares. When lockdown began, Peter had been running his own business for two years, was not eligible for any government support schemes for self employed people, and was turned down for a Bounce Back Loan. He got some shelf stacking work to top up income, and is now back running his taxi service again. Eight years after first accessing the service, he remains a valued member of the Clean Slate community.