Helping address the issue of employment in the UK
This is the second blog in our series exploring how funding from The National Lottery Community Fund helps people find employment, and also how we promote employability to people furthest from the job market. Here, I want to expand upon the wider look at our employment funding in the last blog and focus on one of our key employment programmes, Building Better Opportunities (BBO).
Following party conference season and the Chancellor’s spending review and budget, the government is now starting to share more detail on what the levelling up agenda may look like, with the white paper’s publication creeping closer. Moreover, given the involvement of figures such as Andy Haldane and Danny Kruger MP in the newly established Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, there is certainly potential for a big role that civil society can play.
The Prime Minister is clear that talent is found in all corners of the country. But the opportunity for that talent to thrive in their home community isn’t available equally across the UK.
For people to reach their potential, and allow them to stay in the regions they come from, there must be a solid social fabric and a strong economy. The two are ‘mutually reinforcing’, and together help create vibrant places in which people can thrive. Not only does there have to be jobs, but meaningful opportunities to keep talent in these areas and pride in place.
How we build better opportunities and support UK employment
Much of the work we do as The National Lottery Community Fund revolves around strengthening communities and providing valuable assets to groups of people to forge better communities, but we are also empowering the opportunities side of the equation through programmes like Building Better Opportunities (BBO).
The BBO programme funds a variety of projects, ranging from those improving employability for the most disadvantaged, helping those with multiple and complex needs, to improving financial literacy.
It focuses on 38 specific geographical areas in England with high levels of unemployment and has shown how this wider approach to helping people on their journey to employment can make a long-term difference and play a part in rejuvenating these local economies.
Since beginning in 2016, the programme has been able to improve the employment chances of over 127,000 beneficiaries, of which roughly a quarter have been young people and just under half have either suffered from long-term health conditions or have a disability.
To show the fantastic work BBO does in different regions across the UK we have picked three examples to expand upon. Firstly, operating across the Tees Valley, is Step Forward. This BBO project offers a multi-faceted partnership which supports participants with issues like mental health and well-being, isolation as well as digital and financial skills.
Through Step Forward, people like Susan have been able to increase their skills to help them compete in the job market for positions they want. Susan benefitted from completing courses to build her confidence as she was worried about her epilepsy and stammer. She has also volunteered with Citizens Advice to gain practical experience. This is largely the approach aimed for by Step Forward Tees Valley, as they recognize that it’s often necessary to rebuild people’s confidence to put them in the best position to capitalize on work experience.
The partners all work with them in different ways, from one-to-one counselling to a gardening project but the thing they all have in common is a focus on building self-esteem and confidence and supporting the person to take control of their life. This often means dealing with some of the basics around day to day living first. For example, we have supported people to move into decent accommodation or access the benefits they need to feed their family. Through BBO, 3% of participants had been able to improve their housing situation, 21% improved their financial situation, and 12% felt they were able to be more involved in their community. All these underlying factors can complement job skills and set participants up for long-term success.
Another example of this kind of project can be found at Greater Lincolnshire’s MOVE project in Grimsby, where advisors offer one-to-one support to participants, helping to identify their ambitions, and plan to achieve suitable roles. Participants receive a wide range of training and qualifications, while employability support includes CV writing, help with applications and practice interviews. Support is ongoing after participants start work, volunteering, or training.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight some of the work we are doing the South of England, specifically at the Sussex Community Development Association. They have set up ‘Let’s Get working’, a project which offers support and advice to people with long-term health issues and disabilities. Support staff work with people like Belinda to reflect on their CVs and help those who might not know where to start with the job-hunting process after leaving a long-term job. As well as the support in this way, Belinda also benefitted from picking up new skills while volunteering with a local hospice in their day care service. Following some interview preparation support, Belinda was helped into a position as a Passenger Assistant for a taxi company, accompanying children with educational or behavioural needs, to and from school.
All three of these are just some small examples of the work that the National Lottery Community Fund is doing to help people into work, through our BBO programme but also through our wider responsive and small grant funding as well. Helping individuals like Belinda, Susan, and thousands of others to find work and at the same time building the communities they live in.
Civil society’s role in tackling unemployment has been mutually beneficial, with many of the above programmes encouraging participants into volunteering opportunities, and them in turn developing new skills to move forward with their careers. It also gives those out of work a chance to be active in their communities while building confidence and developing new skills to adapt to the ever-changing jobs market.
We are proud at The National Lottery Community Fund to be working in this space and playing a role in helping people into work, to learn more skills and confidence, and to support communities to grow stronger. If you would like to hear more about the work we are doing in Employment, or about our wider funding, then please do get in touch.
 Onward, Turnaround, p.27