In the communities we work, many people continue to struggle to make ends meet. In the last five years the Trussell Trust reports a 73% rise in the use of its foodbanks to almost 1.6m food parcels in the 12 months to March 2019. Also, the Office for National Statistics recently reported the economy shrank 0.4% in April.
Given the challenges for many of our customers, it is really pleasing to be able to flag the initial results of a skills and employment project settle has funded working with our local partner in Hertfordshire, Create Community Network. Foundations 4 Work aims to do precisely what it says on the tin. Yet it has some crucial innovations that we are trialling and are happy to share the results as the project progresses.
What are we doing and what is different about the approach?
First, we are focusing on the role a dedicated one-to-one mentor can play in helping tenants develop and follow an action plan to help them into sustainable employment. Funded by settle, the mentor is directly employed by Create Community Network.
Second, we are funding training to ensure people have the skills they need. Third, we are engaging with a wide range of large and small employers in our communities to build understanding and foster commitment to providing work experience and, ultimately, employment opportunities.
Finally, we are trialling a unique passport approach that captures an individual’s training, work experience, volunteering and employment. The activities residents take part in are recognised by the Department of Work and Pensions as evidence of job searching and progress. Our intention is that the passport is also recognised by partner employers in the same way.
Although the Foundations 4 Work project only began last year, the Create Community Network report for 2018 shows encouraging progress. Of the 38 individuals referred to the programme by Job Centre Plus and other agencies, 29 (76%) have moved through the programme and have this year been receiving training and work experience opportunities to help them deliver their goals.
This may sound like a relatively small drop in the ocean, but the reality is this means that customers are taking major steps towards living the life they choose, through sustainable jobs. A further five residents have since entered Foundations 4 Work and begun their journey through it. We see this as vital work to support and invest in our communities. We are committed to continuing to work with Create Community Network to build on the great work we have begun and make this accessible to more of our residents.
One area where we welcome all contributions is from employers or charities with work experience, volunteering or even employment opportunities for our Foundation 4 Work residents to potentially access when the time is right. We operate in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
As I mentioned, Foundations 4 Work is very much a work in progress. We are refining the model as we go and learning lessons from feedback from customers. We are confident that the initiative will successfully offer many people a route to a more self-sufficient and fulfilling life – whatever the economic backdrop.