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The EP blog features a different article each edition that focuses on an issue of interest to employability professionals and front line advisors.


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The EP Blog

Posted By Richard Frost, Mindful Employer, 12 October 2017

Supporting Mental Wellbeing at Work

Last week’s World Mental Health Day focussed on the workplace and once again raised the importance of equipping employers to be able to support staff experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. New research by the Centre for Mental Health estimates the cost of mental ill health to employers is now a staggering £34.9bn per year – that’s £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy. Just two weeks ago, I was delivering training to an organisation whose workforce had been hit hard by the suicide of two members of staff within days of each other.

Every day thousands of employers are dealing with situations which, aside from impacting on the business itself, often result not only in distress, but also a sense of inadequacy how to respond to what’s happening.

Held on 10th October every year, World Mental Health Day is one of several occasions which can help focus our thoughts on this important area. Similarly, National Stress Awareness Day (1st November 2017) and Time to Talk Day (1st February 2018) will be helpful events. But they have to be occasions where action is stimulated for the long term, not just 24 hours – and, of course, that does happen.

One such way is the sharing of good practice – of letting other people know what works. For example, MINDFUL EMPLOYER Charter signatory, Gateshead College recently had a new member of staff start and while initially they didn't declare their mental illness, it was highlighted during their standard pre-employment health check. The employee suffered from anxiety, particularly when faced with new, unknown situations. This was triggered when they started with the College. Following a supportive meeting with their Line Manager and an appointment with the Occupational Health nurse, a number of strategies were implemented to support the employee, including the allocation of a mentor, regular check ins with their Line Manager and for a temporary period, reduced working hours. The employee is now happily engaged at work and no further concerns have been identified.

And Bootle-based signatory, Sovini Group provide a range of initiatives to support the mental wellbeing of their staff – maybe there’s some ideas for employers you are in contact with:

  • Employee Assistance Programme available to all staff and their families which includes counselling (face to face / telephone etc).
  • Occupational Health Advisor on site once a fortnight. Employees are able to self-refer if required.
  • Feel Good Programme e.g. Mental Health Awareness week (massages, Yoga, Mental Health charity talk, laughology), Sovini Games (week-long series of team building events).
  • Meditation sessions every fortnight during lunch hour. • Mindfulness programme (for Executive Management Team).
  • Excellent office environment including a gym, bistro, quiet room.
  • Work/Life Balance Charter encouraging all staff to develop a healthy and productive work/life balance, which includes encouraging not sending emails outside of work hours.
  • 5 ways to well-being.
  • Reward and Recognition schemes – e.g. Show Some Love (anonymous compliments on Valentine’s Day), Employee of the Month, Customer compliments, Birthday cards, staff socials.

Often very practical, inexpensive and simple things can make the difference. Amidst the hustle and bustle of busyness, the benefits and trials of emails and IT, the targets and the demands, we forget to take lunch breaks, to give ourselves and other people time. Keeping in touch with people when they are off sick, sending a card and flowers, letting people know they are not forgotten.

As I wrote in my article for IEP in May 2017, the importance of equipping line managers is particularly crucial. A line manager’s job is to manage not be a counsellor or a therapist and many find it difficult to help a member of staff who is experiencing mental health issues – especially when it comes to having the conversation. There is after all no reason at all why a manager should automatically know what to do. Staff having monthly 1:1 time with their line manager is crucial – not just to talk about work but to have those ‘how are you’ conversations to build up trust and relationships – so if it ever comes to talking about something really difficult (like mental ill health) then both employee and manager feel more confident and secure and able to respond.


Richard Frost, Lead, MINDFUL EMPLOYER

Tel: 01392 677064

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The EP Blog

Posted By Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning and Work Institute, 14 July 2017
Updated: 11 July 2017

How too much insecurity at work is bad for business

New research from Learning and Work Institute shows that insecure work grew between 2011 and 2016 and may be reducing productivity growth.

Insecure work is one of the topics of our time. For some, increased flexibility over work can be a real benefit. For others, insecurity can make it difficult to make ends meet, to plan for the future, and to build a career.

New research by the Learning and Work Institute, commissioned by the TUC, shows one in ten workers is in some form of insecure work. Today 3.1 million people are in insecure work, up around half a million over the last decade. This includes those in zero hours contracts, but also low paid self-employed, those employed through agencies, and temporary workers.

The picture varies significantly by sector. The focus is often on new technology platforms (like Uber) and zero hours contracts, but it is actually a much broader issue. The biggest numbers of people in insecure work are found in education, food and beverage, land transport, and retail. Meanwhile the biggest rises over the last five years have been in food and beverage services and residential care.

Pros and cons

The debate on new forms of work is often caricatured as being bad for people and good for employers. In practice, the picture is more nuanced. Flexible forms of work can benefit many people.

And our research shows that too much insecurity is bad for employers, with some evidence of lower productivity associated with greater use of insecure work (though it is difficult to say one causes the other).

Technology is likely to lead to further growth in these different forms of work. And of course insecurity is about more than the form of your employment contract – you can feel insecure in a full-time permanent job, and agency at work is a broader issue too.

So there is a business case for looking at insecure work. And this is also a national economic case: Britain’s poor productivity performance is one of the things holding back living standards and restricting the money available for public services.

What should we do?

The first point is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Flexibility can benefit both people and employers, and the diversity of employment opportunities is one of the UK’s strengths.

However, this is not universally the case, particularly where there is an imbalance of power between workers and employers. So secondly there is a big role for trade unions to find new forms of organization for people in new forms of work – our research shows only 15% of people in insecure work are in workplaces with unions, half the rates for more secure forms of work.

Thirdly, there are macroeconomic questions about the path of the National Minimum Wage and boosting productivity more generally. The research shows how the type and incidence of insecure work varies by sector. So a tailored approach by sector is needed – the Industrial Strategy provides a context for this.

New forms of work and insecure employment are big issues, rightly attracting much attention. Our research shows where the challenges lie, and the impact this can have on both people and prosperity. The Taylor Review will in many ways be a key part of the debate in how to respond, it should be the start not the end.


Written by Stephen Evans

Stephen Evans is CEO at the Learning and Work Institute, an independent policy and research organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion.

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The EP Blog

Posted By Gary Pettengell, CEO, Empowering-Communities, 15 June 2017

A multi-agency approach to offender rehabilitation

By Gary Pettengell, CEO, Empowering-Communities 

A disjointed prison system, coupled with a probation service in transition, is failing to tackle the growing epidemic of reoffending in the UK. It’s costing the taxpayer £15 billion every year and the government knows it’s a problem.

Ex-offenders often exit the prison gates with a lack of direction and end up spiralling back into a perpetual cycle of crime. The only sustainable solution is to adopt a multi-agency approach to rehabilitation. One that encourages various partners from the public, private and third sectors to work together and address the complex needs of every individual.

For example, it’s been proven that gainful employment reduces the chance of reoffending. Helping someone into work increases their self-esteem and financial independence. But it takes more than Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to make that happen, as everyone faces their own set of barriers.

Around a third of prisoners have learning difficulties and almost half have no school qualifications. Many leave prison with no permanent address and 49% suffer from anxiety or depression.

Education in prison

No-one is solely responsible for education and training. As it stands, a variety of diverse organisations provide different types of help.

  • OLASS providers teach basic English and maths skills.
  • Charities, such as Working Chance, help offenders to gain places on employment schemes.
  • Private companies, like Blue Sky, help people to move into work via a ‘release on temporary licence’.
  • Timpson and Virgin Trains offer in-prison academies.

It’s here that the collaboration needs to begin. All self-development activity should be logged in a shared system, which can be accessed by a range of partners. This would allow every relevant service to appreciate the nuances of each individual - from substance misuse charities to JCP Work Coaches.

We already work in this way with MOVEON East - a Norfolk-based charity that helps ex-offenders to prepare for work and find accommodation. Part of their role involves helping clients to open a bank account, obtain an ID or apply for a job when they’ve lost all of their paperwork.

They can only achieve this by collaborating with other organisations, such as the National Probation Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the Police, Stonham, the Matthew Project and support workers. Each agency logs into E-CINS and maintains a record of relevant interventions.

Toni Keryell-Emmerson, a MOVEON east Employment Adviser, explains:

“The clients benefit from a joined-up service that our team provides because there is constant communication with the team. Sometimes there are different versions of stories from the clients and having everything noted in E-CINS gives us the true picture. We can provide a united front as we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.”

It also reduces duplication, creates automatic referrals and allows data to be analysed across all three sectors.

The role of CRCs

The Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme involved outsourcing part of the Probation Service to 21 privately-run CRCs. These operate on a ‘payment-by-results’ contract with no built-in incentives relating to employment.

It’s led to a breakdown in communication within the former Probation Service itself with some reporting that they’re worried about sharing information - even within the same office.

In 2015, John, who works for the publicly-run National Probation Service, told The Guardian:

“There is this idea that because we’re separate organisations now we can’t allow the other organisation to see our work because it’s confidential, which is absolute nonsense because six months ago we were all working together.”

Rather than create more barriers, CRCs could be the at the very heart of ex-offender rehabilitation. Imagine if all practitioners could instantly gain an understanding of the complex issues facing every individual. They could collaborate with JCP, rehabilitation charities, housing associations, in-prison training providers and potential employers.

By tackling a problem from several different angles, you can address any underlying root causes. And if a former prisoner is keen to move on, we should do everything in our power to support them.

Empowering-Communities is sponsoring the Team of the Year Award with the IEP at the 2017 ERSA Awards on 29th June.


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The EP Blog

Posted By Dan Wright MIEP, CEO, Chartered Institution for Further Education, 06 June 2017

Why we must reinforce the professionalism of the Skills and Employability Sectors

by Dan Wright MIEP, CEO, Chartered Institution for Further Education

In 2004 I left the hospitality industry in which I had worked for many years to enter the world of work based learning, a field that was unfamiliar to me. Hospitality is a tough business. It requires people with skill, who are prepared to work unsocial hours and who have the ability to innovate and create. It constantly seeks talent, in an environment in which skills are at a premium.

The industry has for many years struggled with the challenge of addressing the skills gap. It has become increasingly dependent on a labour force recruited from overseas, and with the uncertainty of Brexit this solution can only be temporary. These issues it shares with many important industries, all of which are vital to the future success of our economy and the prosperity of the nation. The skills shortage continues to be one of the biggest concerns for employers. UK productivity levels remain stubbornly low. The situation is unsustainable.

When I made the career change I was amazed at how little specific knowledge I had of the Skills and Employability sector, and the support available from Government sponsored schemes. I and my former colleagues had been largely unaware of the wealth of recruitment and skills development support available to employers. To put it simply, it never came across my desk and I doubt that I was the exception.

It is little wonder therefore that until quite recently, many employers have had little real engagement with the skills agenda. For years, Government has tried to extract a contribution from employers with little success, suggesting that skills qualifications have been viewed with some scepticism. Many are still struggling with the implications of the Apprenticeship levy and what it means to them. Until recently, a third of UK employers that are eligible to pay the levy were not aware of its existence, and nearly a quarter of heads of apprenticeships are still not fully familiar with the new system.

So now the landscape has changed. Employers are having to fund Apprenticeship programmes and easy access of foreign skilled labour is set to diminish. This puts Employability, Skills and employer engagement at the heart of the economic agenda.

The FE sector has worked incredibly hard to drive the success of the skills agenda, and the contribution of the Employability industry to the success of the Work Programme has been nothing short of outstanding. Both sectors deserve greater recognition for the incredible work that they do, for their contribution, for the standards that they achieve and for the professionalism that they demonstrate.

British industry needs these skills to identify and develop the talent needed to thrive in a global economy. Employability and Skills providers must now reflect on how this can be messaged to industry leaders. We must do more to celebrate our achievements and to highlight the contribution made. We must reinforce the professionalism of the sectors and help employers understand that the work that is done is technically complex, demanding, highly skilled and most importantly that it adds value. The IEP and the Chartered Institution for Further Education were established to do just this.

Many believe that Skills and Employability are inextricably linked, but they are quite different disciplines. Some organisations are now becoming highly adept at working within both sectors. They are doing this by focussing on the challenges faced by employers, listening carefully to their organisational development needs and using their expertise to assist in the delivery of comprehensive strategies, which go beyond meeting the objectives of government initiatives. To do this they have developed networks of differing expertise which can provide a complete package of support. This has to be our thinking for the future.

Employers are now firmly in the driving seat but lack sufficient information concerning the support available to them. Their success firstly depends on their ability to identify and recruit well prepared work ready candidates and secondly to create the skills development programmes necessary to create a competitive work force. Attributes that the sectors have in abundance. Industry needs to be better informed of what is on offer. Experience tells me that many employers have little or no understanding of our complex work, and how it can support them, so the challenge for all of us is to ensure that industry is fully engaged, in a clear and concise manner that reflects demand.

The time to take advantage of this could not be better. It presents a great opportunity. If the skills of our respective sectors can be effectively promoted to business and industry we have the opportunity to play one of the most important social and economic roles in more than a generation.


This article first appeared in FE News

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The EP Blog

Posted By Isabel Baylis, Muscular Dystrophy UK, 31 May 2017

Advantages for companies in offering work experience to young disabled people

Muscular Dystrophy UK supports 70,000 children and adults with muscle-wasting conditions to live as independently as possible. Our Moving Up employability project aims to increase the career prospects and confidence of young people with disabilities. To do this, we run work experience placements in our London office and in partner organisations and companies, we host events and publish resources.

Our partner companies have identified a number of business advantages in hosting placements for young disabled people, including opportunities to:

  • make practical improvements to disability employment policies
  • consult disabled consumers
  • widen their recruitment pool.

Improvements to employment policies

By having young disabled people working in their offices, companies can test, adjust and improve their disability employment policies and practices. Sometimes these policies may have been put in place by non-disabled HR and management teams.

Feedback from our partner companies has shown that developing accessibility awareness is one of the fundamental advantages of hosting placements.

Paul Stevens, Financial Management Manager at Santander Consumer PLC says:

“There were accessibility requirements to be considered before and during Ravi’s placement. Working with Ravi was useful in highlighting many of the areas on which the company may want to adapt for greater accessibility and we felt he built a greater awareness of sensitivities around disability in an office/social environment.”

Consulting disabled consumers

Partner companies have found the placements useful for gathering feedback on how disability-friendly their current products/ services are and how they can be improved.

As an example, one of the major issues facing our partner Transport for London is ensuring a historic transport infrastructure is accessible to disabled people. When young disabled people are travelling to and from their placements in London, they give TfL feedback on their current transport services and consult on how to improve.  Similarly, the international financial services company ING, who has taken on a placement, is taking advantage of the young person’s advice on how to make a new budgeting app accessible to disabled users.

Widening the recruitment pool

Because young disabled people may experience knockbacks and a lack of targeted careers advice, they may present as less confident in interviews. Equally, they may not even apply for positions, because they are unaware of employment rights such as reasonable adjustments. Offering a young disabled person work experience gives them a safe environment to test out their needs and build the confidence to ask for them. Companies may even feel that the young person is suitable for the company and take them on permanently.

To get involved with Moving Up, please contact us. We are always open to new company partners to provide placements, offer mentoring, or speak at our events.

If you’d like to find more, contact Moving Up on or 020 7803 2889


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The EP Blog

Posted By Richard Frost, Mindful Employer, 18 May 2017
Updated: 17 May 2017

Being a Mindful Employer

by Richard Frost, Mindful Employer

People who have a mental health condition often have access to considerable support for themselves, including that from IEP Members. The Mindful Employer initiative has sought to address the question, ‘Who supports their employer?'

Mindful Employer was launched in 2004 by Workways, a Vocational Rehabilitation Service of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. The aim was, and remains, to provide employers with easier access to information and support for employees with mental health conditions. The initiative is UK-wide and been launched independently in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The increased prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, their effect on the workplace, and the need for employers to provide appropriate support for those affected have been increasingly recognised. The last ten years has seen an increase in work stressors such as organisational change and restructuring, job insecurity, work intensity and inter-personal conflict, particularly among public sector workers. Employees also experience difficulties outside of the workplace (e.g. bereavement, financial problems, relationship breakdown or other problems) and such non-work related stress, anxiety and depression cause more sickness absence than work-related issues. Overall, 1 in 6 adults have a mental health condition at any one time and among adults of working age is as high as 1 in 3. While there is an expectation that employers should offer support, and evidence that more employers are taking positive action, there is also a continued reluctance among employees to disclose mental health conditions to their employer and criticism of managers in their understanding and responses although the situation is improving as employers become better equipped to provide support. Key issues for employers are the tensions between running the business and supporting staff, and problems in finding the right support to help employees experiencing mental ill health.

In times of economic stringency, training budgets are often the first to suffer and yet equipping managers to be able to provide support is vital for the wellbeing of staff and thus the running of the business. The existence of policies helps but there can still exist a gap between ‘policy and practice’. Clearer communication and the sharing of good practice are important, for it is by this that others can develop their skills and capacity in supporting both managers and staff. As may be expected, small and medium-sized employers generally find it easier to achieve aspirations due in part to shorter lines of communication; with larger organisations experiencing more barriers and with some departments demonstrating really good practice but where no one else in the organisation knows about it.

The importance of equipping line managers is particularly crucial. A line manager’s job is to manage, not be a counsellor or a therapist, and many find it difficult to help a member of staff who is experiencing mental health issues especially when it comes to having THE conversation. There is, after all, no reason at all why a manager should know what to do so the value of mental health awareness training and resources such as the MINDFUL EMPLOYER 'Line Manager’s Resource' can be particularly helpful.

Through the Mindful Employer initiative, businesses and organisations, whatever size or sector, can gain easier access to information, support, mental health awareness workshops and other resources to help them support staff experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. Mindful Employer is completely voluntary, it’s not about targets or outcomes (so often the source of stress in themselves!) and encourages and enables employers to share good practice. Since the initiative began, over 1600 employers, have signed the MINDFUL EMPLOYER Charter for Employers who are Positive About Mental Health which is a way of making a public, tangible commitment to the mental wellbeing of all staff. Being a Charter signatory doesn't mean they're 'getting it all right' - but it does indicate a willingness to work towards better practice.

Mindful Employer is not about supporting people with mental health problems per se but by enabling businesses and organisations to feel more equipped and confident is playing a major role in enabling improved mental wellbeing.


IEP Members can view the following Mindful Employer resources at the IEP Knowledge Bank:

Feeling stressed - keeping well

Keeping well at work

Making work work

Mindful Employer Line Manager's Resource

Requesting a Doctor's Report

What is mental ill health?

Working for health


Richard Frost, Lead



Tel: 01392 677064

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The Samee Project

Posted By Sam Everard AIEP, The Samee Project, 05 May 2017

Enterprising Young People
Missing Out

{This article was first published in FE News}

An exciting new project aimed at promoting self-employment as a real career option for students is being piloted in Dorset. Called the ‘Samee Project’, it was formed following a report from IPSE which states that, although young people are aware of the employment route and are taught employability skills to attain this, self-employment is seldom presented as a real option for students.

Project Founder Sam Everard AIEP said “Careers staff and professionals in schools and colleges are asked to talk to students about what they would like to do following their exams, and the two main routes that are suggested are apprenticeships and higher education.  This, unfortunately, does not take into account all the next steps of the journey for the student as they leave the “safety “of education including the option of self-employment.

“The report demonstrated that young people who have the skills or talent, or a career path that offers a self-employment route, do not have the information or knowledge to take it any further.  With the changes in the way that businesses recruit staff and the project opportunities that are available, there are more people becoming self-employed and working freelance, which is why it is important to raise the visibility of self-employment.  This problem affects all young people as there are self-employed people coming from an increasing number of sectors, alongside the traditional vocational type of courses (for example construction). There are now a high number of self-employed graduates working in freelance artistic, media and creative industries jobs.”

There is also a need for young people to understand the difference between being an entrepreneur/starting a small business and having a self-employed contract.  Some students may say that they do not want to have their own business and will not want to take that route but they may find themselves in a few years’ time having a freelance / consultancy contract, needing to be self-employed at that point and understanding the responsibilities that go alongside this is of the greatest importance.

“We are finding, through research, that self-employed people have less technical support and guidance than those running a traditional ‘business’, as they are seen to be not interested in growth, employing others or trading nationally/internationally, they just want to receive enough income to sustain their lifestyle, as any similarly employed person would” said Sam.  “It is the difference between having a cash flow for the business and a personal survival budget for the family.  By raising awareness at an earlier age, students will have the basic knowledge and understanding of the pros and cons of self-employment, and will be better prepared.  This will ensure that they know about paperwork, bookkeeping and tax returns, as well as being properly insured, putting them in a better position for the future.”

IPSE demonstrates that, out of 1143 ‘freelancers’ surveyed, just 1% found out about self-employment through information provided at school/college and 2% found out about it at University.  This is a major concern as students and young people need to have an awareness of all their employment and career options and self-employed contract work needs to be discussed as early as possible.

There are many pros to being self-employed and undertaking freelance/contract work as it meets the needs and requirements of many people, who may not be able to have a full-time employed position due to learning style, personal circumstance or maybe even a disability.  These students are normally those that are disruptive within the school environment as their perception is that they cannot meet the goals and standards set by the school system, so it does not matter if they turn up or engage whilst they are there. 

By identifying a route that may be really possible for them, they will start to look at the skills and talents they do have and can build on those strengths.  This could lead them to feeling more positive and engaging in a meaningful way with education.

Sam is passionate about what the Samee Project can achieve “This work in schools is being piloted in Dorset but we would love to take it further afield.  We can see how many young people are disengaged with education and they may be able to think about a skill or talent they could develop for employment in a different way.  I met a young guy recently that told me he had no future as he could not read or write properly and the school were giving up on him.  Imagine my surprise when he showed me some of the photos he had taken - they are award winning!  I have put him in touch with a colleague of mine and they are going to help him develop a small self-employed income to enhance his chances in life and at the same time learning new skills for a possible future self-employed career.  He can now see that reading and writing would be beneficial to him as he can invoice, write articles about his work etc.  He is only 14!”

Sam highlighted other examples of where Samee has helped “A University graduate I met who really needs to be self-employed is converting her hobby into income as her main job does not pay enough to cover her rent and bills, even though she has a degree.  She is struggling to survive and is now creating wall hangings as a way to boost her income.  We spent a few hours working through how self-employment works alongside her main job and she made the point that she wished she had been taught this earlier as it would have made a huge difference to her as she would not have been so scared about making the change.

“A young man wanting to become a self-employed plasterer had already lined up his apprenticeship.  He spent time with us talking about tax, getting work and how to sell himself.  He too wished that he had been talked to at school as he, and some of his friends, had not been made aware of what being self-employed actually meant.  He just knew it was his best way forward, based on what he had heard whilst on work experience, but had no idea how to go about it or what it involved.”

The young people with a trade, skill or talent, and those that want to do freelance and contract work, need to be nurtured and given the knowledge, information and support early so that they can start to plan what they want to do, think about their money and develop the skills needed to ensure success. The employability skills are the same as for a paid role, but the work that needs to be done around self-employment is very different.”

By giving every year 11 student access to self-employment information, as schools already do with career fairs, apprenticeship fairs and further/higher education events for ‘traditonal’ employment routes, they can engage with students and help them to make an informed decision, research possibilities and have the opportunity to ask questions about the many opportunities available to them through choosing self-employment as an option. This is a real option for all students and in the ‘gig economy’ it has to be an opportunity that is presented at an early stage of career development.

For more information contact:






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The EP Blog

Posted By David McKenlay, Me & My Learning, 27 April 2017
Updated: 25 April 2017

How co-locating relevant services helps put individuals’ needs at the heart of any thinking

Case Study

Me and My Learning, Melton Borough Council

Melton Borough Council’s Me and My Learning Programme (M&ML) supports people in securing sustainable employment by helping them to develop skills, reduce debt and become healthier. With over 20 different partners involved, it’s an exemplar of collaborative working and cross-agency information sharing. M&ML is further evidence that, by co-locating relevant services, you foster an environment which puts an individual’s needs at the very heart of any thinking.

The Challenge

There are wide-ranging barriers which affect someone’s independence and ultimately their employability. These can range from drug and alcohol abuse through to homelessness and debt.

Overcoming these barriers can be a complex process, which involves many different services including external organisations. Recognising this, Melton Council adopted a person-centric approach to put the emphasis firmly on collaboration. However, due to the lack of co-location, this was still quite tricky to coordinate.

Engagement and Action

Senior figures at the council were already keen advocates of early intervention, co-location and collaborative working. Following a devastating fire in 2008, the council set out a vision, which included the development of a new office for its 170 staff, along with 11 public and third sector partners. In 2011, the Parkside building was opened, which has since been instrumental in helping residents to transform their lives and reduce their dependence on the public purse.

With a fair degree of confidence, it was decided that partners of the M&ML programme would also be housed at a single location, namely Phoenix House.

Partners include: Adult Learning Leicestershire, CAN - Drug & Alcohol Support, Clockwise Credit Union, CSCS card training, Family Voices, Let's Talk Wellbeing, Loughborough College, Tenants Awareness Training, The Prince's Trust, Remploy, Working Links, Work Pays and Voluntary Action Leicestershire.

The decision to integrate these services has been instrumental to the success of the programme, as Dave McKenlay from M&ML explains: “By coordinating a wide range of organisations under one umbrella we’re helping the agencies to work together and helping people on an individual basis, rather than just signposting them and keeping our fingers crossed. The payback for us as a local authority is that the more independent the individuals are the less they rely on our services which carries a clear cost benefit”.

In practice, following an initial referral, triage is carried out by the service where the individual has presented themselves. This exercise gathers an array of information relating to their needs, motivators and self-esteem. If, during this conversation, any specific requirements are identified, then a personalised programme is created which may involve several partners.

Beyond this, as someone progresses through the programme, the collaborative nature of M&ML makes it simple for mentors to cross-refer to one another. The whole concept of cross-referrals, along with the sharing of information, has been a hugely positive aspect of the programme.

Underpinning this new way of working, the council use E-CINS software by social enterprise Empowering-Communities. This enables data to be shared securely between partners and puts the emphasis on the requirements of each individual, enabling people to tell their story once and not multiple times as is normal practice when accessing public services, this is particularly challenging when there is a mental health issue involved.

Dave McKenlay states: “E-CINS allows us to actively manage people’s progress and journeys through M&ML and also provide significantly more detailed and richer data than our previous spreadsheet- based system. Our Caseworkers coordinate the activities between all our partner organisations including drug and alcohol teams, money advice and employment advisors and we actively work with these providers to monitor the individual’s progress across a whole range of issues. We use a Red, Amber, Green system to rate clients according to complexity and E-CINS allows us to balance and manage the workload more efficiently”.


M&ML continues to be received extremely well by residents and 153 people have moved into employment as a direct result. This is quite an achievement given that over 70% of those referred face four or more complex issues in their lives. The programme has also moved more people closer to work with around 300 training activities or qualifications being undertaken.

But, as Dave McKenlay explains, it’s the area of early intervention that’s perhaps the most promising. “We have seen the level of contacts with our customer services team reduce, suggesting people are more independent. We also see people receiving support at a point where they may have issues, but those issues aren’t yet severe enough to trigger statutory services”.

Keith Aubrey, Strategic Director at Melton, added “M&ML has shown what is possible if you are prepared to challenge and change the way services are delivered to people who face challenges in their lives. It has developed into an important strategic facility for the council and is a major contributor to our successful approach of reducing demand”.

Comments from residents also really bring home the success of the programme:

“The guys at Phoenix House have been extremely helpful, understanding and supportive in getting me back on my feet finding work”.

“Phoenix House has brought my inner self out. I have found the real me again. All my talents have come alive”. “Jane, you have changed my life completely”.


Dave McKenlay,

Me and My Learning Melton Borough Council


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Posted By Liz Sewell FIEP, Director, Belina Consulting, 21 April 2017

A 'Job For Life' Days are Gone

By Liz Sewell FIEP, Director, Belina Consulting

[This article first appeared in FE News on 21st April 2017]

The job, as a concept is vanishing. Long gone are the days of a ‘job for life’. The economic forecast indicates that wages are unlikely to increase over the next decade, zero hours contracts are on the rise and the ‘gig economy’ seems here to stay.

We have to rethink the whole thing. How do we make this work for us? Could this new world of work hold any advantages? Are there opportunities to be had here?

Traditionally a job has meant getting to the workplace at 9.00am and leaving at 5.30pm but how well does that model actually fit with our lives, particularly women’s lives?

For many women, especially those who have caring responsibilities, the traditional work model falls far short of what they need to make it work in the real world.  Fitting within scheduled hours can be difficult if you have a child or elderly parents to support and even harder if you are a lone parent.  For those who have been away from the workplace for a long time it can make the prospect of returning to work especially daunting.

So, what do women really need to make it easier for them to return to work and can they really benefit from this new era of flexible employment?  At Belina Consulting we know they can.

Flexibility is of real importance if we are to truly harness the many skills and talents that women in the workplace have to offer and Belina’s own employees are proof that with a flexible outlook and attitude it can really work. All of Belina’s staff share more than just a knowledge of what it takes to juggle the responsibilities of parenthood with the world of work.  We also share a drive and determination to make work “work” but in a way that fits in with our lives and allows us the space we need to fulfil a wide range of responsibilities outside of the workplace.

We fit our work around our lives but in order to do that there has to be an understanding and a trust in one other that we will each do whatever it takes to get the job done.  That might mean that we are working long into the night some evenings or rising at the crack of dawn some mornings but if it means we can be at the school gates at 8.45am and again at 3.15pm, attend Sports Day and Leaving Assemblies and be nurse when our children are sick then it’s worth it.

But how can an employer function in such a seemingly disparate way? It’s quite easy – it’s just a question of believing in your staff and recognising that people can offer so much more if they are happy and feel empowered. Feeling under pressure to perform within restrictive work patterns and constantly juggling responsibilities can leave women with the feeling that they are never really giving 100% of themselves to any one task.  Women don’t want to have to choose between giving their all to their job or giving their all to their children.  By just being a little flexible there’s no why reason they can’t do both.

Of course, suitable and affordable childcare is crucial to allowing parents to return to the workforce. From September this year the provision of free hours of childcare will be extended: all working families (providing both parents earn the equivalent of 16 hours on the minimum wage per week, and less than £100,000 per year) will be able to use a total of 30 hours free childcare a week for their three and four year old children. 

Until this extension is rolled out, we will not know its true cost and impact. However, concerns over funding arrangements have led to uncertainty over how childcare providers will react – will there be sufficient funding, will providers be able to absorb the costs, or will they opt out of the scheme altogether? These are issues that will remain to be seen and, whilst in principle the provision of 30 hours free childcare should prove beneficial to working families and those who are most disadvantaged, we would like to see a more comprehensive solution that would ensure that all low-income families benefit from the extra hours and gives those with younger children greater flexibility around when they return to work. 

In the meantime, the digital revolution is enabling us all to work in a different way. Email, mobile phones, Skype, Facetime – all are allowing people to work well remotely, without the need to enter an office, without the need to be at a desk from 9.00-5.30.

The new world of work poses an attractive proposition for women by creating almost limitless possibilities for them to create the types of jobs that they want, jobs that allow them the freedom to think long-term and adapt with the changing needs of their families, to get connected again and above all, to take control of their lives.

Work in Progress 

Liz will be running a ‘Talking Table’ at Work in Progress on 25th April in Birmingham on the '50 Year Career' and what it means for employability that women now have to work from 18 - 68. 



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Posted By Rob Slane, Head of UK Marketing, Emsi, 16 April 2017
Updated: 05 April 2017

Sainsbury review: 'Why mapping technical routes with labour market demand will be crucial'

By Rob Slane, Head of UK Marketing, Emsi

If the new system really is to have the intended effect, understanding the actual demand for the jobs to which the new technical routes lead will be vital, writes Rob Slane, head of marketing at Emsi.

If all goes according to plan, the recommendations presented in the government’s post-16 skills plan will come into effect in 2019. Drawing on the recommendations of the report of the independent panel on technical education, better known as the Sainsbury review, the proposals are designed, in the words of the then minister of state for skills, Nick Boles, to enhance technical education and build "a dynamic, high-quality technical option, which is grounded in engagement with employers, fits soundly with the rest of the system and is responsive to the changing needs of the economy.”

To achieve this, the Sainsbury review recommended a much simplified system, where instead of the current system of over 13,000 qualifications available for 16-18 year-olds, there would be two basic options – academic and technical – and within the technical option "a common framework of 15 routes is established which encompasses all employment-based and college-based technical education at levels 2 to 5.”

According to the post-16 skills plan, the new system is designed to "prepare individuals for skilled employment which requires technical knowledge and practical skills valued by industry. It will cover college-based and employment-based (apprenticeship) education, building on our apprenticeship reforms…employers will sit at the heart of the system and take the lead in setting the standards. Crucially, standards will be designed by considering what is needed to move to skilled employment and then working backwards.”

The idea of working backwards is basically a call to replace a supply-led system with a demand-led one, but if this is to be achieved and technical routes are to be established as being more in line with the real needs of employers, it begs the question: "How do we know what those needs actually are?"

Future job prospects

The answer to this question is to map the occupations within the 15 routes to labour market demand, enabling us to identify trends, current jobs and forecast data for each route (we should say that although the routes have been proposed by Lord Sainsbury, the final routes may differ a little when they are implemented by the government). The graphs below show this exercise at the national level, with the first of the three showing the demand for each of the routes (green line), in comparison with the demand for all jobs throughout the country (blue line):

Job growth projections are not, however, an especially good indicator of job demand. The reason for this is that in addition to actual job growth, there is a constant churn within occupations. For instance, if someone retires and the organisation replaces them, the total number of jobs does not increase, but the number of openings goes up by one. The graph below shows this dynamic, not only showing the total number of openings in each of the Sainsbury routes, but also a breakdown between job churn (replacement) and new jobs (expansion):


Another useful exercise is to compare the number of openings with the current number of jobs in each route. What this does is tell us where some of the biggest needs are, relative to the current size of the workforce. So whereas the previous graph told us that the biggest number of openings is in the business and administrative route, the graph below shows us that relative to current workforce, the recruitment needs in hair and beauty and social care are larger:


However, it is when we get down to the county or unitary authority and even local authority level that all of this moves out of the realm of being an interesting academic exercise to one which can really be of practical use. For instance, just to pick one route – business and administrative – and one region – Hampshire (including Southampton and Portsmouth) – we can do the same exercise as we have done above to tell us that:

  • The number of occupations in the business and administrative route in Hampshire is currently 65,946 and set to grow by 2,614 jobs from 2016-2022
  • Total business and administrative openings in Hampshire between 2016 and 2022 will be around 19,561, of which 16,947 will be replacement jobs and 2,614 new jobs 
  • Openings in business and administrative occupations in Hampshire from 2016-2022, as a percentage of 2016 jobs, will be 29.66 per cent, of which 25.70 per cent are replacement jobs and 3.96 per cent new jobs

One further exercise we can do is instead of just looking at the broad technical routes, as we have done in the figures and graphs above, we can delve into the individual occupations within the routes to pick out trends. For instance, looking once more at the business and administrative route in Hampshire, we can pick one of the occupations – management consultants and business analysts – and do the same exercise as we did above for the broader technical route:

  • The number of management consultants and business analyst occupations in Hampshire is currently 4,939 and set to grow by 245 from 2016-2022
  • Total management consultants and business analyst openings in Hampshire between 2016 and 2022 will be around 1,594, of which 1,349 will be replacement jobs and 245 new jobs 
  • Openings among management consultants and business analysts in Hampshire from 2016-2022, as percentage of 2016 jobs, will be 32.27 per cent, of which 27.31 per cent are replacement jobs and 4.96 per cent new jobs

'This can be done'

The hope for the new, simplified system of technical routes, according to Mr Boles in his foreword to the post-16 skills plan, is that it will “bring training for young people and adults in line with the needs of business and industry” and that this will “drive up productivity, which has lagged behind in this country even as economic growth and employment have improved”.

However, if the new system is really to have the intended effect, understanding the actual demand for the jobs to which the new technical routes lead will be vital. What we have demonstrated above, firstly looking at the national level, and then with a brief snapshot of a more local and regional level, is that this can indeed be done.


Rob Slane, Head of UK Marketing


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