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TURNING POLICY INTO REALITY WINTER/SPRING 2009

TAKING A CHANCE
INSIDE:
● ● ●

A WORLD AWAY FROM HIS HOMELESS PAST, TRAINEE CHEF LEE HARVEY GETS CREATIVE

LONE PARENTS TAKE A STARRING ROLE VOCATIONAL TRAINING FOR EXCLUDED YOUNGSTERS IN THE SUBURBS: HOW FRENCH POLICY IS HELPING JOB SEEKERS

Contents
neWS
Events and news from around the world

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VieW FrOM tHe CHAir
Emma Harrison, A4e Chairman, looks forward to the challenges of the new year

turninG A COrner
How youngsters in Stockton are being given a chance to learn valuable vocational skills

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9 KeepinG AHeAD OF tHe lAW
Free legal advice is making life easier for the citizens of Hull

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tAKinG A neW DireCtiOn
We look at one scheme that has helped a once-homeless client to gain skills as a chef

tHeir 15 MinuteS OF FAMe...
A Doncaster team had their lives turned upside down by the arrival of a Channel 4 documentary team

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OpiniOn
Michael Davis, Managing Director of CFE, on employment and skills policies

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OpiniOn
Mark Lovell, A4e Executive Chairman, on how to ride out the credit crunch

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GettinG it tOGetHer DOWn unDer
The creation and growing importance of A4e Australia

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MOneY tAlKS
A financial training scheme is helping youngsters to stay out of debt

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in tHe SuburbS
How a programme in France is giving job opportunities to those in deprived areas

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FreeDOM OF CHOiCe
We look at how being able to choose and employ carers is changing the lives of disabled people

18 10 in ten

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Pam Kenworthy, Legal Director of Howells Direct, answers our quick-fire questions

Flexible New Deal (FND) Update
A4e welcomes the changes that Flexible New Deal will bring. These changes mean that we can spend more time with marginalised and harder-to-help people, developing individual, tailored programmes to enable their return to work. Tenders have now been submitted for Phase 1 FND contract areas – thanks to those of you that have expressed an interest in working in partnership with us. We are now looking forward to Phase 2 and would again welcome any organisation who wishes to work with us. We will shortly be setting up a registration process for FND Phase 2 at: www.a4e.co.uk/Partnerregistration.aspx. We will also be contacting all organisations who have registered previously to invite them to express interest in the districts covered by Phase 2. Please keep checking the site for updates, and we look forward to working with you in the future.

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up FrOnt: COntents

From the editor
JO BLUnDeLL grOUp DeveLOpment DireCtOr, a4e
elcome to the new year issue of Blueprint, which you’ll find packed with all the latest goings-on within A4e, as well as important issues that surround the business. I hope that you’ll enjoy reading about what’s happening in various sectors of A4e, and how we’re continuing to help people get back to the jobs – and lives – they deserve. You’ll also notice that there’s a new face in town. I’m very pleased to have taken the reins from Sara McKee, who has moved on to pastures new. Many thanks to Sara for all her hard work and dedication – I can only hope to make as good an impression on A4e as Sara has over the years. We wish Sara the very best of luck in her new job. You’ll have been hard-pressed to escape the ups and downs of the economy over the last few months – and, as such, this issue of Blueprint focuses fairly heavily on making the best of what can only be described as difficult economic conditions. A4e’s Executive Chairman, Mark Lovell, talks about how to help businesses survive the recession, and why it’s even more important to support A4e’s more vulnerable clients. Read more on page 15. Helping those from less fortunate backgrounds is at the core of A4e’s business ethics, and we were delighted to read the story of one of our Pathways clients who became an apprentice chef – having been homeless, and never previously having a job. You can read his story on page nine, along with that of Anna Rayner, who overcame depression to train as a complementary therapist. Anna now runs her own business, and also works from various other complementary therapy centres, too. Both of these

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Helping those from less fortunate backgrounds is at the core of A4e’s ethics

success stories have resulted from the Pathways to Work programme, part of which A4e is delivering. Elsewhere, one of our teams in Doncaster was in for a nice surprise – and more than just 15 minutes of fame – when a Channel 4 documentary maker chose the team to star in a film about the welfare system. Doncaster’s Elevate team was selected to appear in the documentary after Elevate Trainer, Hayley Taylor, made a great impression on the series producer. He felt that Hayley had the energy and passion to inspire her clients – all of whom are lone parents – to get back into work and training. You can read their fascinating story on page 12, and find out what it was really like to be in front of the camera for weeks on end! Finally, we’re delighted that A4e Australia is taking shape – we’re currently pitching for contracts, and hope to receive news later in the year as to whether we’ve been selected to run them. Find out more about the business, and the issues that A4e Australia is tackling, on page 23. Enjoy the issue!

prODuCeD bY: Cambridge publishers Ltd (www.cpl.biz) GrOup DeVelOpMent DireCtOr: Jo Blundell, a4e to contribute to Blueprint, contact Jo blundell on jblundell@a4e.co.uk or call free on 0800 345 666. A4e Head Office, bessemer road, Sheffield S9 3Xn.
Opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of a4e Ltd or Cambridge publishers Ltd.

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uP fronT: round-up

News
Plymouth £2.5 million Getting down programme goes live to business
Business start-ups are not limited to those within mainstream industries, as one A4e team found out when they attended the Kidz Up North exhibition at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton. Sarah Whittaker, Mark Fegan and Robert Clark from A4e’s NDDP Connect to Work team, based in Preston, attended the exhibition, together with Neil Allday, Matthew Slack and Ray Parkes from Business Start Up. Kidz Up North targeted children with disabilities – both mental and physical – which is not an obvious group to look towards when considering business start-up opportunities. ‘Our target audience was not the children, but the occupational therapists and other health professionals that look after the children,’ said Allday. ‘Many go on to become self-employed carers, for example.’ The exhibition attracted more than 2,500 visitors from all backgrounds, in care and medical disciplines. Many new entrepreneurs who attended may end up working within the NHS/ PCT arena as carers, advisors and in other social enterprises, while a number of delegates are actively seeking to start businesses in a number of more specialist fields. ‘We are now in the process of working with a number of females who attended the exhibition. They are looking to start a riding school for disabled children, a school for children with special needs and also a sensory play centre for blind/deaf children or older children with mental health issues,’ said Allday. ‘With a little foresight, the less obvious marketing strategy often bears the best fruits and opens new markets for the Business Start Up enterprise.’

A £2.5 million European Social Fund programme to develop employment and skills opportunities in the South West’s biggest city has gone live in Plymouth. A4e Plymouth Works Plus held a prestigious launch with Job Centre Plus at the Copthorne Hotel to highlight the benefits of the programme over the next 36 months.

A4e Plymouth Works Plus advisors will offer one-to-one support to clients in areas including: information; advice and guidance; sourcing and funding of educational and vocational training; voluntary work; soft skills development; low motivation; confidence; job skills; CV creation; interview techniques; setting up email accounts; and the

completion of job and e-applications. Anyone aged between 16 and 65, who works fewer than eight paid hours a week, will be eligible to apply for a share of the £2.5 million cash pot, whether to enrol on a new employment course or for some new kit to start a job, according to Carol Boyd, Contract Co-ordinator at Plymouth Works Plus.

Training for over-50s welcomed
The first major project to test demand for careers advice and training among older people in work has just finished in the south east of England. Over two years, the project, called ReGrow, provided careers advice and follow-up training to 1,139 people aged over 50 working across the region. It has important implications for the planning of the government’s new Adult Advancement and Careers Service, and for its Train to Gain programme. Responses from employers and employees were very positive. More than 80 per cent of firms identified benefits from the advice and training, and more than half of employers said that it had increased workers’ motivation, productivity and flexibility. Employees were surprised that anyone was interested in their needs, but when the service was offered, they grasped it with enthusiasm. Two thirds of them said that they were able to do their jobs better, half planned to take further training, and a third said they would probably stay in work longer as a result.

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uP fronT: view from the Chair

somerset celebrates employability skills
Celebrating the achievements of 30 clients who gained new qualifications in literacy and maths, the A4e Taunton office recently had a visit from local MP Jeremy Browne, who was able to see how the LSC Employability Skills programme was working in the town. Organisers for the A4e LSC programme at Victoria House in Taunton are keen that, when clients pass their 15 week studies, it is officially recognised by everyone. The A4e Employability programme is funded by the Learning and Skills Council. The 15week voluntary course starts from entry levels one, two and three, and then goes on to level one and two (GCSE) qualifications. Browne said: ‘I am very impressed by the dedication of the tutors and staff at A4e Taunton. And those out of work for long periods are getting the support they need.’

New year, new challenges
hen I get back to my desk after the festivities – usually having overindulged, but also having caught up with all my family and friends – I like to focus on the way ahead. I really believe you need to recognise the achievements of the previous year and use them as the platform on which to build the successes we will see in the new year. This year is definitely not without its challenges. We heard in December from the Secretary of State, James Purnell MP, about the drive for further welfare reform in his White Paper, and the desire to help more people get the skills they need to get back into work. A4e’s mission is to improve people’s lives, and I firmly believe that we can help thousands more people achieve their goals and build their future. However, we’re all expecting a tough year with the economic downturn and rising unemployment, but it is more important than ever that we don’t leave anyone behind. Let’s not forget, most of the clients we support are long-term unemployed with more barriers than most to overcome. But that’s where we need to be even more creative and innovative in our approach – and that’s what A4e people are really good at. With the fantastic team at A4e, we’ve been able to grow a small training business from Sheffield into an international social purpose company. We’ve entered new markets in Israel, Germany, France and Poland – and who knows, we might start improving people’s lives in Australia this year! We’ve also seen changes in our staff, and I’d like to thank everyone for their fantastic contribution and welcome all new arrivals to A4e. You have my full support. So let’s put our best foot forward, and embrace the change and challenges ahead of this year. With all these new horizons, together we can make a real difference in 2009.

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eMMA HArrison
Chairman, a4e

news in brief
WelCoMe To THe TeAM
Evelyn Rimmer has recently joined A4e as Enterprise Development Manger, to support and develop enterprise project delivery across the company. Evelyn has more than 17 years’ experience of developing and delivering start-up and business support projects, most recently working for a UKwide housing association (Places for People). Her role while there was to develop and deliver communitybased enterprise projects in Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle. These provided intensive start-up support to disadvantaged communities through awareness-raising events, workshops and oneto-one support. She was also part of the winning team for the Housing Corporation’s ‘Gold Award for Tackling Worklessness’ earlier this year. Evelyn’s past roles include working for Wellpark Enterprise Centre in Glasgow, where she managed the development programme for women-owned businesses; InBiz as Area Manager in Scotland; and Information Manager for one of the Business Gateway areas in Scotland. She began her career in sales and administration, while also running her own marketing business.

isrAel in THe sPoTligHT
A Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) event was held at the House of Lords recently, which brought together politicians, academics, charities and the think-tank community. The topic for discussion was the evolution of the New Deal in Israel and the UK. Guest speakers included James Purnell MP Secretary of , State for Work and Pensions; David Blunkett MP Chair , and member of the LFI policy council; Mark Lovell, A4e Executive Chairman, and Dr Jason Elis. Members of the audience found it interesting to hear about Israel’s domestic policy challenges and how they compare to Britain’s, while other attendees said that Mark Lovell’s comments were extremely relevant to their work on British domestic policy.

You need to recognise the achievements of the previous year to build successes in the new year
eMMA HArrison

The A4e team in Australia is set to be busy this year.

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focus on: vocational training

Turning a corner
Having issues at school can lead some youngsters down the wrong path in life – but for the lucky ones, learning in a vocational centre can give them the skills they so badly need

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hile being in full-time education is a good thing for most young people, it doesn’t suit everyone. There are times when learning in an environment in which you feel an outsider or as if you’re not gaining much can be counter-productive, and that’s when problems arise.

Some youngsters who are excluded from school or struggle with mainstream provision carry their feelings of worthlessness with them throughout their lives, and never regain the confidence to make something of themselves. However, various schemes that have been set up across the UK are designed to train excluded youngsters in vocational centres. The Vox Centre in Stockton on Tees, which was opened by A4e in September 2008, was the brainchild of Vox Centre Manager, Lee Beresford. Designed to provide ‘first steps’ training to

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youngsters aged 14-19, who require an alternative education to school that better suits their learning style, the students gain experience and qualifications thanks to vocational training. The idea is to enable young people to become better-prepared for post-16 life, be it in further employment, training or by becoming one of the area’s future entrepreneurs. ‘I felt that there was a gap in the market for vocational training locally,’ said Beresford, who had the vision to take the idea forward after putting the concept to the A4e senior management team. After consultation with Stephen Lidgard, who is in charge of A4e’s vocational centre provision nationwide, the Stockton facility was based on the ground-breaking Grimsby model. In-depth consultations were undertaken with schools in Tees Valley via the Education Business Partnership to find out what young people really needed and where they needed it. Gaps that were identified both geographically and in skills provision highlighted the need for vocational training in areas such as retail, construction, catering, and hair and beauty.

‘real world’ business. ‘A4e has invested heavily in providing a first-class vocational facility to support the needs of young people whom we are passionate about improving the lives of,’ said Sally Orlopp, Director of Education for A4e. ‘We feel we can add value for young people by offering a different range of provision with the key being partnership working, which in return adds value.’ The youngsters are referred from 14 different schools throughout the Tees Valley, as well as from referral agencies, and consist of a mix of mainstream and non-mainstream pupils. When the centre opened in September, it welcomed 30 young people – now, it has 112. A4e currently has six members of staff based at the centre, while a further two are due to be employed shortly. Charlotte McCann, a Year 11 pupil who’s
The girls from the Vox Centre enjoy learning practical skills on the hair and beauty course.

Real world
The Vox Centre aims to provide a programme that is flexible, inclusive and inspirational to cater for every student’s specific needs. The fact that the centre is located on a ‘real world’ business park, shoulder-to-shoulder with a diverse range of companies, makes it different to other vocational centres in the area. It also adds value to the experience for the youngsters taking part, meaning that they are working side by side with reallife businesses and benefiting from the knowledge and experience of the people around them. The centre provides meaningful alternative education for the young people of the Tees Valley, and eventually, it will be open to the public to give the students a real taste of working life. What’s more, it’s currently the only vocational centre in the area offering retail training. Future plans also include master classes involving local entrepreneurs, further enhancing the youngsters’ experience of

Some youngsters who are excluded from school carry their feelings of worthlessness with them throughout their lives, and never regain the confidence to make something of themselves
Based on a business park, the youngsters benefit from the experience of other companies.

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focus on: vocational training

currently studying hair and beauty at the Vox Centre, is over the moon that she’s been able to do something that she’s interested in. ‘It’s the best thing out of the whole of education that has ever happened to me,’ she said. Referred by New Start, Charlotte is thoroughly enjoying her vocational training. ‘If you ever get the chance to attend the Vox Centre, then I really recommend it!’ she added. The Vox Centre’s facilities are flexible and can also provide opportunities for working with a diverse range of client groups, from young people to harder-to-reach adults. Because vocational centres offer a service so unique to excluded pupils, a further centre is due to be opened in Leeds in early 2009. More are planned across the UK, with the aim of having 10 vocational centres by the end of 2010. A4e currently have similar centres in Grimsby, Pontefract, West Bromwich and Mansfield.

would boost the local economy. He also wanted to put something back into the community. ‘It is amazing what young people in the area are capable of achieving,’ he said. ‘A4e is giving youngsters the opportunity to see the real world of business, as well as giving companies the chance to integrate with the workforce of the future. ‘We can see that by working in partnership with A4e, we are really helping to improve the prospects of young people in the Tees Valley area.’

making your mark

Key player
Local businessman Nasser Din, Managing Director of Supreme Property Developments Limited, had the vision to develop the business park in partnership with Stockton Council via European funding. Nasser Din was a key player in supporting the project. He recognised that to sustain the future workforce in the area, he needed to help young people to gain the right employability skills. This, he reasoned, would help improve the performance of local businesses, which in turn
Youngsters get a taste of real working life at the Vox Centre.

It is amazing what young people are capable of achieving. A4e is giving so many youngsters the opportunity to see the real world of business
nasser Din, supreme property Developments limiteD

National Enterprise Week, part of Global Entrepreneurship week, is a national celebration of enterprise in November with events organised all over the UK. During the week, more than 2,000 organisations run events and activities to encourage

people to make their ideas come alive – this could be something such as starting a new business or social enterprise, or making new ideas happen in the workplace. It’s crucial to encourage people to make their way in business – with the economic situation in the UK on something of a knife-edge, having the skills, knowledge and a can-do attitude to work is more important than ever. Those who can implement ideas, overcome challenges and possess the skills to spot opportunities often fare best when there’s pressure on jobs. And creating a culture where youngsters have the confidence to make their mark on the world means that people from any background will have the opportunity to unleash their ambition on the business world. For more details, visit www.makeyourmark.org.uk.

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at the sharp end: patHways to work

Taking a new direction
going back to work can be hard when you’ve been on incapacity benefit – but one scheme is helping people do just that
nna Rayner spent several years on incapacity benefit – she’d suffered from depression and anxiety for several years, her motivation was at an all-time low and she didn’t know where to turn. But after conquering her illness with the help of alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, reiki and mediation, she soon felt ready to return to work. Having visited the Disability Employment Adviser at her local Jobcentre Plus, she was pointed in the direction of the Pathways to Work scheme run by A4e, where staff helped Anna to identify her interests. It was there that she realised her future lay within the realm of complementary therapies. A year later, with the support of Pathways, Anna gained the relevant qualifications and experience and now runs her own complementary therapy practice (www.rayoflight.me.uk). ‘It’s really amazing what you can do with the right support,’ says Anna. ‘The last year has taught me that you are never on your own, and that help is there if you need it, regardless of your circumstances. ‘I feel completely different from how I did a couple of years ago,’ she adds. ‘A lot of people want to start a business and never get round to it – but you’ve got to be a risk-taker to be an entrepreneur. I feel as if I have developed as a person and I know myself much better now. From feeling low in confidence and selfesteem, people are now coming to me for advice.’

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Vital support
Pathways To Work is an independent service for people in receipt of incapacity-related benefits. It provides impartial advice, training and support to those out of work, to help and encourage them to find employment in an area that they’re suited to. While some clients are referred from their local Jobcentre Plus, others come to Pathways directly. Kate Goodman, National Pathways Director for A4e, explains some of the difficulties that the Pathways clients face. ‘Our customer group is still judged by many because of the way they look, by the benefit they are on or by the condition we label them with,’ she says.

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feature: offender management

Jason Burns, Training for Life Manager at Dartmouth Apprentice.

‘This can lead to our customers feeling ashamed, embarrassed or unable to be open about their circumstances and desires. ‘We have had customers who have not been specific on their CVs about their condition, the employer has subsequently discovered this and it has resulted in the person being dismissed – not because they weren’t doing a good job, but because they had lied in order to get the job. Would this have happened if they had added an A-level or two, or said that they had lots of hobbies in order to look good? ‘What makes my job worthwhile is when you see people’s lives turning around, that point when somebody realises that they are not useless and that they have a lot to offer. Our Pathways teams really do make a difference, and I’m really proud of them.’

Building relationships
Steve Carter is an Employer Engagement Consultant from A4e Pathways in Torquay. His main role is to go out and source job vacancies, meet potential employers and build good relationships with them. However, he does get involved in the client side of the service, too, and recently managed to secure a homeless client a place as a trainee chef at a new venture called Dartmouth Apprentice. Similar to Jamie Oliver’s 15 restaurant, Dartmouth Apprentice trains unemployed young people while they work alongside professional chefs in the restaurant. They gain hospitality industry qualifications, and at the end of their apprenticeships, they get help to find jobs. Twenty nine-year-old Lee Harvey was homeless and jobless when he came to Torquay Pathways – he’d fled from County Durham with his girlfriend due to difficult circumstances, and was living in a tent in Brixham, Devon. Steve Carter, co-incidentally, had just heard about Dartmouth Apprentice when Lee arrived in the office, and decided to try to get Lee on the scheme. ‘Not only was Lee homeless, but he’d also got a criminal record having been in prison four times,

Former Pathways client Anna Rayner is now a complementary therapist.

What makes my job worthwhile is when you see people’s lives turning around, that point when somebody realises that they have a lot to offer
kate goodman, national pathways director for a4e

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he’d been on drugs, and had never worked in his life,’ says Carter. ‘A lot of people would have written him off, but I wasn’t going to.’ Carter met up with staff at the newly opened Dartmouth Apprentice and managed to arrange an interview for Lee. ‘We sorted out some new clothes for Lee, and the other Employment Coaches in the office were brilliant – they ironed them, turned up the trousers, and got Lee ready for his interview. Thankfully, Lee was accepted. ‘It took up a lot of my time and affected my targets, but I wasn’t worried about that,’ he continues. ‘We then had problems finding Lee and his girlfriend

A lot of people want to start a business and never get round to it – but you’ve got to be a risk-taker to be an entrepreneur
anna rayner, former pathways client

accommodation. Dartmouth is very smart, and there’s no run-down bedsits that you can rent cheaply. We got talking to Dartmouth Homeless Trust and managed to borrow some of the money needed for a deposit for a flat, and borrowed the remainder from A4e – which Lee is paying back. The first day they moved in, I bought them some groceries and helped them with essentials, and then Lee started work.

‘It’s been a great success. Lee loves it – he’s even doing double shifts. He’s hoping to train to be a chef and really enjoys getting up and going to work – it’s just transformed him. I’m so proud of him.’

case study: ‘my life has really changed’
Lee Harvey, 29, was homeless and jobless before being accepted as an apprentice at dartmouth apprentice
‘I started at Dartmouth Apprentice in September 2008 – I’d never done anything like that before. The work has been going brilliantly, and I’m a lot further along than when I first joined. I’ve been preparing the meals, and I’m also looking forward to getting my catering qualifications, which I hope to be doing soon. ‘I’ve even got my own starter on the menu at the restaurant – it’s a sandwich with Parma ham, salami, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, and it’s going down a storm. A lot of people are ordering it. ‘My life has changed a heck of a lot over the past few months. Before I started here, I wasn’t working and I was always getting into trouble. But thanks to A4e and the Dartmouth Apprentice, I’ve been able to do something useful. I’m really grateful to them all.’

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Feature A DocumentAry on DoncAster eleVAte

Their 15 minutes of fame...
Being picked to be part of a tV documentary is a distant dream for most of us – but for a team in Doncaster, it became a reality

‘I

don’t do handouts here,’ says Carolyn Kendrick, Business Manager for A4e Doncaster. ‘What we do is teach our learners to support themselves and find their own way to the life they want.’ It’s this kind of philosophy on which A4e Doncaster has based its skills courses that help get the unemployed back into work or training. And the teaching of these courses is so good that it recently attracted a Channel 4 documentary team to the offices. The stars of the programme, all of whom were involved in Doncaster’s Elevate course, will appear on TV in the autumn. Elevate is an A4e course which helps lone parents get back to work. It starts off by building up the clients’ confidence and motivation, before working on issues each client might have experienced in the past – such as problems with interviews or personal issues. Once the client feels ready and has identified an area of work they’d like to go into, work placements are arranged for seven weeks and the client is supported throughout.

Client Dawn Schofield gets a real taste for work.

But what was the idea behind the documentary in the first place? Series Producer Fergus O’Brien wanted to make three films looking at welfare provision in the UK from top to bottom, and see how government policy is formulated and then implemented through senior civil servants in charge of procurement. ‘The reason I’m so excited about it is that it’s been about 12 years since anything’s been done on TV on the welfare system, and so much has changed in the role of companies who are now actively involved,’ he says. ‘I wanted to see how that would trickle down the departments, and also how the private sector get involved. ‘The main thrust of the documentary is the human angle – the emotional stories of people who are trying to get back into the workplace, either because they want to, or because they feel that there’s some sort of growing pressure due to the changes in welfare legislation to get working. I wanted to follow their journey.’

I was so nervous – once your words are recorded on camera, you can’t go back and re-phrase them
Hayley taylor, elevate tutor

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Feature: DoncAster eleVAte in the spotlight

A4e trainer, Hayley Taylor, helps to motivate Elevate client Yvette Brown.

A real experience
For Elevate Tutor Hayley Taylor, the experience of being shadowed by a camera crew for six weeks was nerve racking, but exciting. ‘I got a call from the producers saying that they were making a programme for Channel 4, and they arranged to come up and visit. Then about two weeks later, they rang to ask if they could film one of my Elevate courses! ‘At the time, I was very nervous, especially when they were filming the classes. They would ask me questions and I’d have to think on my feet all the time and come up with the answers you’d hope you’d say – but you never actually know what’s going to come out until you say it! Once your words are recorded on camera you can’t go back and re-phrase them.’ For Fergus O’Brien, Hayley Taylor was just the person he was looking for. He wanted to find a course with someone running it who had the energy, drive, focus and structure to keep the course vibrant. ‘All courses vary from place to place, so we spent a lot of time looking at different tutors with different approaches,’ he says. ‘They were all successful in their own way, but in

Elevate client Lyndsey Ward gets busy during her work placement at Doncaster Poundland.

terms of a TV programme, you need something that looks very proactive, that gets the clients involved. It was apparent to us very quickly when we visited Hayley that she had a real energy and passion for what she was doing which was quite infectious – and we knew that the camera would pick up on that.’ The clients, despite the fact that they were all out of work and many had been away from the job market for some time, rose to the challenge. According to Taylor, they knew from day one that there would be a film crew around, and yet they still turned up for classes and came on board. ‘The clients loved it,’ she says. ‘If anything, the crew boosted them even more. They felt that if they could deal with that kind of intrusion, they could deal with anything. ‘A couple of clients explained to me that they were a bit nervous, but after the second week, they loved it. I took them out for dinner in a pub one day, and with everyone looking at them, they felt like stars. It’s been really good for them.’

Adding to success
According to Carolyn Kendrick, profile raising can only aid A4e Doncaster’s success in helping to gain the respect and understanding of more local organisations and employers with a view to forming partnerships. ‘We want to achieve results which improve people’s lives,’ she says. ‘I run several courses besides Elevate, such as Skills for Life, which raises literacy and numeracy in line

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Feature: DoncAster eleVAte in the spotlight

The hardworking A4e team in Doncaster.

with the government’s Skills for Life Agenda. We have excellent job outcomes with this course – 55 per cent of clients gained jobs as a result during October and November 2008.’ Other courses include Gateway – a two-week intensive job search programme; Full Time Education and Training for 18-24 year olds who have slipped through NEET provision and require further guidance into the world of work; Progress to Work, which helps to overcome the problems faced by those recovering from substance abuse in re-entering society; and Link Up, which helps those recovering from alcohol abuse, the homeless and exoffenders find a way back into employment. ‘We teach our learners to support themselves and find their own way to the life they want,’ explains Kendrick. ‘In November, despite growing fears over the economy and news of redundancies at every turn, my team put 44 unemployed people into jobs. And not just any 44 people – many of these came to us with multiple barriers to reaching the employment market. ‘I am incredibly proud of the team here,’ she adds. ‘Our centre is full of passion fun and vibrancy. The work we do is demanding and we need support from each other to give us the continued strength and energy we need.’ For Taylor, being part of a documentary made her really proud. ‘It’s a real compliment to have been chosen to be in a film,’ she says, ‘and it’s something that I’ll be able to keep forever. It’s good, too, to be a role model for my daughter – and I’ll be able to see myself at my peak in years to come!’

‘tHe parents Felt tHey were in a bit oF a trap’
Fergus o’Brien from studio lambert is the series producer of the channel 4 documentary on the welfare system.

The main thrust of the documentary is the human angle – the emotional stories of people who are trying to get back into the workplace
Fergus o’brien

Joanne Simmonds, an Elevate client, enjoys chatting to the customers in Poundland.

‘I think what struck me most was how many of the parents felt that they were in a bit of a trap because they had lost so much confidence – they couldn’t see a way out, and their problems were exacerbated by debt. ‘What a lot of them were waking up to, like us, was the realisation that it’s quite a complicated situation when one gets into a routine of being on benefits. Lots of things keep people stuck in that place. ‘Some of the greatest changes took place at the start. We could see that the biggest problems lone parents faced were that their self-esteem and self-confidence had been completely eroded. The challenge for them was to face up to that and rebuild it. As we followed their journey, we saw them face a lot of their demons and learn what it was that had been stopping them. It was an amazing experience.’

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blueprint winter/spring 2009

oPinion: MARK LOVELL

Where credit’s due
The declining economy has confirmed to Mark Lovell that robust finances are key to a better business

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ver the last six months, I have spent a fair amount of time with financiers and people in the financial services industry. It’s been an interesting time, and it has reinforced some basic and simple truths about running a good business. Importantly, it has reiterated to me that one of A4e’s strengths has been its prudent approach to ensuring robust finances, even though we are such a high growth business. All of this stands us in good stead for the next two years. Core to what A4e does is supporting vulnerable people, their communities, businesses in those communities and tackling poverty, economic development and social development. As the discussions in the media, in government and business have turned to dealing with recession – and the speed of its impact – I have continued to remain focused on those things that I can influence and control, where we can contribute to easing the impact of economic downturn and stimulate growth. During a recession, one of the challenges is that the poorest and most disadvantaged always get hit the hardest. A4e’s role is to minimise and mitigate against this. The economic impact of the current situation is different to that which I experienced when building A4e in the early 1990s, and what I saw as I grew up in the 1980s. We now have a more diverse economy, with greater resilience and a more co-ordinated series of business and governmental responses. Equally, in this early stage, we see opportunities for enterprise, job creation and skills development (for skills shortages in business) still holding up. This will get more difficult in the first half of next year, but at the same time as rising unemployment figures, we still have a very robust number of jobs being created in the economy. We still have a large number of stubborn, hard-to-fill vacancies as well. At the entry level for jobs, we are holding up well, but we know this will get harder next year. In response to this, we are driving enhanced join up and flexibility across all A4e’s services. The Pre-Budget Report and the announcements before

it – for example, covering relaxation for Train to Gain eligibility, extension of debt advice, better access to welfare and skills provision in the event of redundancy – are all good policy decisions. Over the last 18 months we have been clear that it is not additional spend that is required, but greater flexibility to spend existing funds more effectively. We will need more public sector investment, but first let’s make what we have function brilliantly. To do so, we need to respond to the needs of our customers – individuals and business – Mark Lovell believes that working with governments in the UK and quickly, and with the full spectrum of A4e overseas will help A4e’s most and its partners’ services. Joined up front line vulnerable clients. public services have never been more necessary. By focusing our attention on making this happen and working collaboratively with governments in the UK and overseas, we are able to support our most vulnerable clients. This means we can do our bit to limit the impact of global Over the last 18 months recession on the economies where we have been clear that it is not we work. There is an additional spend that is required, enormous amount of pragmatic concern in but greater flexibility to spend the labour markets economies, existing funds more effectively and also much but Mark LoveLL, a4e executive chairMan more optimism and determination than sometimes gets reported in the media.

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feature: Managing MOnEY

Money talks
Knowing how to manage money and stay out of debt is crucial to young people, especially in the current economic climate – and financial training is helping youngsters do just that

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anaging money is a key life skill, but one that not all young people possess. Now the Financial Services Authority (FSA), in partnership with Citizen’s Advice and youth charity Fairbridge, has created a programme to help young people not in education, employment or training become more financially capable. In an increasingly complex financial landscape, this initiative is well overdue and A4e is at the heart of training people to make it work. Stakeholder Engagement Manager Kerry Anne Davies has travelled the country to encourage organisations to make a long-term commitment.

Upskilling young people to understand financial affairs is key to helping to break poverty cycles and ensure social mobility in the next generation
Mel DoDD, a4e prograMMe Manager for Young people anD MoneY

Usually she’s well-received. ‘The feedback I’ve been getting is that this had been a long time coming,’ she said. ‘It’s whetted the appetite of professionals to hone skills they’ve learned on this course. The FSA is keen for us to identify champions in local authorities and other organisations so that, when A4e pulls out in 2010, the programme will stay alive.’ Prisoners are especially vulnerable to ignorance of personal finance – as Justin Coleman, Enrichment Manager at HMP Ashfield, near Bristol, which houses 400 young offenders, is well aware. ‘They need this sort of education, particularly with the recession coming on,’ he says. Unfortunately, the time available in life skills classes proved too limited to offer financial education. However, Coleman has been working with A4e since June 2008 to remedy matters. ‘We had a new group of officers on the wing and felt the time was right to start teaching them to pass on basic financial skills,’ he said. Following a visit by A4e to Ashfield’s training centre, the officers received training and resources with financial information pitched at a level everyone could understand. ‘It went incredibly well,’ said Coleman.

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feature: Managing MOnEY

l Up until the end of October 2008, 2,172 delegates had been trained by A4e in England, Wales and Scotland. The target is 8,100 by the time the contract ends in 2010 l Funding is provided through the FSA – with no costs to the organisations concerned l Training is further supported by a CAB Money Advisor at each course l For further information, visit www.a4emoney.co.uk/ ypm or simply call 0845 189 8081

Around 20 people, mainly education staff, have completed A4e’s training so far. With Ashfield’s inspection out of the way and routines returning to normal, Coleman hopes the programme will build momentum. ‘In time, with the backing of wing managers, we’re hoping 100 staff will undergo financial training – which will be around 25 per cent,’ he said. Success is hard to quantify but, from observing young offenders during evening association, Coleman is convinced it’s having an effect. ‘They talk about financial problems they may face in a focused way,’ he said. ‘If they aren’t aware of them, it could trip them up. We’re trying to avoid offenders re-offending.’

Preventing debt
Jean Brown, Manager of Careers Wales, sees young people stumble into debt frighteningly early and wants to help prevent it. She’s dismayed by the irresponsibility of some institutional lenders. ‘We’ve seen instances of 16- to 18-year-olds being given store cards,’ she says. Among the bodies Careers Wales works with closely is Pembrokeshire Action for the Homeless. Brown hears ‘time after time’ stories of people evicted from their homes, ‘more often than not because they’ve got into debt.’ The effect on family life and schooling can be devastating. After finding out about A4e through the FSA, Brown began to organise training in April 2008. People who have taken part so far include workers in youth offending and leaving care teams, as well as housing officers from the council and housing associations. But how does she gauge its effectiveness? ‘We undertake observations with our staff to see if they’re putting it into practice,’ says Brown. ‘I think it will be more long term before you can see the impact. I’ve done it myself – it makes you look at yourself and how you manage money.’ Above all, Brown hopes the financial education will help young people avoid the follies of their parents: the lure of easy credit, and paying mobile phone bills – but not the rent. ‘The effect on their education is enormous if they’re evicted, relocated, and have to go into bed and breakfast,’ she said.

Toni Ebanks, Manager of Rolfe House, a foyer for young people aged from 16 to 25, run by Birmingham housing support organisation Midland Heart, also believes that a structured approach is the way forward. Although Ebanks and her 14 staff have offered budgeting tips while imparting life skills, this was done informally before they were contacted by A4e and underwent training. Rolfe House has 24 residents. ‘Most of their financial problems are generic,’ says Ebanks. ‘A lot of young people have never had to pay bills – they’ve relied on mum and dad.’ The training package includes guidance for staff working with young people on matters such as bank accounts and benefits. Practical material includes work plans and discussion templates. Information on signposting was particularly helpful, Ebanks commented. Most residents live on their £45-a-week Jobseekers Allowance. A small contribution to accommodation leaves about £40 for food, toiletries and travel. ‘But when you get groups of young people together, sometimes those aren’t priorities – they’re more interested in going out,’ said Ebanks. ‘We do affordability plans for them. If they’re in debt with rent arrears or a telephone bill, we signpost them to organisations such as Citizen’s Advice (CAB). If they’re going to college, we can tell them how to apply for education maintenance allowance. ‘We’ve used the toolkit for four months and have a budget guide for everyone. It makes our work more professional and helps staff reconsider the situation the young are in. Most residents respond well, but sometimes you’ll get one or two who won’t stick to the plan.’ Mel Dodd, A4e’s Programme Manager for Young People and Money, added: ‘Upskilling young people to understand financial affairs is key to helping to break poverty cycles and ensure social mobility in the next generation. We believe that this programme has the potential to help improve the lives of thousands of young people in the UK.’

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17

Freedom of choice
Being able to choose carers and employ them directly is giving disabled people the freedom to live their lives as they wish
iving – or caring for someone – with a disability can take a great deal of getting used to, especially if the situation arises unexpectedly. Not only do extra support, care and help need to be provided, but families also have to get used to unfamiliar people being around the home – something that many find uncomfortable. And being in control of their own situation is critically important to disabled people. But what many aren’t aware of is that they can actually choose their own personal assistants or/carers – and employ them directly – through the Government’s Direct Payments scheme. ‘I care for my 13-year-old autistic son, Donald,’ says Mercy Miller from Southwark, London. ‘He’s been on Direct Payments for a year now. The carer’s agency weren’t listening to my needs at all – carers just wouldn’t turn up, and the agency couldn’t replace them. I was always getting left in the lurch and having to rush home from work. ‘Our social worker told me about Direct Payments, and it’s really changed my life. I decide how much I pay the carer, and I set the hours so that she’s there, waiting for me, when I get home from work. Life is so much better managed now.’

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Better flexibility
Direct Payments gives users much more flexibility in choosing the support that they need, and it works by

giving individuals money in lieu of social care services. This means that they have much greater choice as to who provides their care, and in this respect, they act as employers. But those who may be worried about the paperwork and the associated employment issues involved needn’t be, as help is at hand. The Direct Payments service in Southwark is managed by A4e, which has a team in place to offer guidance and support to users. Isabelle Clement, Southwark Direct Payments Service Manager, explains how the system works. ‘Most of our clients would otherwise receive social care from agency workers via the council list, but they don’t get a great choice. The carers are often overworked and underpaid. Some are good, but they rarely have time to do what the client wants – they’re often rushing from client to client. ‘With Direct Payments, you can choose someone local as your worker who may only have one client, for instance. Or you might choose a family member or someone you know that would be better situated to provide the support you need.’ Another reason for enabling people to choose their own carer is so that they can find someone who has knowledge of their language or culture, for example. For people who don’t speak English as their first language, it is very important that they receive support from a worker with whom they can speak in their own tongue. This is crucial when you are communicating about very intimate support tasks such as personal care for example. ‘The client might be from a particular African country, and they might like to advertise for someone through their faith group, for example, to increase the possibility of finding someone from the

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feature: using direct payments

same culture,’ says Clement. ‘Of course, you might get a British worker to learn a specific cooking style or hair-braiding skills, but it would take time to train them, especially if they were only working with the client for an hour a day. ‘It would be more cost-effective to employ someone from that particular culture, perhaps someone who could go to the local African market and know what to buy, or understand the client’s religious needs.’

case study: ‘you have to keep your staff happy’
royston Lewis, from southwark, is a direct payment client
‘You have to be friends with carers, but you have got to let them know who’s boss. It’s not easy being the boss – I’ve learned the hard way. If something is not right, I always call a meeting and allow people to speak. It’s important not to talk down to people. ‘You have to be honest and frank with your staff. I had a couple of Muslim women who didn’t eat pork, so to ask them to cook a meal of that sort would have interfered with their religion. You must respect that. Address these things at the interview stage and be clear about the tasks from the start. ‘It’s important to get the best out of your staff, too. I trained my staff for five years to NVQ Level 4. You have to have confidence in yourself, and know what you want. I teach my carers that when they first come into work, they must wash their hands. I also make sure that they change their clothes as soon as they come in – it cuts the risks of bringing germs into the house. ‘When my wife was alive, I had six carers in the house and I had to be fair to them all – you have to keep your staff happy. On Valentine’s Day, for instance, I would buy a present for my wife, and then buy all the women a bunch of flowers, too!’

Green paper
Stephen Ladyman, MP for South Thanet, is one of the champions of Direct Payments, and is currently following the consultation on social care to prepare for the government’s green paper. ‘I was the minister in the Department of Health who championed Direct Payments when it was first being set up,’ he says. ‘A lot of people told me it wouldn’t work, but I am delighted that it has. And I want to make sure that the government is moving forward on Direct Payments.’ Ladyman was on hand at the recent service user group event at Southwark, where Direct Payment clients and carers got the opportunity to share their views about the service. They were also able to gain useful information about further training that might

A lot of people told me Direct Payments wouldn’t work, but I am delighted that it has
stephen ladyman, mp

fact fiLe
l Direct Payments are cash payments made to individuals by social services in lieu of care services. l 37,000 adults used the service in 2005-2006, an increase of over 50 per cent on the previous year. l A4e provides the Direct Payments Support Service contracts for 12 local authorities in England, and works with almost 5,000 service users of Direct Payments.

offer opportunities for them and for their workers through joint working with A4e Skills in Barnet. Thelma Browne, a Direct Payments client from Borough, London, found out about the service from her home help lady. ‘I was very depressed – my carers weren’t turning up, they weren’t working properly and my home help lady told me about Direct Payments,’ says Browne. ‘She passed me the phone number for A4e, and I got in touch. ‘When A4e first explained the system to me, I thought it was very confusing – I saw the amount of paperwork and thought there was no way I could do it. It was like going back to school, and maths was never my favourite subject! But one lady from A4e came round and showed me how to fill out all the forms and choose a payroll advisor, who dealt with all the paperwork. ‘Now, I wonder why I was scared! It’s much better than before, and it’s a relief that I don’t have to worry about when my carers are coming. I employ someone myself with caring experience, who I already knew. We have set days and times, and she has a spare set of keys in case I’m not there – she’s an absolute godsend!’

being independent
A4e Independent Living Services currently pilots personalised budgets for some local authorities (the next stage of government development around the Personalisation Agenda). It also provides brokerage, advocacy, payroll provision and third-party managed accounts, as well as carer support services, including a 24-hour emergency support service for Oxfordshire County Council.

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Hull’s Community Legal Advice Centre is the fifth to open.

Keeping ahead of the law
Getting free legal advice in Hull might be easier than people think, thanks to the opening of a new centre in town

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t’s still in its infancy and has yet to market itself in earnest, but already people in crisis are beating a path to Hull’s Community Legal Advice Centre (CLAC). With the finances of so many in turmoil, demand for its services can only increase. Hull’s CLAC is the country’s fifth, the fruit of a drive by the city council and Legal Services Commission (LSC) to bring legal advice services under one roof. Disquiet among those who fear for the future of their Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is welldocumented. But A4e’s Alison Bradley, who was asked to set up Hull’s CLAC after A4e’s successful tender, says there’s no intention of putting CAB out of business, even though the CLAC has taken over many of its functions. A4e is keen to work in partnership

with CAB to deliver first-rate services to the public. Hull CLAC is a partnership between A4e and social welfare lawyers Howells Solicitors. ‘They’re a unique bunch,’ says Bradley, the centre’s operations manager. ‘They do this because they love the job and helping people – you aren’t in it for the money.’ People arrive with myriad problems, but debt is often at the root. ‘The levels can be quite frightening – especially when you find out how much credit they’ve been given in relation to their income,’ said Bradley.

It’s amazing how you can turn someone’s life around with the correct information and put them in control, rather than the creditor
AlAn Usher, sUpervisor, hUll clAc debt teAm

blUeprint winter/sprinG 2009

focUs on: free leGal advice

Alan Usher supervises the debt team. He thinks more than 3,000 families or individuals in the city have acute problems and has watched things build up over five years amid 100 per cent mortgage offers and unsecured loans. ‘What worries me is the ones we don’t reach,’ he said. Usher leads a team of just three, barely enough to fight all the fires. He says another 10 might allow him to be proactive. The scale of the problem might overwhelm many, but Usher savours the successes. ‘It’s amazing how you can turn someone’s life around with the correct information and put them in control, rather than the creditor,’ he said. He’s convinced CLACs are the way forward for debt advice. ‘I know what we can do and that the feedback will be superb,’ he said. ‘It will be positive, exciting and different.’

cAse stUdy: ‘it’s A better wAy of spending money’
Simon Head is a generalist at Hull CLAC – ‘a wealth of information on anything and everything: employment, housing and immigration.’ A former chef and volunteer at the CAB, he thinks that ‘it would be brilliant’ if the two could work together and offer a full range of services. With its city centre location, Hull’s CLAC is ‘like a supermarket – we can see what we are doing,’ he says. ‘I think it’s a better way of spending the local authority’s and taxpayer’s money.’ While some problems may resemble a Gordian knot, many can be swiftly remedied. ‘The other day I increased someone’s income by £3,000 a year relating

l Hull CLAC is the fifth to open in the UK l The Law Services Commission expects it to take on more than 3,300 civil legal aid cases – more than double what’s currently provided by the CAB and other law firms and agencies with legal aid contracts l The first month showed a steady increase in enquiries – 93 in the first week to 136 in the fourth l Demand for debt advice is constantly rising – Hull CLAC is expected to see around 10,000 new clients in its first year l It has over 30 staff whose work covers immigration, welfare benefits, housing, debt, employment, family, outreach admin and management. All specialists are supervised by solicitors

Simon Head, Mandy Anfield and Alan Usher, part of the Hull CLAC team.

Housing problems
Debt and housing crises go hand in hand. Apart from the normal caseload of mortgage repossessions and evictions, Mandy Anfield’s legal work involves mopping up the ramification of last summer’s floods which left thousands homeless. It adds further pressure to Hull’s rental market, where some landlords have even jacked up rents by 30 per cent or more. ‘It put a lot of properties out of reach of people,’ she said. ‘There can be a gap of £60–£70 between monthly rents and what they get from local housing allowance.’ Anfield came to Hull CLAC from a private firm of solicitors, Payne and Payne, where she was franchised to the LSC and her work publicly funded. Its nature has changed little – the demand is constant: ‘We dealt with 45 cases in the first fortnight and I’m sure it will increase,’ she said. ‘The bulk are possessions and evictions and are dealt with quite quickly. What we don’t pick up through the office, we find at the county court – on average, we have 10 clients a session.’ She sees a big economic advantage for clients in having a variety of legal services under one roof. ‘People can be seen for all aspects of their problems, rather than having to travel from one end of the city to the other.’

to their benefit entitlement,’ says Head. His ear is wellattuned – ‘I can find out in a few minutes by talking to people if they need to be passed on to our specialists.’ Much depends on the willingness of lawyers prepared to work at rates below those in private practice. ‘I admire them,’ says Head. ‘If they didn’t do it, people couldn’t afford solicitors who charge anything from £120–£170 an hour.’

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OPINION: MICHAEL DAVIS

worked in a system that has assumed more than enough employment opportunities to go round and that unemployment was an individual issue rather than an economic one. Experienced practitioners would challenge this view, citing the localised nature of labour markets and employment opportunities. Nevertheless, seeing unemployment as an individual What are the implications for UK employment ‘problem’ has been the predominant frame for over 10 years – until now. and skills policies as we enter a recession, The increasing levels of unemployment over the last few months, which will continue this year and into asks Michael Davis, Managing Director 2010, arise because as the economy contracts, there will of CFE (Centre for Enterprise) simply be insufficient economic activity to support the size of our current labour market. Unemployment won’t simply exist because people don’t have the right skills, f January isn’t typically a bleak enough time experience or attitude; in many instances it will be of year, this month will be even bleaker as we because there aren’t enough jobs to go round. Accept see the publication of new economic data that this and there are a number of implications for policy, will undoubtedly show the UK to officially be but I will highlight just two. in recession. As the newspapers continue to splash Firstly, it makes ever stronger the case that strategies recession headlines, such news will be academic to for employment, skills and economic development those who have already lost their jobs, and sobering must be integrated in a way that recognises their to those returning to work. Consequently, forecasts for interdependencies. Too often in the past these have the peak of what unemployment might reach continue been pursued in isolation. However, there can only be to rise with the symbolic three million figure moving employment if there is economic activity, and economic rapidly from ‘possible’ to ‘probable’ in early 2010. activity is, in part, a function of the skills available to a Rightly, the majority of energy is being directed given labour market. Making this happen will require towards seeking to restore confidence in markets and genuine inter-agency working at a sub-regional level. to provide assistance to those who lose their jobs. What This will need to be outcome-driven and have sufficient I’d like to offer, however, is an observation that comes flexibility to bespoke nationally-set procedures to meet from accepting that we are in recession and that the local needs. only certainty is uncertainty and to ask – what were you Secondly, those who have been the hardest to engage doing 17 years ago? in returning to work will sink even further back as The early 1990s was the last UK recession, and as I any new employment was still in full-time education, I can offer no practical opportunities will advice on what types of initiatives worked best. I can, however, make the observation that for the last 10 Unemployment won’t simply overwhelmingly go to those who have years, at least employment and skills policies in the exist because people don’t have been made recently UK have all been built upon the presumption of ‘no A more boom and bust’ and of near infinite expansion the right skills, experience or unemployed.statistic of meaningless of employment. On the back of falling unemployment since the early attitude; it will be because there ‘average time out of work’ will emerge, concealing 1990s, and distinctly from 1997, we have collectively aren’t enough jobs to go round two distinct patterns MICHAEL DAVIS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF CFE of those who return quickly and those who stay out of work for longer and longer periods. In both instances, personalised approaches are required which provide bespoke support to get people back into work. This will need to provide not only the skills required to re-enter the job market, but also a genuine appetite for progression and personal learning thereafter; recognising that economic certainty will be absent for several years to come. What both policy implications have in common is the need for national frameworks that provide for accountability and transparency of performance. But most importantly, in delivery terms, there is a need for genuine local flexibility that is outcome focused around achieving the most important goals of employment: personal progression and economic productivity.

Work in progress

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international: AUStrAliA

Getting it together Down Under
Setting up an operation abroad can often be a challenge but, with so many similarities with the employment market in the UK, A4e Australia is already well on its way to success
he change of government has presented a rich opportunity for A4e in Australia. The Labour government, when it took power in late 2007, placed social inclusion high on its agenda, and A4e’s international expertise in supporting governments by addressing social exclusion issues has enabled the company to act swiftly to establish a presence in Australia.

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international: AUStrAliA

It was almost as if deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, addressing the Australian Industry Group within days of taking office, had issued an open invitation. Lifting productivity would, she said, ‘need a much broader approach to economic reform... which includes bringing those who are socially excluded back into the economic mainstream.’ It was here she announced Australia was to have a new Social Inclusion Board comprising economists, business people and welfare experts, ‘driving policies tailored to the needs of the most disadvantaged, parents, children, suburbs and neighbourhoods – as well as to the needs of employers.’ Having done plenty of homework over two years through Group Board Director Roy Newey and Executive Director Steve Marsland, A4e opened up in Australia in May 2008. It hopes to play a big part in integrating what the government describes as the ‘important pool of human capital that has been totally ignored – disadvantaged Australians.’

Waiting game
So there’s plenty for A4e to get its teeth into and things have been busy for the team since setting up. A4e has bid for contracts that are part of Australia’s new Employment Services, due to commence in July 2009. To date, the Australian team is working in preparation for the contract announcement, anticipated in March 2009. The Australian Employment Services model is similar to the UK model, which A4e has been delivering successfully for many years. Having tendered for contracts across a broad range of communities, A4e is confident that it has the track record to respond to the government’s agenda. There will also be other avenues to explore in Australia, including State and Federal Government programmes. A4e Australia CEO, Shula Kentwell, leads a highlyexperienced team of four. With more than 25 years’ experience in high-level management positions, Kentwell has experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations. She sits on a number of industry and community boards, and is highly revered within the Employment Services sector. Kentwell’s leadership is complemented by Mike Gordon, Executive Chairperson, Australia, while

A lot of work has gone into building partnerships and developing brand awareness at A4e Australia.

With the arrival of the Rudd government, there was an appetite for change – it wanted to deliver more for people further from the labour market
Steve MarSland, a4e executive director

the local team includes Megan Williams and Kieren Kearney – New South Wales and Victoria State Project Managers, respectively. Collectively, Williams and Kearney offer more than 15 years of industry, operational and management experience. Finally, Aaron Simpson, a registered psychologist, provides vast clinical experience across vocational and nonvocational human services. To date, ‘a lot of our work has gone into building partnerships and developing brand awareness,’ says Kentwell. ‘There was some misunderstanding around the foreign entities coming into Australia, and uncertainty about what they could bring to the market. Roy and Steve have done a wonderful job building A4e’s reputation here.’ When Roy Newey first visited Australia in 2007, he was struck by the country’s strong sense of historic inequality and injustice as he joined a march in Sydney to mark National Sorry Day. He witnessed ‘a common trauma that needed healing’.

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We’re coming off the base of some of the best economic times in Australia. Investing in skills and training becomes more important
Shula kentwell, a4e auStralia ceo

A4e Australia is targeting hard-to-reach groups, including indigenous Australians.

fAct file
l The government’s Skilling Australia Plan aims to deliver 450,000 more training places – 90 per cent at the higher Certificate III level – with priorities driven by industry need. l Around 175,000 places will be directed to improving the skills of people who are either unemployed or ‘marginally attached’ to the workforce. l Social inclusion policies will be linked directly to the government’s wider economic development objectives. l Unemployment in Australia is predicted to rise by as much as 1.5 per cent by July 2009 and a further 1 per cent the following year. l Until last year, Australia had experienced 17 years of economic growth, yet more than 500,000 15- to 24-year-olds were neither in full-time work nor education.

Left to right: Aaron Simpson, Organisational Strategist/Psychologist; Shula Kentwell, Australian CEO; Megan Williams, New South Wales Project Manager, and Kieren Kearney, Victoria Project Manager.

has been busy talking to people and industries. ‘The more we talk to people, the more they recognise the skills and approaches that we can bring,’ says Kentwell. ‘People are engaging with something new, and bringing fresh perspective into the country.’ However, for the foreseeable future, things will become much tougher globally. Few countries are isolated from the economic global turmoil. ‘We’re coming off the base of some of the best economic times in Australia,’ adds Kentwell. ‘A lot of work has to be done with those who are more marginalised. Investing in skills and training becomes more important.’ A4e’s bid strategy was to target areas with highly disadvantaged communities, and to work with some of the more marginalised groups to achieve social and economic independence. As in other countries, A4e had watched the Australian market over a number of years to determine if there was a compatibility, and had been awaiting an opportunity to introduce the company’s expertise in addressing social exclusion. ‘There has been a considerable investment made in Australia, and we are taking a long-term view,’ says Kentwell. Marsland sees winning the initial contracts as just the beginning for A4e – ‘getting a toehold’. ‘We don’t just want to be an Employment Services Provider,’ he says. ‘We want to grow our business with every aspect of what we do around social welfare policy.’

getty images

‘This excluded community (indigenous Australian) is so different to any other I have met on my travels,’ he said. He also visited parliament, meeting former Prime Minister John Howard and the current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, then leader of the opposition. Steve Marsland was quite surprised at how welcoming civil servants and politicians were. “They were looking towards fresh and new ideas, and were curious about a company that had come over from England,’ he said. ‘With the arrival of the Rudd government, there was an appetite for change – it wanted to deliver more for people furthest from the labour market. That made it more attractive for us – we want to add value.’

Fresh ideas
A4e Australia brings a new and refreshed set of ideas relating to employment and human services to the Australian market, and the Australian team

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international: France

In the suburbs
Giving youngsters new opportunities to train and find jobs is the aim of a new programme in the French suburbs

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t’s easy to forget that, while the UK is busy suffering a recession and counting the cost of lost jobs, wallets are being squeezed elsewhere in the world. In France, the financial situation due to the credit crunch has affected the economy badly – figures show that, during 2008, unemployment was on the rise – standing at 7.9 per cent in September 2008. And while most would prefer to be in work, the incentives for the unemployed to find jobs are not necessarily the same as in the UK. For instance, the benefits system in France entitles the unemployed to part of their previous salary for between six months and 23 months, depending on the period of time that they’d been in their job. In the UK, a statutory rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid to those actively seeking work – and after six months, if they have not found a job, they may be asked to attend an interview to see how else they could be helped to find work. And it’s precisely in these times of uncertainty that those who have been out of work for some time need the support and encouragement of those around them.

We need to hack down the barriers that people are facing, and show those from minority backgrounds that they have a place in society
maximilien dorostian, a4e france

Maximilien Dorostian is director of operations for A4e France, and is happy that things are evolving in the way of rights and responsibilities in France. ‘It’s true that France is a country with a lot of social combat, and we believe that we have rights which we have earned – but because the social system is continually evolving, we also need to focus on our responsibilities,’ he said. ‘In this way, the new government is working hard in order to get the balance right in terms of responsibilities towards unemployed people, as well as those in employment. The main target here is to encourage people to undertake an active search to find jobs – and not just to wait until they have used up their benefit allocation.’

Finding work
A recent new contract win for A4e France hopes to see more young people given job-specific training and help to find work in areas that they’re interested in. Targeting the NEET group (Not in Employment, Education or Training) similar to that in the UK, the programme was launched in France by Fadela Amara, secretary of state for urban policy. It’s part

international: France

The team at A4e France are hard at work with their new ‘back to work’ programme.

of the plan to help regenerate the suburbs, put in place by the French government and known as ‘Le Contract d’Autonomie’. The programme is looking to work with 45,000 young people in 35 of the most deprived suburbs in France. To qualify, the youngsters must be aged between 16 and 25, and not in education, employment or training. ‘We want to recruit young people directly, without having to rely on the existing pubic sector,’ said Dorostian. ‘In France, the most deprived areas are not in the centres of the cities, but mostly in the suburbs. That’s the reason this plan has been called ‘Le Plan Espoir Banlieue’ [plan for hope in the suburbs]. It’s the role of the provider to recruit youngsters without having to wait for referrals from the government.’ The six-month programme aims to help develop full or part-time work for clients, or self-employment, with training opportunities leading to a level two qualification (similar to NVQ Level Two in the UK). There are three clear objectives: l To find a job that can be sustained; l To help the young man or woman create their own opportunities for self-employment; l To help them to find the right training to lead them to a nationally-recognised level two qualification.

The programme began at the beginning of November 2008, with an initial intake of around 25 clients. Two of the areas in which the programme is taking place are Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, both of which fall within Seine-Saint-Denis, a north-eastern suburb of Paris that was very much affected by the Paris riots in 2005. ‘The area had faced big issues that were relayed on TV and in the media, so we’re proud to be there in order to help,’ said Dorostian. One of the biggest aims is to give the clients confidence and to help them through the targeted action plan. ‘We want to help every single client, and we need to consider these clients as customers,’ explained Dorostian. ‘This means that the notion of customer care is behind every single thing we do. We need to hack down the barriers that these people are facing, such as exclusion, and show those from minority backgrounds that they have a place in society.’

Tailor-made services
Another aim of the programme is to provide a form of contact for the youngsters, so that relationships can be built. The young, according to Dorostian, usually need flexibility, so one of the targets is to tailor-make services when the client needs it, not just when they come to the premises. ‘Because job opportunities can be found without notice, clients need to know that we are here for them – and that they can count on A4e,’ said Dorostian. ‘All this must be done in a structured approach, which is then built into an action plan for every single person. Then they know that they have our support during the whole programme.’ He added that it was crucial to keep clients focused on priorities. ‘It’s during these difficult periods that we need to be very attentive in how we support our clients. It would be easy to sit back and wait for better days, but this is precisely the time to double our efforts. We need to keep pushing and working with both clients and employers, because throughout these periods of uncertainty, companies continue to work.’

blueprint winter/sprinG 2009

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blueprint
Pam Kenworthy, legal director of Howells Direct in Sheffield, answers our 10 quick-fire questions about Community Legal Advice (CLA)

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Is the demand for legal advice increasing?

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Is everyone eligible for legal aid? What are the criteria?

Yes. Since we started 20 months ago, the demand for advice has increased because of the change in economic conditions.

How is the nature of advice that people seek changing?
Pam Kenworthy believes that giving people instant legal advice over the telephone means that the outcomes are likely to be better for them.

We are speaking to more people than ever who are in debt, more people who are being made redundant, more people losing their homes and more people who, because they aren’t in work, are seeking benefits. When we started out, those issues weren’t as acute as they are now.

About 40,000 people call CLA every month and 7,500 are referred on for specialist advice, so about 20 per cent of callers are eligible. To qualify for legal aid, you need to earn less than £2,530 per month, have a disposable income of not more than £698 a month and capital of less than £8,000. If you live in a household with a partner, your means are assessed jointly.

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Can legal aid be used for various kinds of legal action?

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Why do you think it’s important for clients to be able to access a free advice service?

Yes. It applies to actions against the police, clinical negligence, community care, consumer cases, family law, mental health, some personal injury cases, public law, immigration and criminal defence.

Traditionally, individuals have accessed legal advice on a face-to-face basis – they go to see their local solicitor or Citizens Advice (CAB), but they’ve not had access to a telephone advice service. In the past, people used to fall into what is called the ‘advice black hole’ – they couldn’t get advice because of the limit as to what was available. Telephone advice means people can access advice more quickly and conveniently, and that means the outcomes are likely to be better.

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Do you think it’s harder to access legal aid these days?

What are some of the options open to people who want to seek legal advice on debt, housing or employment?
Other than CLA, there are a number of agencies that can assist. As far as debt advice goes, the CAB and not-for-profit agencies are funded by local councils and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to provide assistance. Housing advice is accessed through legal aid solicitors, CAB and Shelter. For employment advice, you can call ACAS. In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission provide advice on discrimination. There’s also lot of advice on the web.

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I don’t think so. I think £2,530 per month is quite a lot to earn. The issue is not so much about income or capital, it’s about whether you can find somebody to act for you – that’s why the telephone service is so great.

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How do you think that the legal service in the UK could be improved?

The government could spend more money on it, but I understand that there are limited resources available.

Do you think that the public have enough access to legal information and their rights?
The government has worked very hard to make sure people do have access to advice, but there is still more demand than there is supply.

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The government has worked very hard to make sure people do have access to advice

How concerned are you by the changes in our society whereby people seem to want to sue each other over everyday incidents?
The statistics don’t support that as being the case, even though that may be the impression that is peddled by certain red top newspapers. I think people are more aware of their rights now – if you’ve suffered an accident at work, why shouldn’t you have the right to bring a claim? It may be going that way in America whereby trivial claims come to court, but I don’t think that’s happening over here.

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Description: A4e delivers frontline public services on an increasingly global basis. Operating from over 200 locations, A4e now operates in the EU, Middle East, Africa and Australasia. Our customers / service users are individuals, organisations and communities. Our funders are Governments and their agencies and departments.