Name of the project and Sub-Objective of the PEOPLE project. CARE TO SHARE: A ´BUSINESS FIRST´ APPROACH TO WELFARE TO WORK Silver Economy (SO3). The project.
CARE TO SHARE: A ´BUSINESS FIRST´ APPROACH TO WELFARE TO WORK
Silver Economy (SO3)
The Care to Share project was delivered in South East England. It was funded by the South East England Development Agency and was led by RBLI, a prime contractor for the Department for Work and Pensions Pathways to Work programme. RBLI identified the care industry as a sector with substantial unmet recruitment needs and the Sussex and Kent south coast as having a high concentration of care homes. It brought to the project its experience of running care homes and of working with the voluntary sector as well as of providing employment support to people on health-related benefits.
The objective was to test out a ‘business first’ brokerage approach to welfare to work: treating employers as customers and unemployed people over the age of 40 as candidates; brokering solutions to meet the needs of both customers and candidates.
39 care home employers were involved in the project. 471 unemployed candidates were supported, all over the age of 40 and most out of work for more than 12 months.
Of the 471 candidates, 287 had been placed in work by the end of the project - a placement rate of just over 60% - from a group most of whom had been out of work for over 12 months. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, a slight majority were men.
The RBLI project broker came to the project with 6 years’ experience in health and social care. She obtained the agreement of a number of employers to participate at an early stage in the recruitment process in presentations about the realities of working in the industry at group sessions of potential recruits. This, together with other more direct screening processes, meant that the actual candidates for vacancies were more likely to be well motivated and suitable and so more acceptable to employers. The investment of employer time up-front was more than compensated for by time saved by employers in considering unsuitable candidates.
The project broker made arrangements for candidates to receive a 3 day pre-employment training course with a training organisation which had an ESF-funded pre-employment training programme. Qualifications are a requirement of employment in the care industry. Many candidates are not qualified with the onus normally being on employers to arrange the necessary training and assessment. To avoid this being a barrier to recruitment, the broker made arrangements with local Train to Gain providers for candidates to be trained if accepted for a job. The employers were unaware of much of what was on offer from the publicly funded employment and skills systems and the broker was able to fill that knowledge gap. Development of employer trust in the broker was a critical factor.
The broker’s discussions with employers identified that there were issues about recruitment and retention practices. She therefore provided support to employers, where appropriate, on recruitment, induction, training and retention.
This project has demonstrated the benefits of locally specific, sectoral solutions achieved through well thought out brokerage. Employer engagement has been achieved by treating employers as the customer, involving them cost-effectively in the initial stages of the recruitment process and supporting them to develop better recruitment and retention practices. Employer trust in the broker and effective screening of candidates were critical, as were brokering work preparation and skills training. As a result, there was a high (60%) placement rate in relation to one year plus unemployed candidates, justifying the additional cost of the brokerage function.
This ‘business first’ approach is replicable by mainstream providers of welfare to work programmes. For example, the lessons from the project will be used to reinforce RBLI’s own employer-focused approach in its mainstream services: ‘our professional integrity and commitment to maintain high quality customer focused provision means we can be relied upon to only put forward candidates with the right skills, aptitude and attitude to succeed in the employer’s workplace’ (RBLI brochure).