turning policy into reality autumn 2008
FROM OFFENDER TO POLICYMAKER: MARK JOHNSON SPEAKS HIS MIND
BEATINg CHILD POvERTY ACTINg AgAINST guN AND KNIFE CRIME gETTINg BACK TO WORK: NEW IDEAS FROM gERMANY AND POLAND
Events and news from around the world
up front: conTenTS
View from tHe cHair
What gets A4e chairman Emma Harrison up in the morning?
From the editor
Sara McKee Group coMMercIaL DIrecTor, a4e
tHe blueprint interView
We talk to Lisa Harker, co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, about child poverty
in tHe nicK of time
Ex-offender turned policymaker Mark Johnson tells his story – and gives advice on how to help youngsters stay on the straight and narrow
Why single parents in the north of England no longer need to go it alone
Keeping it in tHe family 13
How a new programme in Germany is helping to boost home life and relationships by getting unemployed families back to work
Mark Lovell, A4e executive chairman, on joined-up thinking
faSHioning a new life
How a group of job-seekers in Hackney used fashion to help tackle gun and knife crime
14 a new Horizon 18
Got a legal problem? Then there’s a team in Leicester that can help – for free
We look at the demise of traditional industries in Poland – and the new opportunities for workers
Being impoverished can affect your life chances as a child
10 in ten 20
Martin Oxley, chief executive of the BritishPolish Chamber of Commerce, answers our quick-fire questions
playing a Supporting role
A scheme in the West Midlands is helping locals gain new skills and jobs
elcome to the first issue of the new, re-designed Blueprint magazine. We’ve given the magazine a fresh, new look to showcase the work A4e is doing around the world. We’re really excited about sharing some of our real-life stories and highlighting the important work our teams and partners are undertaking, much of which happens behind the scenes. With the latest unemployment figures showing that the number of unemployed people in the UK increased to 1.67 million between April and June, there’s never been a more important time to give jobless people the help they need – and deserve. This issue, we visited the West Midlands to find out about an innovative project in Smethwick, called LACES, that’s helping people in a disadvantaged area gain the skills and confidence to get back to work. Those in deprived areas face many different issues, but thanks to the work of A4e and Smethwick Council, many local people have found work and others are in the process of gaining new skills to help them back into work – see page 20 to find out more.
Looking to the future
Another issue that can affect children and young people is crime. Although the latest figures show that crime levels have dropped in the UK, it’s still crucial to steer young people away from drugs, violence and theft at an early age to give them a better, clearer path for the future. We spoke to exoffender and author of Wasted, Mark Johnson, who shared his experiences of being in borstal,
re-offending and his gradual rehabilitation. Johnson is currently advising policymakers about reintegrating prisoners and disadvantaged young people into society – read more about his story on page nine. Being impoverished can also affect your life chances as a child, as we find out on page six. Lisa Harker, co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, gave us a thought-provoking insight into the issues of child poverty, highlighting some important factors that need to be overcome if we’re to give children the chance they deserve. Meanwhile, lessons learned from a new family programme run by A4e in Germany are now being put into action in Wales – read more on page 26. Sticking with an international theme, we look at how a new project in Poland is helping the country’s long-term unemployed (page 30). With the highest number of people out of work in Europe, addressing unemployment in Poland is clearly a pressing priority. Enjoy the magazine,
A4e’s new manifesto on tackling poverty is out now. Visit www.a4e.co.uk to download the report.
produced by: cambridge publishers (www.cpl.biz) group commercial director: Sara McKee, a4e to contribute to Blueprint, contact Sara mcKee on email@example.com 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.
blueprint auTuMn 2008
blueprint auTuMn 2008
Up fROnT: round-up
news in brief
140 million workers in India are categorised as casual labourers, with no regular source of income.
Up fROnT: view from the Chair
READ ALL ABOUT IT
India scales skills summit
India was set to host a Global Summit on Skills development as Blueprint went to press. Sponsored by A4e, the New Delhi summit held on 17-18 September was designed to draw together key speakers to address skills development in India. With economic growth of 10 per cent, India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. But the Confederation of Indian Industry believes that for India to realise its growth potential, the country needs large-scale skills development programmes. The confederation wants India to become a ‘knowledge superpower’ by 2020. Barriers to this include: l Unemployment at 9.6 per cent (or 49 million people); A school drop-out rate of 90 per cent; l Ninety per cent of the workforce being employed in the ‘informal’ sector, which means their skills have no formal recognition; l No skills courses for school drop-outs; l 140 million workers being categorised as casual labour, with no regular source of work or income;
70 per cent of workers being defined as illiterate or educated below primary level. A4e India will be working with the government, as well as private sector and industry representatives to overcome some of these challenges.
MORE INFO: contact Sidharth Mishra at firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.cii-skillsdevelopment. in/globalsummit.htm
HMP Warren Hill has been hailed as a centre of excellence by the BBC for its adoption of the corporation’s Reading and Writing (RaW) campaign. A film crew from the BBC’s Look East magazine show visited the Suffolk prison/young offender’s institute to see its literacy programme in action, which was launched in 2005 to help over-25s to read and write. Ali Martin, from Warren Hill’s A4e Juvenile Offender Learning department, attended the launch of RaW and found the BBC interested in working with the Suffolk institute. ‘Although we are a young people’s establishment catering for 15 to 18-year-olds, the BBC embraced the fact we wanted to get involved,’ she said. The Literacy Department has since used a variety of RaW resources to create engaging and stimulating lessons.
A sense of social purpose
’m often asked what gets me up in the morning and what makes me continue to want to build A4e into a global organisation. Well it is very simple – it’s my passion. If you’re going to be successful in anything – be it business or sport or a hobby, you have to follow your passion. I’ve been inspired by Team GB at this year’s Beijing Olympics: who would have thought we’d be in the top four in the medals table! They’ve put in so many gruelling hours of training, withstood many frustrations and shown so much determination to deliver such fantastic results. That’s what we try to do at A4e. We may never achieve a gold medal or world recognition, but we can be proud of the many thousands of lives we’ve helped to improve over the past 20 years. What gets me out of bed? Influencing senior politicians to think about the individual when they design their next policy and inspiring, encouraging and elevating my teams to be braver, look outwards and go that extra mile for our clients. I like to travel regularly and visit our centres across the UK and internationally. I want to talk to the clients we help, to find out what would motivate them, what difference we can make to give them confidence to try a new skill or apply for that job they dream of and to understand from our fantastic tutors what tools they need to make it happen. In short, to do whatever it takes to improve someone’s life today. That’s why when I talk about A4e, I don’t talk about corporate social responsibility. I believe in having a social purpose in whatever I do and I’m continuing to build on that philosophy around the world. I hope when you visit our centres or meet with A4e people, you’ll see that we’ve all signed up to our mission – to improve people’s lives.
Tommy’s praise for Scottish scheme
Skills Development Scotland has renewed its contract with A4e Scotland, which will help more than 100 Scots get back to work over the next year. The contract, which will run until March 2009, will cover two initiatives: Training for Work for people who have been unemployed for more than six months; and Get Ready for Work, which aims to help school-leavers find work. Training for Work will focus on helping the unemployed in Glasgow, Ayrshire and Fife. Those who participate in the programmes in Glasgow will be offered short courses to make them more attractive to prospective employers in the retail, transport and logistics industries. Tommy Reynolds, who has participated in Training for Work, said: ‘Prior to getting help from A4e, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The help I received was first-class. ‘I ended up getting my forklift driving certificate, which enabled me to get a job working in a warehouse.’
MORE INFO: contact Russel Griggs at email@example.com
The Tees Valley Education Business Partnership (TVEBP) – unique as it is managed by a private company – aims to be one of the best EBPs in the country, according to TVEBP Manager Amanda Olvanhill. Olvanhill explains: ‘The team do a fantastic job, but we still have huge ambitions. We want to be recognised as one of the best EBPs in the country. We want to grow the business and aim to do this on a reputation built on quality and best value.’ TVEBP one of many , EBPs working hard to link business to education in the UK, transferred to A4e from the Connexions Service in 2007. Next year, the partnerships will continue to innovate, sourcing funding from contracted and commercial activities and using the entrepreneurial approach that enables them to deliver a high-quality, cost-effective service. MORE INFO: contact Amanda Olvanhill at firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.nebpn.org
Asian businesses are flying high thanks to NWDA support.
Start-ups gain pace
A total of 131 business start-ups led by Asian entrepreneurs have been created over the past year, thanks to the Northwest Regional Development Agency’s (NWDA) Business Start Up initiative. Operated by A4e and delivered by a consortium of partners in north-west England, on behalf of the NWDA, the scheme aims to encourage business start-ups and advise fledgling businesses within under-represented groups and areas in the region. The consortium has helped more than 3,000 people with pre-start support across the north-west region. In addition, more than 1,000 new businesses have started up with the consortium’s help. A4e recently showed its support for Asian businesses by sponsoring the New Business Start Up category at the Tiger Awards, held by the Asian Business Foundation. Blackburn-based Univision Eye Centre, a family-owned opticians with multilingual staff, won the award for outstanding customer service.
MORE INFO: contact Janet Houghton at janethoughton@a4e. co.uk or see www. businessstartupnw.co.uk
We can be proud of the many thousands of lives we’ve helped to improve
Inspiring... Team GB win another gold medal in Beijing.
BLUEpRInT autumn 2008
BLUEpRInT autumn 2008
tHe blueprint interview: LIsa HaRkeR
‘So many problems have their roots in child poverty’
With over half of the children living in poverty coming from workless households, the link between child poverty and sustainable employment is clear. We talk to lisa Harker, co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, about why eradicating child poverty, improving education and boosting household incomes is so critical
name: Lisa Harker age: 39 education: Lord Digby’s School, Dorset; Bristol University; London School of Economics current role: Co-Director, Institute for Public Policy Research Job History: l Independent adviser on child poverty to the Department for Work and Pensions (2006) l Deputy Director, IPPR Chair, Daycare Trust Social Affairs Adviser, BBC l Head of Campaigns, Child Poverty Action Group
How do you define child poverty?
There are various ways of measuring it. The government has three core measures: poverty can be measured in an absolute way by taking a fixed poverty line over a period of time, or it can be measured in a relative way which looks at the proportion of people on incomes below 60 per cent of the average income. That poverty line changes year-on-year as the average incomes change. The third way is a material deprivation measure. In other words, what people are going without because they have a low income. This could be not being able to afford a warm coat in winter, a hot meal every day or an annual holiday of some sort. If you measure them over time, you can see how poverty changes – they tell a story as to what is happening to incomes in Britain and child poverty in particular.
What, in your experience, is the main cause?
There are several causes. Worklessness – in other words, being brought up in a family where no-one has a job – is a major cause of child poverty. In this country, we have a higher proportion of families without anyone in work than any other European country. But half of all children in poverty live in a
Although being poor does not mean a certain life sentence, it significantly increases the risk of poor educational attainment, poor health and later life chances, such as getting a job
family where someone does have a job, so it’s also about low pay, where the family wage is not enough to make ends meets. People living in poverty can be both home owners and those living in social housing. The latter is strongly associated with poverty, but by no means exclusive. There are many families who we might consider on the surface not to be poor – they have a job, they contribute to society, they have a home and they may be working in organisations around us. But although child poverty levels have fallen overall in the last 10 years, the proportion of poor children living in working families has remained much the same. Income levels have improved across the board in the last 10 years, too, but we have not seen a substantial reduction in the gap between rich and poor. We’ve seen an increase in the number of parents with jobs, but not a significant improvement in families reliant on a low wage.
Why is it so important for us to eradicate child poverty?
It’s partly about improving the life chances of children – the principle in society is that children should have equal chances in life – but it’s also about social justice and equality. Eradicating poverty is of interest to society at large, too. If poverty is at the root of social problems, it’s more costly for society to fix those problems at a later date. If we want a society that’s healthier, more productive, with less crime and fewer social differences, we have to tackle child poverty. So many problems have their roots in child poverty.
Does poverty mainly affect lone parents?
It’s certainly the case that while lone parents have a very high risk of being in poverty, the bulk of families in poverty have two parents. There’s a high risk where neither parent is in work, as well as in
PHoto: kevIn nIxon
blueprint autumn 2008
blueprint autumn 2008
tHe blueprint interview: LIsa HaRkeR
families where one member of the family is in work, but the wage is not sufficient.
But is child poverty really an issue in the UK, compared with the problems faced by third world countries?
Poverty in the UK is of a different kind to that in the developing world, but no less devastating in its impact on children’s life changes. Living on a low income in a rich country can have a substantial impact on the opportunities for children to flourish. It means reductions in health, educational opportunities and a reduction in those children taking up the kind of opportunities that we now consider normal for most children. The consequences of being poor in a rich country are a serious problem and should not be dismissed just because, pound for pound, the children are rich compared to those in the developing world.
a complicated mix of parental and educational factors. They are disadvantaged partly because of a lack of access to educational resources such as books in the home, partly language development, and partly their peer groups. Who they interact with, mixing with other families in poor situations and not accessing social networks that other more affluent parents might be aware of all contribute. It really underlines that poverty in itself is damaging to children’s life chances.
I had aspirations, but I didn’t have the tools to get hold of them. I didn’t have any support
A child’s life chances are restricted by poverty.
How important is education in beating child poverty?
It’s critical, not only because being out of work puts families at a very high risk of poverty, but by improving skills, parents can ensure that they have access to the kind of employment which will help lift their family out of poverty. So the focus should not just be on getting back to work, but improving their skills, too.
What can the government do to help?
Over the past 10 years, the government has put in place an enormous amount of initiatives to try to tackle child poverty, largely driven by an objective of eradicating it in 20 years. They have invested in additional financial support for families through benefits and tax credits, and by schemes such Sure Start and childcare facilities. It’s a combination of a redistribution of resources to ensure that no family is living in a climate that makes them destitute, while ensuring there’s access to support and services. But they could be doing more. While 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty in the past 10 years, it’s not really enough to put the government on track to meet its pledge. When we look at how other countries respond to the challenge of child poverty, we still spend comparatively small amounts to help families in those situations. Unless we invest more resources and look at ways that services and support can be really effective, we won’t be able to reduce child poverty to a significant extent.
What are the future implications for an impoverished child?
Almost all life chances are linked to poverty. Although being poor does not mean a certain life sentence, it significantly increases the risk of poor educational attainment, poor health and later life chances, such as getting a job. It also increases the chances of getting into trouble and homelessness. On most indicators of disadvantage, child poverty has a strong impact. We know from research that smart children from a poor background are overtaken by less bright but rich children – by the age of 22 months, It’s
In the nick of time
We look at the work being done to get disaffected and vulnerable young people into training and work – before they find themselves on the wrong side of the law
Can families help themselves?
Certainly. Getting out of poverty requires both support and personal energy, as well as commitment and initiative. There are many services available for families that can help support families through difficult times, so it is a responsibility of the individual to take up support when it’s available. It’s also about being open to being helped and recognising that for the sake of children, it’s important to do everything possible to give them the best start in life. But I have yet to meet many families who don’t believe that the most important thing is the wellbeing of their children.
PHoto: Ben muRPHY
We know from research that smart children from a poor background are overtaken by less bright but rich children – by the age of 22 months
8 blueprint autumn 2008
f we don’t start listening to people at the sharp end, we’re going to have real problems. We need programmes that will actually work for young people, not just for the civil servants who come up with them.’ So says ex-offender Mark Johnson. And he should know – a former drug addict who spent years in and out of prison, he now runs a successful business and advises policymakers about reintegrating prisoners and disadvantaged young people into society. Johnson’s own story began as he grew up in a dysfunctional family in the West Midlands with a violent alcoholic father and a deeply religious mother who had mental health problems. ‘Because of the chaos at home and the volatile atmosphere, I spent a lot of time on the streets and kept running away from home,’ he explains. ‘I
got drunk for the first time at the age of eight with a group of skinheads at the bottom of the street. I tried heroin at 11 and got into trouble at school. I had aspirations, but I didn’t have tools to get hold of them. I didn’t have any support.’ Johnson got into art college, but he soon realised that his own circumstances were very different to those of his fellow pupils – and he didn’t fit in. ‘I had to go to college 200 miles away from home because there was a court order to stop my dad coming near me’, he says. ‘All the other kids were going home to their parents and a meal, and a visit to the Louvre every couple of months. And Mark Johnson is 200 miles away from home, living in a bedsit on £20 a week. Not surprisingly, without support, I couldn’t stick at it. But the people who’d always accepted
blueprint autumn 2008
feature: offender management
The kind of education I needed was about myself. Ministers focus on academic education, but it’s not what people need
me were the ones at the end of the street – though along with their friendship came an escalation in crime and drug use. ‘Early on, I learned that you don’t change how you feel by working through your problems, or by getting the warm love and support of your parents – you change how you feel by using a chemical. And the driver to get the chemicals is crime. I ended up robbing the art college, and within two months I was in borstal.’ Johnson found borstal very tough – both in terms of the ‘short sharp shock’ military regime and his treatment at the hands of other inmates. Adjusting to life back on the outside was even harder. ‘The code that you live by in borstal is not the same that society outside expects’, he explains. ‘In borstal, if you don’t take, you’ll be taken. If you show your vulnerability, someone will have you. I got out and, within two months, I was back in again for a violent robbery.’ A prison officer got him into a drug treatment centre to tackle his addiction to crack and heroin, and he managed to get a job as a tree surgeon on his release. But he was soon back on drugs, and holding down a full-time job wasn’t easy. He ended up living on the streets in the West End of London, where he hit rock bottom. ‘I went down to 7st 7lbs and I was covered in body lice and scabs. Society locks drug addicts up, but how can you punish someone who’s punishing themselves that much?’
have done six months in prison than one week in rehab. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done because you have to look at yourself and your behaviour. And it’s painful. The Mark Johnson today who’s getting up at 7am, making his bed, washing his clothes, making food and vacuuming is because of that programme. ‘The kind of education I needed was about myself. Ministers focus on academic education, but it’s not what people need,’ he adds. ‘Somebody can live successfully without even being able to read and write. They don’t need maths and English – they need to know how to act around other people.’ After the drugs programme, Mark decided to revive his tree surgery skills and set up his own business, Treewise. Advice, loans and grants from the Prince’s Trust got him started, and he was soon getting enough work to be able to employ others. Keen to put something back into society, Johnson made it his business to take on as many ex-offenders or those in recovery as he could. ‘I can tell you what an interesting experience it was to have 25 ex-offenders and addicts out in the middle of the woods wielding chainsaws,’ he laughs. His efforts came to the attention of others, and he won the Young Achiever of the Year Award in Business, followed by the Daily Mail’s Pride of Britain award in 2005. Now 38, Johnson’s ‘success against the odds’ story has made him hot property when it comes to giving a voice to the disadvantaged – and coming up with ways of reaching out to young people before they go down the route of drug addiction or crime. Prince Charles invited him to Clarence House to address a meeting of law and policymakers and share his experiences. That led to him being offered a job on the board of the Probation Service’s Offender Management Programme Board and the Regional Board of Directors. He’s been invited to many other meetings with policymakers, including Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond, and now writes columns for The Big Issue and The Guardian. He’s also written a best-selling book about his life, Wasted. ‘Young people need to be listened to,’ he says, ‘and we need to have programmes that are designed by them with their needs at heart, and involve them in the process. There’s a huge divide: all the money and the resources seem to go to people who are easy to help. There’s a big hole appearing where other groups, who the authorities don’t know how to reach, are having resources designed for them that are futile.’
Young people practise teamwork, as part of a programme to build skills for the workplace.
Training. The centre offers a mixture of one-to-one work, skills courses and work placements. All programmes are tailored to an individual’s needs – and the young person is actively involved in deciding what sort of package will be put together for them. Two of the centres’ programmes are Fit for Employment and GoalZ. Fit for Employment gives young people training on skills such as listening, communication and problem solving, followed by work placements, often in the construction industry. Construction firms from the local area work in partnership with the centre and take on the most promising youngsters as apprentices. GoalZ aims to re-engage young people at risk of social and economic
are to moving forward, and we’ll put together a personal action plan with them.’
Going for goals
Business manager Siân Stephenson delivers the centre’s GoalZ project to young people who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion. One Year 10 student she worked with was a ‘Schedule One’ offender, meaning he had committed a violent crime against an under-18year-old. He was also aggressive and abusive to staff, had
case study: ben
In borstal, if you don’t take, you’ll be taken. If you show your vulnerability, someone will have you. I got out and, within two months, I was back in again for a violent robbery
from social exclusion to working success
Ben was permanently excluded from mainstream school in year 10 due to his disruptive attitude and behaviour to staff and fellow pupils, and attended a Pupil Referral Unit. He was diagnosed with ADHD and referred to the GoalZ project for intensive support, training and mentoring, which enabled him to develop work-related skills and behaviours in a non-threatening environment. Ben achieved a level one qualification while gaining valuable work experience. He has now settled into a job with an orthopaedic company, Implants International (www.implants international.com). Working with a small team of experienced machinists, Ben says: ‘I really enjoy working with the guys and the hands-on nature of the job.’ Ralph Jordinson, Ben’s educational broker, adds: ‘Ben was not responding well to mainstream education. GoalZ provided him with the intensive one-to-one support he needed. Many young people with ADHD often cannot cope with the mainstream environment, making it more difficult to make a transition to employment or further education.’
A new direction
The turning point for Johnson came eight years ago when a former friend, Sean Evans, spotted him in a doorway. Evans, now a social worker, got Johnson into a detox unit followed by a drug treatment programme. Even though it was exactly what he needed, he found the rehabilitation process more difficult than prison life. ‘Society calls it the soft option, but, at the time, I’d rather
Give youth a chance
A centre in Teesside offers young people exactly the kind of programmes where their voices are heard and their individual needs are catered for. The A4e-run centre, based at Thornaby Community School in Stockton, works with vulnerable young people to get them into education or employment. The project targets both under-16s who are not in school and 16- to 19-year-olds who are NEET – Not in Education, Employment or
exclusion and to remove barriers that will prevent them from advancing to education, employment or training. It identifies obstacles that may hinder their progression, offering personal and social development and workrelated training, as well as working with local employers to source work placements and employment opportunities. Michelle Bellamy, contract and liaison manager at A4e Education and Enterprise in Thornaby, says: ‘There are a lot of young people in the Tees Valley who leave school and just disappear and become NEET. Our job is to engage with these people. We do a lot of our work in the community on an outreach programme – we meet with these young people and find out what their barriers
blueprint autumn 2008
blueprint autumn 2008
A TASTE OF lIFE InSIDE
A4e Skills in Cardiff have been working with ex-offender Gary Pearce to deliver a drug and offending prevention education course to vulnerable young people. Pearce, who has been in prison 16 times for driving offences and drug addiction, decided that enough was enough after his final release in March 2005. ‘When I came out of prison, I told my mentor that I wanted to give something back to the community,’ he says. ‘I started going to schools on a voluntary basis to talk about what life was like in prison. Finally I was put in touch with A4e, who started funding the project.’ The DOPE (Drug Offending and Prevention Education) programme has had positive feedback from young people. ‘I go to lots of schools and community centres all over the UK,‘ says Pearce. ‘We do a variety of sessions where we talk about drugs, prison life and what we lost when we were inside. Being in prison is not as easy as everyone says it is. ‘We also do talks on alcohol and joyriding, showing the youngsters that with dangerous driving, it’s all about the people that you leave behind. It’s really effective. I was very lucky to come out of prison, and my life has changed tremendously. If I can stop just one person going where I went, I’ve done what I wanted to do.’
opinion: marK LoVeLL
Youngsters work with ex-offender Gary Pearce to get a feel for prison life
BlAS O FYWYD Yn Y CARCHAR
Bu Sgiliau A4e yng nghaerdydd yn gweithio gyda’r cyn-droseddwr Gary Pearce i gyflwyno cyrsiau addysg atal cyffuriau a throseddu i bobol ifanc agored i niwed. Mae Pearce yn defnyddio celfi megis cynllun gwir faint cell mewn carchar, dillad sydd heb fod yn ffitio’n iawn ac sydd wedi’u staenio’n arw a roir i garcharorion a lluniau damweiniau ceir a achosir gan yrwyr dan effaith cyffuriau neu alcohol er mwyn eu gwneud yn ymwybodol o wirioneddau defnyddio cyffuriau a bywyd yn y carchar. Penderfynodd Pearce, sydd wedi bod yn y carchar 16 o weithiau am droseddau gyrru a chaethiwed i gyffuriau, ei fod wedi cael hen ddigon ar ôl ei ryddhau ddiweddaraf ym mis Mawrth 2005. ‘Pan ddois i allan o’r carchar, dywedais wrth fy mentor fod arna i eisiau rhoi rhywbeth yn ôl i’r gymuned,’ meddai. ‘Dechreuais fynd i ysgolion yn wirfoddol i sôn am sut beth oedd bywyd yn y carchar. Ymhen yr hir a’r hwyr rhoddwyd fi mewn cysylltiad ag A4e, a ddechreuodd gyllido’r prosiect.’ Mae’r rhaglen DOPE (Addysg Troseddau Cyffuriau ac Atal) wedi cael ymateb cadarnhaol gan bobol ifanc. ‘Byddaf yn mynd i lawer o ysgolion a chanolfannau cymuned ledled Prydain,’ meddai Pearce. ‘Byddwn yn gwneud amrywiaeth o sesiynau lle byddwn yn sôn am gyffuriau, bywyd yn y carchar a beth roeddem yn ei golli pan oeddem yn y carchar. Dydi bod yn y carchar ddim mor hawdd ag y mae pawb yn dweud ei fod. ‘Byddwn hefyd yn cynnal sgyrsiau ar alcohol a gwefryrru, gan ddangos i’r bobol ifanc, pan fyddwch chi’n gyrru’n beryglus, y peth mawr ydi’r bobol rydych chi’n eu gadael ar eich ôl. Mae’n wirioneddol effeithiol. Roeddwn i’n lwcus iawn i ddod allan o’r carchar, ac mae fy mywyd i wedi newid yn aruthrol. Os galla i stopio dim ond un person rhag mynd i ble’r es i, rwy wedi gwneud be roedd arna i eisiau’i wneud.’
ADHD and alcohol and drug abuse issues, and had a Statement of Special Needs. ‘His basic skills were very poor,’ says Stephenson ‘but we managed to get him through the OCR Preparation for Employment because he was very keen on going to work. No-one had ever explained to him what his status meant in terms of his career options. We got him onto a work placement in a specialist farm centre that had experience of dealing with young people in situations like his. He’s now on an access course at college.’ A further programme, Routz2work, has supported young people like Jennie who dropped out of school due to severe bullying. She had very little confidence, poor academic skills and low aspirations. She worked on a oneto-one basis with staff from Thornaby including Siobhan, a college leaver and youth consultant who had grown up in the local area and could understand the issues
We do a lot of our work in the community on an outreach programme – we meet with these young people and find out what their barriers are to moving forward
Students participate in a problem-solving challenge.
of young people struggling with education. Through working with Siobhan and Sian Stephenson, Jennie gained confidence and now hopes to go to college to learn beauty therapy and open her own beauty therapy business in the future. ‘Just because you are from a certain area and you haven’t got a lot of money, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay like that,’ she says. ‘You can go to college and get qualifications and get a good job – you can have a better future.’ With courses such as GoalZ, Fit for Employment and DOPE (see box) now on offer in many areas of the country, the hope is that vulnerable individuals such as Mark Johnson can be identified and given the help and support they need at the earliest possible stage. That way, they can be re-directed from years of crime or drug abuse, instead of only being offered help when it’s too late.
We sorted some clothes. We got in touch with a training and employment provider in London who could help our client (we didn’t work in the area) and they agreed to help. We arranged transport and accommodation in London. But this took time and the lack of ‘join-up’ meant that this opportunity began to look more and more difficult to our ex-offender. It became one of those ‘it’ll never the case of a former offender leaves happen to me’ situations. He lost faith and belief. What happened next? Our client breached the Mark lovell irritated – and determined to terms of the hostel and broke the rules. So he was to prison. provide a solution for the future recalledresult, the opportunity to turn the corner As a and make a new start was lost. Could more have been done? Yes. Does the person involved have to ver the past couple of months, take more responsibility for his actions? Absolutely. I’ve spent some time working on Do we have a ‘system’ that enables, encourages and international joined-up public services. supports this rights and responsibility framework I have helped with the DeAnne Julius across different departments and agencies? No we report on the ‘public service industry’ in the UK and don’t. have been developing offers for the US, Australia, At A4e we use situations like this to stimulate our France, Israel and the UK. ideas, prompt innovation and drive our responses There is some great potential for A4e to use to government in how to make this situation better. its diverse range of services to showcase how It irritates our staff that they could not find a way improved joined-up public services are better to make this work. But we have a concept, called for consumers and provide value for money and Mark lovell wants to see ‘Working Wing’, which is designed to address savings. Opportunities under the ‘right to bid’ and more progress on joined-up public services. these situations. It doesn’t need money, it needs the flexible New Deal in the UK welfare market multi-agency agreement for us to join up funding. mean that joined-up skills, enterprise, health and My question is not: what is the cost of tackling employment approaches are going to be developed. this? It is: what is It also strikes me how difficult it is to do this in the cost of not doing practice. Often A4e goes the extra mile to make this happen. But sadly, it doesn’t always work. The prisoner involved had a something? In this case it would have A few weeks ago, we had an opportunity for history of vulnerability, cost less than £4,000 a prisoner we work with on our training and to resolve this issue. educational services. He had been identified as an addiction problem and no Yet, at a conservative having enormous potential by a tutor we brought in possessions, except the estimate, the cost to and he was offered a wonderful opportunity to join the public purse of our a training course in London that would take him clothes he had in prison client being returned into the film industry. The prisoner involved had a Mark lovell, a4e executive chairMan to prison is more than history of vulnerability, an addiction problem and £100,000. no possessions, except the clothes he had in prison. Is the fact that vulnerable people are being failed It’s easy to lose sight of how hard it is to leave by the system someone’s fault? I don’t know and I the prison gates and make your way in the world don’t care. to a new opportunity, avoiding the pitfalls and What I do know and care about is that we have an networks that took you there in the first place. The opportunity in the UK to provide responses to these opportunity was in London and the prison was a issues. Public policy is providing a framework where long way away. Grants for clothes and a place to public, private and voluntary suppliers can work live had been turned down. A number of A4e’s together to tackle such issues. staff – doing the fantastic ‘extra’ stuff they always My view is that it is impossible for an ‘agency’ do – sought to work with several agencies to make or ‘department’ to tackle this – suppliers must step this transition happen. up to the mark and make it happen. And that’s We found a hostel for him, but this was close what A4e is about – making it happen, improving to the prison and close to those networks which people’s lives. resulted in him being in prison in the first place.
blueprint autumn 2008
at the sharp end: tackling gun and kniFe crime
Fashioning a new life
From walking the streets to walking the catwalk – how a group of enterprising young people are taking a stand against knife and gun crime
Let our children understand that any dream they have, they can truly fulfil. That’s one of the things that our parents taught us – to believe in our dreams
richard blackwood, comedian
ublic concern about crime in general – and knife crime in particular – has hit a new high this summer, fuelled partly by a tabloid-led media frenzy over the issue. According to a new Home Office report, around two in three people believe that crime has increased nationally in the past two years. This perception is challenged by the latest crime statistics released this summer. These show that crime levels have fallen by nine per cent year-on-year in England and Wales. At the same time, however, the figures also reveal there were a staggering 22,151 knife-related crimes last year, which adds up to around 60 incidents per day. Gun crime also rose by two per cent last year and drug offences were up 18 per cent – that’s 34,725 more crimes, clear evidence that street crime has definitely not gone away.
time to raise money for two charities – Through Unity, which was set up to help families of victims of knife, gun and gang-related crimes, and the NSPCC. ‘Every day we get the papers and read about gun crime, and Hackney is quite a bad place to live in that respect,’ said Griffiths. ‘I grew up here, so I can see how it’s changed – it’s got a lot worse. We’re just trying to tell people that there’s more to life than being a gangster.’ Over the course of a month, the group began putting their plan into action, and while the A4e team funded the project and bought essentials such as plain T-shirts, paints and transfers, the clients began putting their
case study: ‘it’s our role and our job to guide these young people’
nathan levy is a director of through unity, a charity set up to help the families of gun, knife and youth crime.
‘On 16 September 2004, my brother, Robert, who’d just finished his GCSEs, died from stab wounds. To try to explain how that feels is impossible – it’s part of me that has gone. There will always be a limit to my happiness. ‘My work now is going into schools, talking to people to try to push forward Through Unity as a coalition of families to voice the concerns of our society. Seeing what A4e is doing for gun and knife crime is really important because I don’t want us to watch our community and society fall to negative people who haven’t got any aspirations. But it’s our role and our job to guide these young people. ‘Think about why we’re allowing our community to fall to pieces. If we leave it to the Government, nothing might ever change. I’m interested seeing people make a productive change.’
Getting to the root of the problem
It’s clear the best way to tackle the problem is to reach the people at the heart of knife and gun crime – the youth on the streets. And that’s just what a group of young people at A4e in Hackney, north London, have been doing. The team, on a 13-week Gateway Plus programme run by A4e to help unemployed people get back to work, became inspired by Lisa Griffiths, Gateway Plus advisor at the centre, to start designing clothes. Griffiths decided it would be a great idea to get the group involved in a creative project, and so the team started designing their own jeans and T-shirts. They came up with the theme of tackling gun and knife crime, and decided to put on a fashion show to raise awareness of the issues – and at the same
blueprint autumn 2008
at the sharp end: tackling gun and kniFe crime
Gun and knife violence continues to scar Britain and claim the lives of talented young people. Their families are all different, but they share a common desire – to stop the killings and violence. Following contact with a number of families who had lost loved ones to either gun or knife crime, The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) took action to support their individual efforts by bringing them together to form Through Unity, a coalition of relatives of young victims from around Britain. Through Unity’s founding members include Richard Taylor, whose son, Damilola, died in 2000 and Ian Levy, father of Robert Levy. They have been joined by Pat and Nathan Levy (mother and brother of Robert), Peter Sinclair, step-father of murdered 22-year-old Tom Easton, and Mike Jervis, along with others. Through Unity acts as a gateway to the network of families and the work they are carrying out. Though the problems of these families are complex, together their aims are simple – to amplify and strengthen the message from families
creative heads together and coming up with their own designs.
Scott Philpott, 19, from Hackney, admits he had little self-confidence before he came to A4e, and needed a new direction. ‘I’m interested in creating things with my hands, and this has given me the motivation to do something new,’ he said. ‘Once we decided to put on the fashion show, it just escalated. I feel good that we’re doing it for charity, not for ourselves. The whole thing has given me and the rest of the group a lot more confidence, especially as part of the show involved us singing on stage.’ During the fashion show, the group modelled
This project has given me so much confidence
scott philpott, a4e client
their customised jeans and T-shirts on a catwalk and came together to mime and sing to anti-gun and anti-knife crime songs. Comedian Richard Blackwood was also on hand to support the efforts of the team. ‘The new generation of kids that are coming through don’t know what their identity or struggle is,’ he said. ‘It’s really important that we take on board our responsibilities as parents to steer them the right way.’ He went on to say that he believes the reason the media is currently so obsessed about gun and knife crime is partly because the killers are now going outside of London. But, he added, communities have to take responsibility to come together and show some unity. ‘Kids
A4e’s Gateway Plus clients, staff and young helpers take to the stage.
Luke and Jamie lend their support to the A4e clients during the show.
that the violence must end, and to offer help to any relatives who are suffering as they have done. This may simply be advice on what to expect from police and the courts, or a family may want to work to prevent further deaths, possibly with existing youth and community regeneration groups. Educating young people about the dangers of guns, knives and violence is a central theme in all they do. The FSI continues to support the organisation with mentoring of the CEO, development of the coalition, training, preparation of key working documents, support in the delivery of funding applications and facilitation of meetings. The support that the FSI offers has been instrumental in the success that Through Unity has experienced so far, with much more to look forward to in the coming year as Through Unity’s work becomes increasingly important.
I’m dyslexic and I left school at 13, but because I can identify with some of the clients’ experiences, it helps – they really open up to me
lisa griffiths, gateway plus advisor
case study: ‘certain places in hackney are no-go areas’
Scott Philpott, 19, from Hackney, has been on the gateway Plus course at a4e in Hackney for 10 weeks.
‘I started out by going to my local job centre, and after being put on the Working Links scheme, I came to A4e. Since coming here, I’ve been given help with job searching using the computers and cold-calling. I don’t really mind doing it – the worst that they can say is “no”. It’s good for my confidence. ‘The theme of our fashion show was to stop gun and knife crime. I’ve seen it on the streets, and I’ve known people who carry knives and guns. I haven’t been in the situation myself, but it depends where you are. You could go around Hackney and be fine, but certain places are no-go areas. ‘Part of it is the postcode issue, but you could really walk through any postcode – it’s just whether certain people see you at the wrong time. You could be doing nothing wrong and get jumped on. They’re after your money.’
‘I can see that as a community, these young people are pulling together to say no to gun and knife crime and youth violence. When you leave today, be inspired by them.’ Nathan Levy, director, Through Unity ‘Just seeing how the clients have pulled together has been absolutely breathtaking. I’ve seen where they’ve come from and I’ve seen where they’ve got to, and it’s a massive change.’ Shahida Din, business manager for A4e, Hackney
ABOUT THE FSI
Every day, small charitable organisations support individuals, families and communities, and positively touch the lives of millions. On a daily basis, thousands of these organisations struggle to remain open. The FSI delivers expert knowledge, strategy and support to them free of charge so their futures are secure and their users protected.
know the difference between right and wrong from an early age. If we don’t rein them in now, what chance to they have?’ Shahida Din, business manager for A4e in Hackney, believes the whole event prompted the youngsters to make a difference – and not just for the charities. ‘The change in some of these people has been absolutely breathtaking,’ she said. ‘The way they have come out of their shells – and started coming in on time, doing the work that has been asked of them and giving their input – is amazing. We only have them for 13 weeks, but they have definitely motivated each other. ‘They have made me really proud. By focussing on their strengths and self-belief, they made the day thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve offered the clients a room to use in our building, so if they want to, they can continue designing their own clothes and maybe start a small business selling them – who knows?’
A4e’s fashion show was kindly sponsored by the following local businesses: TGS Total Guards Security; Iceland, Dalston; Superdrug, Dalston; Matalan, Dalston; Primark, Mare Street; Docklands City Furniture, Hackney Road; Bestways, Cambridge Heath Road; Gardiners, Hackney Road, and Lees Cars, Hackney Road.
blueprint autumn 2008
Putting the spotlight on life at the sharp end for two employees at the newly-opened Leicester Community Legal Advice Centre (CLAC)
personal view: ‘it’s great when we see results’
Laura Beddard, 24, is a generalist case worker at Leicester CLAC y job involves giving general legal advice to customers. We have a drop-in clinic every day from 10am1pm and 2pm-4pm. So during that time, I see a number of clients who need help with anything from benefits, family debt and civil actions against other people to small claims, criminal matters and personal injury. It’s a free service which is open to anyone who lives in Leicester – they don’t have to be in a particular financial situation. This morning, I dealt with eight people – it was particularly busy! But it all depends – for instance, if someone needs help with disability living allowance, I can spend two hours with them filling in the forms. If it’s a housing benefit problem, I might have to phone the council and spend an hour in the call queue. But then I might spend just 10 minutes with another customer with a quick enquiry. Sometimes I need to refer customers to one of our specialists if the matter is more complicated. For instance, if someone wants a divorce, I would make a referral for them to our family team. It’s great to see results. For example, someone came in with a problem with his bank – he kept getting charged for mobile phones he hadn’t ordered. The company was taking money out of his bank account and the bank wasn’t listening. He was getting quite frustrated, but I managed to get back more than £500 for him. Some days you can’t please everybody, and some clients don’t tell you the whole truth about their situation. But it does make me feel really pleased when we sort out problems. It’s great to be there for them.
Day in the life: Community LegAL AdviCe Centre
One-stop shop... people who come to the Leicester Community Legal Advice Centre can receive support in a wide range of areas – relevant to home, family and business matters – that might be affecting the quality of their lives.
l The Leicester
Leicester CLAC’s Laura Beddard
personal view: ‘Debt impacts on every aspect of a person’s life’
Jim Coulson, 52, is a specialist debt advisor at Leicester CLAC ’ve been involved in debt advice case work for 15 years. I don’t have any legal qualifications. But based on my extensive experience, I meet the supervisory standards for community legal advice. I’ve got a good understanding of people’s issues and problems. The main part of my job is as a specialist. Someone might come into the centre to get legal advice, and if it’s a complicated matter, the advisor might decide they need specialist help and refer them on to me. I usually spend about an hourand-a-half with customers, interviewing them and going through paperwork to see what the problem is. For instance, someone might come to me with an electricity bill they can’t pay. But when I talk to them in more detail, I might discover they also have
It does make me feel really pleased when we sort out problems. It’s great to be there for them.
mortgage arrears and a threat of court action or a summons to appear in court. If that’s the case, then I would deal with the client right up to their court appearance, and even represent them in court. ‘We see a cross-section of society. But what has changed over the years is that we see a lot more people with a modest income, but a high level of debt. They might have multiple credit cards or have taken out a large loan 10 years ago, that they can’t pay. People also remortgage their houses to release equity, and arrears quickly build up on the second mortgage. In some cases, the only option is to cut your losses and sell the house. Otherwise you can end up with your house being repossessed, leaving you with a mortgage shortfall of perhaps £10,000£20,000. However, some people cling onto their property and are left with nothing. Debt impacts on every aspect of a person’s life. It affects their health, their relationships and
What has changed over the years is that we see a lot more people with a modest income, but a high level of debt
Community Legal Advice Centre is being funded to the tune of £3 million over the next three years by Leicester City Council and the Legal Services Commission. l Research shows that across the UK, around 33 per cent of people have legal problems and one million problems go unsolved each year. l In Leicester, it is estimated that 27,000 people each year need legal advice. l Advisors at the centre have already given over 1745 people life-changing advice. l The service is being delivered by A4e in partnership with Howells solicitors, the largest provided of Legal Aid services in England.
their employment. If they can get control of their finances, you’ll often find their relationships improve, they’re happier going to work and they feel healthier – their stress and anxiety levels are reduced. As long as a person is in debt, they can’t concentrate on anything else. The biggest buzz I get from my work is when I see people taking my advice and doing things themselves – it empowers them. You can see their confidence growing immediately. It also makes them aware that if they have a problem in the future, they have the skills to deal with it themselves.
Debt advisor Jim Coulson
blueprint Autumn 2008
blueprint Autumn 2008
focus on: WEst Midlands
Engaging directly with a community in a deprived area of the West Midlands is helping to provide job and training opportunities to the unemployed – and giving them a new lease of life
Playing a supporting role
inding work can be challenging at the best of times, even when you’ve got plenty of qualifications and the support and encouragement of others around you. But searching for a job when the area in which you live is surrounded by unemployment with very few opportunities means the stakes are instantly raised. This is why a pilot project that has recently started up in the West Midlands has been making such an impact on the lives of local unemployed people. The Deprived Area Funding (DAF) contract in Sandwell, West Midlands, began in February 2008, and is run jointly by A4e and Sandwell Council. By going out into the community and engaging with those aged 19 or over, who are unemployed and have been in receipt of benefits for at least 12 months, the project gives them the skills to get them back to work. Staff actively seek out potential clients using initiatives such as holding surgeries in local community centres and libraries, handing out leaflets in town centres and outside supermarkets, and visiting potential clients in their own homes. Sandwell Council provides the training for clients once their needs have been identified and, rather than buying training courses in blocks, bespoke courses are often arranged thanks to a range of service level agreements with various organisations. Helen Peach, employment and
Nanaya King talks to a potential client on the streets of West Bromwich.
I get so much selfsatisfaction out of running my own business. I’m going to make it work
simon lowe, 38, former a4e client
blueprint autuMn 2008
blueprint autuMn 2008
focus on: WEst Midlands
focus on: WEst Midlands
‘i’d never go back to being unemployed again’
simon lowe, 38, set up a new business, WB ales, from a market stall in West Bromwich, as a result of gaining job skills through the a4e programme.
‘I’d been unemployed for a while before I started the A4e programme, and it made me feel useless. I was very keen to get back to work. Through A4e, I did a security guard qualification and got a job at a local shop near the market. But although the job gave me a confidence boost, it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. ‘I’d noticed a vacant stall on the market, and came up with the idea of selling home brew kits. With the recent recession and a lot of pubs shutting down, I thought people would enjoy making their own beer. I’d been brewing lager at home for a couple of years, so I thought I’d give it a go. ‘I managed to save up two months wages from my job, and with that, I bought my first stock from Young’s brewery. I was a bit worried about spending all that money, but it was either go for it or don’t do it at all – and I’d rather take the chance. A4e gave me help and put me in touch with local business advisors. ‘On the first day, I was nervous about whether I’d sell anything, but I did sell a few kits and business is picking up. Every day is getting a little better, and people are beginning to know I’m here. ‘I get so much self-satisfaction out of running my own business. In the future, I’d like a couple of stalls and even a shop. I’m really happy that I gave it a go and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d never go back to being unemployed again. This is it now – I’m going to make it work.’
Samantha Foy, contracts manager for A4e in Smethwick, West Midlands.
‘I go to a number of areas to find clients, such as the local YMCA which has been very helpful,’ she says. ‘I also do a lot of ringing around, and then I might go to the local library and give out leaflets or just speak to people on the street. ‘Once I’ve found a new client, I spend a lot of time finding out what it is they might want to do. Some come in and tell me that they want to be a scientist, so I have to bring them back down to earth and gently suggest areas that might be more suited to them. ‘I mean, I’d like to be a model, but that’s never going to happen! I become their friend, mother and confidante.’ Sorting out a client’s personal issues is also an important part of getting them back to work. When someone’s been unemployed for at least a year – and often longer – it’s easy to get used to not having to think about paying bills such as council tax or rent. But as soon as a person gets back into work, those benefits often stop – and that’s when there can be difficulties.
‘i wasn’t after just a job – i was after a career’
Craig thompson, 20, is an a4e client from tipton. after working through the laCEs programme, he has just landed his first job. He hopes it will lead to a steady career.
‘I didn’t have much direction, and that’s one of the things A4e has helped me with. I drifted from basketball coaching to doing temping work in a factory because of the lack of opportunities, and although I went back to college and gained qualifications, I still hadn’t found anywhere where I could apply those skills,’ says Thompson (pictured below). ‘Fortunately, I was spotted by Sunder, my advisor at A4e, at the local library, and he got me on to some courses. From there, a lot more options were opened up to me. ‘The major problem for me was that I come from an area where there’s not a lot of opportunities available. And I wasn’t after just a job – I was after a career. ‘I stumbled upon a job vacancy for an assistant quality engineer at Doncaster Castings and, on the off-chance Xxxx xxxx xxxxxx that I would be skilled enough, I went for the interview. Luckily, I had a good day – and I got it. ‘The job opens up a lot of doors for me. The company is planning to train me up to work in their entire business – it’s a fantastic opportunity. A4e gave me a lot of help with interview techniques beforehand. I wasn’t very confident as I hadn’t been to an interview for ages, and they really helped me with my communication skills. ‘They also gave me a lot of support as to what I was entitled to from the job centre, such as the suit I wore to my interview – I never knew that I could get money for clothing. ‘Having a new job is fantastic, it gives you a lot more freedom. A4e have been really flexible and willing to help. The best thing is that they don’t just get you a job and leave you alone – they carry on supporting you. It’s like having someone else to back you up who’s got a lot more strength.’
Emma McConaghy is an employer partnership officer (EPO) at A4e Smethwick. Her role is to source the right kind of employment for the clients once they’re ‘job-ready’. ‘I establish what line of work the client is looking for and see whether it’s realistic,’ she says. ‘I also find out what needs they have. A lot of our clients are returning to work as parents, and the biggest obstacle they have is childcare. ‘I go out and source whatever childcare is available in their area, and ensure they know how much money they will be getting once they’re off benefits and working. ‘Once they take control of their own finances, we help them with budgeting,’ she explains. ‘It’s no good giving them just any job with the wrong hours or the wrong pay, because they’re not going to be able to sustain it.’ McConaghy’s role is also to be there for the client when they start work. She and her team have devised incentives for the newly-employed to keep in touch with their EPO, with initiatives such as text-back competitions to win MP3 players and mobile phones top-up vouchers, as well as taking clients out for lunch. ‘Part of my job is being a friend to the client,’ says McConaghy. ‘I’ve even visited them on a weekend to reassure them if they’re having a “wobble”. We have a really good connection with the employers, too, so if there’s any issues, the employer can contact me. We’re here to support the clients, so if we can help, we will.’
the big numbers
5.4% Current rate of unemployment in the UK 6.3% The unemployment rate in the West Midlands 8% The rate of unemployment in Sandwell 2.7% of people are claiming benefit in the UK
skills officer for Sandwell Council, says that the reason the programme works so well is because communication between the two companies is so clear. ‘If there’s a problem, we pick up the phone,’ she says. ‘Our mentors speak to A4e daily – it’s a very streamlined system.’ Once a client has found employment, they are mentored for the first 13 weeks of their new job to encourage them to stay in the role – and stay off the dole. Samantha Foy, contracts manager for A4e in Smethwick, West Midlands, explains why it’s so important to maintain regular contact with the client. ‘It’s all about sustainability,’ she says. ‘There’s no set duration for the clients on the programme – we give them as much or as little support as they need. This is not just about quick-fix training to get people back into work – we look at personal issues first, and work out the journey forward.’
The A4e team manage the first part of the contract, called LACES (Local Adult Community Engagement Support). Based at the Smethwick Youth and Community Centre, it involves finding and engaging the clients and getting them interested in learning new skills. But a big part of the work sees A4e client advisors going out on the streets and finding potential candidates to work with. Nanayaa King, 26, is an A4e client advisor based at the West Bromwich Afro Caribbean Centre. With a bubbly personality and plenty of experience in working with jobseekers, she’s ideally suited to the role of searching out suitable clients and encouraging them to find their niche in the job market. Her role is to mentor clients through the first part of the programme, and to make sure their needs are met.
This is not just quick-fix training – we work out the journey forward
samantha foy, a4e contracts manager
blueprint autuMn 2008
blueprint autuMn 2008
fEAtUrE: LONE PARENTS
fEAtUrE: LONE PARENTS
Being a single parent needn’t mean staying at home holding the baby – there are lots of opportunities to get back to work, if you know where to look
’m wicked with people,’ says Kitty Wright, 36. A single mum from Sheffield with six children – aged from 20 to six – she’d never had a job until recently, and struggled with low self-esteem for years. But thanks to a course designed to help lone parents back to work, Kitty now has a job and even managed to take her family on holiday this year for the first time. ‘It was to Cleethorpes and it was lovely!’ she enthuses. The course – Elevate – is a programme that’s been developed in the north of England by Jobcentre Plus and A4e, with the aim of encouraging single parents back to work by helping boost their confidence, skills and motivation. But not only that, it also helps them overcome common barriers to getting back to work, such as lack of childcare and self-belief. Kitty was at home alone with her children before she signed up to Elevate in Sheffield at the beginning
Nine out of 10 lone parents are mothers.
of the year. ‘My greatest hurdle was my own feelings,’ she says. ‘All I’ve done for the last 19 years is bring my kids up, and I had pretty low self-esteem. So I started coming to Elevate classes and it gave me the confidence I needed. I thought: “It doesn’t matter how many kids I’ve got, I can do this for myself.”’ The 13-week course is split up into six weeks spent in the centre, where clients are helped through personal issues and begin learning job-search skills, followed by seven weeks on a work placement to give them experience. Mentors gently help and encourage participants through the programme, giving them lots of support, until they feel that they’re ready for a work placement. ‘I really, really wanted a career, but because I had my first child so young, I didn’t get the opportunity,’ says Kitty. ‘I’d forgotten all my dreams about what I wanted to do when I grew up, but Elevate helped push me in the right direction.’
LONE pArENt fActS
• 70 per cent of single parents who aren’t in work say lack of flexible hours is the biggest barrier • 57 per cent of lone parents are currently employed • One in four children live with a lone parent • 1.8 million children in the UK live in a workless household • Nine out of 10 lone parents are mothers • Elevate is one of a number of lone parent programmes run by A4e in different parts of the country.
My kids are so proud of me – it’s made a big difference
Kitty wright, SiNgLE MUM AND A4E trAiNEr
sessions with the clients, and balance that with one-to-one support, gradually stepping back and pushing them very gently to build their confidence. ‘We encourage lots of support,’ says Allison, ‘and the clients also support each other. It works really well.’ On Mondays there’s a drop-in service where people can come in and discuss any issue they have or get extra one-to-one support with things such as interview techniques. Or they might simply drop in to meet up with each other. By week four, the clients compile a wish list of jobs they think they’d like to do, and by week five, Allison begins matching the clients to work experience opportunities. ‘Most businesses are quite receptive, and once I have explained what Elevate is all about, they are willing to give people an opportunity.’
Issues such as finding childcare are helped by the staff at the centre. ‘The clients might be leaving their children at home for the first time,’ says Allison. ‘The idea is that they sort out the childcare themselves
Childcare is a major issue for many of Elevate’s clients.
using local childminders and nurseries, but we support them. If they were working they’d have to do the same, so we try to make it as realistic as possible for them. We give them the opportunity to find out that they can manage 16 hours working a week. If the childcare is sorted out during the course, then by the time they get a job, it’s no longer an issue. It’s a big boost for them.’ For Kitty, her time on the Elevate programme had a positive outcome. Her work placement began on the reception desk at A4e, which didn’t suit her, so she started helping Allison with new Elevate clients. And when Allison was away, Kitty stepped in and covered her role. As she puts it: ‘Us single parents don’t half know how to organise things!’ She now has a job as an A4e trainer, and absolutely loves it. ‘I’ve seen women coming in, unsure of themselves, and by the end of the course they’ve got their heads held high,’ she says. ‘My kids are so proud of me – it’s made a big difference. I wanted to show my kids that there’s a better life out there. I’d advise anyone to go out and get a job.’
Allison Clear, 42, is an Elevate trainer from Sheffield. She ran the first Elevate pilot in Sheffield in May 2007 and, since then, has been refining the programme to reflect the clients’ needs. ‘I was a single parent and I wanted a new challenge,’ she explains. ‘I thought that I could really help people based on my own experience. I know how you can lose confidence when you’re at home raising children, especially when you’re out of work for a while. I’m really good at motivating people, so I thought I’d go for it.’ The biggest step for clients, says Allison, is walking through the door. ‘Once they’ve done that, I tell them it gets much easier.’ The staff carry out lots of group training
bLUEpriNt AuTumN 2008
bLUEpriNt AuTumN 2008
international: fAmily proGrAmme
Keeping it in the family
A mother and daughter took a new approach to job hunting and skills training when they embarked on a new family programme in Gelsenkirchen, Germany
he A4e Work First Family Programme is designed to help families where at least two adults and young people in the household are unemployed, aiming to bring family members together to share goals, learn new skills and find work. The programme is based on research showing that children in families where one or both parents are unemployed find it particularly difficult to get their career started. Second and third generation unemployment is common in Germany, which naturally impacts on the health and social lives of those families. By helping parents find work and interacting with children at the same time, the A4e Work First Family programme can provide the whole family with a more positive outlook on life. And not only that, but they can also further their education together in a relaxed learning environment. Here, Christa, 43, and Rebecca, 19, share their experiences. Christa, how did you get involved with the family programme? ‘We were the programme’s very first group, together with a Turkish family and a Polish family. The IAG (Integrationscenter für Arbeit, employment centre) encouraged us and said it would involve field trips, along with training in computer skills and preparing a job application. At first I didn’t think I would ever be able to find a new job. But I wanted to learn something new. I had kind of resigned myself to the way things were – at the time I had a so-called job as a cleaner.’ And what was it like for you, Rebecca? Did you have any reservations? ‘Well, I had been on my school holiday and shortly after that I took my exams, so I really didn’t want to go at all, but I did. When school started again, I went to A4e in my free time. On Tuesday mornings, for example, we always had the first four hours off, so I would go along to the centre. It was a lot of work, but it helped me a great deal.’ What did you learn during the programme, Rebecca? ‘At first, we spent most of our time having group discussions. And to tell you the truth, the other families sometimes got on my nerves. But I learnt a lot, especially about how to prepare a job application. We had been through that in Year Seven at school, but the classes were not very effective. At A4e it was different. They showed us how to make our CV more effective and presentable – we included headers and footers and learnt, for example, that you could include graphics on your CV to attract more attention.’ And how was it for you, Christa? ‘She’s right! We learnt a lot. But at first I had to go home and get my papers in order, and collect references and job certificates. Like I said, when I came to A4e I never believed I would be able to apply for a job. But the consultants showed me a variety of job advertisements right from the very beginning, even before I had finished preparing my job application folders. So we just sent the companies a fax of my CV – we didn’t want to miss out on a single chance.’ Rebecca, what kind of job did you want? ‘I was hoping for a job in a hospital, and I even had a job interview in Dusseldorf. But they told me I
I was worried that my oldest daughter would be unable to find work. In Gelsenkirchen a lot of people are unemployed Christa
26 blueprint Autumn 2008
blueprint Autumn 2008
international: fAmily proGrAmme
international: fAmily proGrAmme
was too thin for the job and said that I wouldn’t be physically able to do the hard work in the hospital. I said that I would manage and that I wanted to give it a go, but I didn’t get the job. And actually, I’m sort of glad about it now.’ You were offered another job as a result of the programme. How are things going? ‘Yes, that’s right. I started professional training as a physician’s assistant in August, working in a dermatologist’s practice in Essen. I get up at 5.30am every morning and take the bus to work at 7am, which takes 20 minutes. I need some time alone for myself in the morning, which is why I like to get up a little earlier. I don’t mind it. Besides, I’m doing it because I want to – I want to work. School was more of an obligation, something I did because I had to.’ You must be very pleased about your daughter’s success, Christa. What was life like before? ‘As a mother, I was worried that my oldest daughter would be unable to find work. It’s difficult here in Gelsenkirchen – a lot of people are unemployed. But I also knew that she would do something. That was the example I set for her. I always found
some kind of work, even if it was just cleaning for €160 per month.’ In Gelsenkirchen there are lots of unemployed young people. Rebecca, were you worried about being unemployed? ‘Oh sure, it was something I thought about and was concerned about. A lot of kids hang out on the streets and have nothing. But also, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Was what I was doing my true vocation, or was there another job I was more suited to? That was hard for me. We also had school field trips to vocational orientation fairs and universities in the region, but for a long time I wasn’t sure what to do. ‘I had also heard a lot of horror stories in my circle of friends about joblessness and I knew how hard it could be – and unless you get up and do something, it just gets more and more difficult. Some of the stories I heard were very discouraging, so I was determined to make the most of the A4e programme.’ Christa, you also found a new job – how did that come about? ‘During the programme, a large municipal company got in touch with me. I had submitted an application a year earlier, then they called me in May this year and asked whether I was still interested in working for them. I immediately said yes, and went in for an interview. ‘But all of a sudden, things weren’t so clear anymore. The personnel manager told me she doubted whether I was up to the difficult work because I’m overweight. I said I was absolutely positive I could do it, and that I had been cleaning professionally for 15 years. I really wanted the job. ‘Luckily, it worked out. They offered me an initial one year part-time contract, and I had a physical examination at the public health office. If everything goes well, there’s a good chance they’ll extend my job contract. At the moment I’m working between 18 and 39 hours per week.’
peilot YnG nGhYMru ar Flaen Y GaD
Gan ddefnyddio’n sylfaen lwyddiant y rhaglen yn yr Almaen, mae A4e Cymru newydd lansio’r gwasanaeth cyntaf yn y Deyrnas unedig sy’n canolbwyntio ar ddod â theuluoedd cyfan allan o ddiweithdra ar yr un pryd
Ar hyn o bryd rhoddir peilot i fenter Gwaith yn Gyntaf i Deuluoedd A4e yng Nghasnewydd, ac mae’n ymgysylltu â theuluoedd ac aelwydydd lle mae yna isafrif o ddau o oedolion a phobol ifanc yn ddi-waith. Yn ôl Phil Silverthorne, cyfarwyddwr gweithredol A4e Cymru, mae diweithdra teulu yn cael effaith gymdeithasol ac ariannol mewn difrif. ‘I deuluoedd lle nad ydi’r naill riant na’r llall yn gweithio, mae’r tebyg y bydd eu plant hefyd yn wynebu diweithdra hirdymor yn fwy na chymaint ddwywaith,’ meddai. ‘Mae hyn yn gallu arwain at dlodi plant a all barhau hyd nes y byddan nhw mewn oed.’ At hynny meddai Dirprwy Weinidog dros Sgiliau Cynulliad Cymru John Griffiths, a gyhoeddodd y rhaglen, fod agos i chwarter yr oedolion oed gweithio yng Nghymru yn economaidd segur. ‘Hanfod menter Gwaith yn Gyntaf i Deuluoedd A4e ydi cynnig ymateb ymarferol i broblem segurdod economaidd a drosglwyddir o’r naill genhedlaeth i’r llall,’ meddai. ‘Gobeithio y bydd y peilot yn cyflawni ei amcan yn symud aelwydydd o ddiweithdra i waith ystyrlon.’ Rhoddir i bob teulu ar y rhaglen un o gynghorwyr swyddi teulu A4e fydd yn cynnig cefnogaeth a chyngor i’r teulu i gyd. Gan ddibynnu ar yr unigolyn, fe’u rhoddir ar un o raglenni cefnogaeth A4e, megis Dysgu yn y Gwaith, Bargen Newydd – sy’n gweithio gyda phobol ifanc, oedolion a phobol anabl – neu Llwybrau i Waith, sy’n gweithio gyda phobol ar fudd-dal analluogrwydd i’w helpu nhw i ddod o hyd i swydd ac sy’n cefnogi eu symud i’r gweithle.
Families will benefit from the back to work pilot in Wales.
pilot in Wales taKes the leaD
Building on the success of the programme in Germany, A4e Wales has recently launched the first service in the uK that focuses on getting whole families out of unemployment at the same time.
The A4e Work First for Families initiative is currently being piloted in Newport, and engages with families and households where there are a minimum of two unemployed adults and young people. According to Phil Silverthorne, executive director of A4e Wales, family unemployment has a very real social and financial impact. ‘For families where neither parent is working, the likelihood of their children also facing long-term unemployment is more than doubled,‘ he said. ‘This can lead to child poverty that can continue into adulthood.’ The Welsh Assembly’s deputy minister for skills, John Griffiths, announced the programme. He added that nearly a quarter of working-age adults in Wales are economically inactive. ‘The A4e Work First for Families initiative is about providing a practical response to the problem of generational economic inactivity,’ he said. ‘I hope the pilot achieves its aim in moving households from unemployment to meaningful employment.’ Each family on the programme will be allocated an A4e family job councillor who will provide support and advice to the whole family. Depending on the individual, they will be placed on one of A4e’s existing support programmes, such as Work-Based Learning, New Deal – which works with young people, adults and disabled people – or Pathways to Work, which works with people on incapacity benefit to help them find a job and supports their move into the workplace.
I had heard a lot of horror stories in my circle of friends about joblessness
Nearly a quarter of workingage adults in Wales are economically inactive
John GriFFiths, Welsh asseMblY DeputY Minister For sKills
Christa and Rebecca attend A4e’s Work First Family programme in Gelsenkirchen.
Skills minister John Griffiths, left, with A4e’s Phil Silverthorne and Brian Hancock.
blueprint Autumn 2008
blueprint Autumn 2008
ith the Polish economy booming, partly thanks to European Union accession, it should be a time of plenty for the Poles. After all, with a fast-growing consumer market, events such as the UEFA Cup Final arriving in 2012, and huge potential for future growth, Poland ought to be seen as a desirable country for investment. In fact, 1.6 million jobs will be created by the time Poland becomes the UEFA host country. But instead of being able to sit back and reap the rewards, the country faces problems in the wake of large-scale unemployment and job gaps where unskilled workers are simply unable to fill vacant roles. The problem is worse for the over-50s; since the demise of industries such as ship building, mining and steel works, the majority of people available for work are not skilled in the areas which need workers. In fact, only one in four people over the age of 50 is in employment. What’s more, there is limited vocational training in Poland, coupled with very little experience in preparing people for employment in a market economy.
Making a change
If the situation were to continue, there might be little hope for Poland’s unemployed, despite the fact that the Polish government is trying to provide the funding necessary for employment experts to make a change. The problem is that the changes are happening too
slowly, according to Martin Oxley, CEO of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw. ‘What we need the Polish government to do is appreciate the problem and create the right environment for the employment experts to get to work,’ he said. ‘That’s happening, but slowly. Pressure is building for more radical action.’ And when you consider that Poland has the highest number of people out of work in Europe, it’s clear that action is needed. But help is at hand, thanks to a new programme set up by A4e Polska. Katarzyna Ostapowicz, 26, lives in Warsaw and helped to set up A4e Polska two years ago. Thanks to the hard work of Katarzyna and her colleagues, the company has recently received funding to start two programmes to help the long-term unemployed – in other words, those who have been out of work for 12 months in a 24-month period – learn the skills necessary to get back to work. ‘The programmes offer the same type of activities that A4e offers in the UK,’ said Katarzyna. ‘The first one is aimed at helping people through a range of complex situations, and is tailored to the individual. It has 300 unemployed people on it, 20 of whom are disabled. ‘The second programme will have 350 clients, and is set in a typical post-industrial, post-mining area. Here, the clients will be in a worse position to start off with because of the history of the town.’ The first programme, which will begin in the
We believe that the unemployed person is like a pearl for the employer, if the matchmaking is done properly
Katarzyna ostapowicz, a4e polsKa
autumn, is set in Szczecin, an industrial city in northwest Poland which borders Germany. According to Martin, Szczecin is ‘a ship building centre in the wrong place at a difficult time’. The city has significant unemployment in the outlying areas, so A4e’s task is to prepare people for employment in new industries which are establishing themselves in the area. Also due to begin in the autumn, the second programme, which is similar in terms of course content, will run in Zabrze, southern Poland. It’s a city which is at the heart of the Polish coal mining industry, and until recently, it had 13 mines. Now it has just six. ‘This area is not only the heartland of Polish coal and steel, it also has the largest and most dynamic special economic zone in Poland,’ explained Martin. ‘There is a massive opportunity for A4e to prepare people for re-employment and an even bigger opportunity to establish a “train to gain” type vocational, accredited training initiative. This is South Yorkshire all over again, 20 years later.’ Both programmes are funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), with the initial contracts lasting 14 months and 20 months. If the programmes go well, the hope is to extend the programmes with the aim of helping even more people to get back to work.
A4e supports them in compiling letters, CVs and finding work. Finally, when the client is ready, they are either sent on a work experience placement to get a feel for their new working environment or else sent on vocational training courses. ‘We find out what the clients want to do and send them on courses suited to that,’ said Katarzyna. ‘For instance, they may want to become shop assistants, security guards or go into secretarial work. We take the approach of first getting to know the clients before we organise training.’ Expectations for both programmes are encouraging. A4e Polska has stated it hopes to get 30 per cent of unemployed people back to work, but the real aim is much higher than that. Katarzyna said: ‘We want to change society, and we want people to know we do everything to help them find a new place in society, in work and in life.’ Overleaf: 10 questions to the chief executive of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce.
so wHat’s DiFFerent?
While ‘back to work’ programmes are by no means unique, A4e’s approach in Poland is. ‘We work with the clients and provide training, but the most important thing is that we reach the whole person,’ said Ostapowicz. ‘We have recruiters whom we call “pearl divers”, and the clients have contact with them throughout the programme. The pearl divers encourage employers to give work placements or vacancies. We believe that the unemployed person is like a pearl for the employer, if the match-making is done properly.’ Another unique aspect of the programmes is giving people support once they have found work. ‘This is new to Poland,’ said Ostapowicz. ‘No one else does it here. When a client signs a work contract, they can still come to the centre if they have any problems. Their advisers stay in touch with them to make sure that they stay in work. That’s our aim – work first.’
Both programmes run for 26 weeks, and begin by engaging the clients. ‘People here will tell you that it’s hard to engage people, but I don’t agree – I think it’s just a misperception,’ said Katarzyna. ‘So far, people have only been helped by public institutions such as the public labour office, and while they would have received some help from personal advisers, they don’t get the individual support that they would from A4e. ‘We give the clients one-to-one time where we work on getting them interested and enthusiastic about the programme, so that they want to stay on the programme.’ The course progresses to teach clients the skills they might need for future employment, and then
A new horizon
While there may be jobs-a-plenty in post-industrial Poland, finding skilled workers able to fill the roles is becoming a problem
blueprint autumn 2008
Tell us about the economic situation in Poland
In decline... traditional heavy industry is providing fewer jobs in Poland.
10 in ten
Martin Oxley believes A4e’s experience of getting people into work will be hugely beneficial in helping to cut unemployment in Poland.
Martin Oxley, chief executive of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, answers our 10 quick-fire questions
Poland’s economy is currently enjoying strong growth. European accession has helped and there is lots of potential for further growth as the country is one of the largest and poorest of the recent accession countries. The market economy is less than 20 years old.
Why are A4e’s Polish programmes so important?
The recent programme wins by A4e are fantastic news for Poland. They have the potential to become icons of employment excellence in two very difficult markets.
What are the challenges facing the Polish economy?
One of the biggest challenges facing the country is preparing people for employment. The unemployment rate has halved over the last three years from 20 per cent to under 10 per cent. Now, 1.6m jobs have been created in the private sector, 1.6m people have left the country and with a fast-growing consumer market, Poland is and will continue to be a roller coaster of change.
Describe the two areas that will benefit
Zabrze is right at the heart of the Polish coal mining industry and has just six mines – until recently, it had 13. Sczcecin is a similar challenge: in the outlying areas, there is significant unemployment.
What are your predictions for the future of Poland’s employment market?
How will this affect the profile of Poland’s job market?
The country is already facing job gaps in key sectors, yet Poland has one of the highest populations available for work in the whole of Europe.
With its booming economy, Poland is on the verge of an employment crunch. The people-shortages can only get worse as full EU-worker mobility approaches and the country’s structural regeneration programmes develop apace. A4e is coming to Poland just at the right time – there are many opportunities.
What is the Polish government doing to encourage full employment?
The Polish government is rapidly realising it has a problem on its hands. Already we are seeing a downturn in foreign direct investment; there is a risk of inflation and Polish corporates are having to turn away sales through lack of staff.
A4e has massive international experience in getting people into work
What can A4e do to help prepare people for the changing job market?
Firstly, with its expert consultancy in policy planning and implementation, A4e has massive international experience in getting people into work. Many of the issues faced in the UK at the end of the era of heavy industry are the same in Poland. The policy issues associated with creating an active labour market across Europe are applicable in Poland. A4e has the experience to contribute here. Secondly, with large-scale employment enabling programmes, because it is very important to bridge public and private sector needs to quickly get more people into work.
How can A4e’s experience help?
There is great opportunity for A4e to establish itself as a leader in the employment services market with a combination of employment, vocational training and ongoing professional development. A4e is well-placed to help solving one of Poland’s biggest short-term challenges, which is finding and preparing people to fill the increasing skills gap.
How can A4e benefit Poland in the long-term?
By promoting lifelong professional orientation and development – it’s a superb opportunity. Very limited vocational development takes place in Poland, and the industry is already suffering from a lack of market-focused education.
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