Shadow Minister for Employment Nick Thomas-Symonds MP met people at a Salvation Army project who are receiving tailored supported to help them reach their full potential as they look for work.
The church on New North Road, Hoxton, runs an Employment Plus Local project where people searching for employment can find a friendly welcome and professional advice as they take part in job searches, are guided in creating quality job applications and CVs and are prepared for their return to employment.
Assistant church leader, Lieutenant Katy Hilary, is chaplain to the project and understands the importance of a supportive welcoming environment after experiencing unemployment. The lieutenant left university and, despite her degree qualifications, was unable to find a job. She was linked to a Future Job Fund project at Crook Salvation Army in Co Durham where she received a warm welcome and encouragement from staff as she began a role working in the community.
Katy said: ‘Searching for employment was a lonely and frustrating experience for me and taking up a Future Job Fund placement at The Salvation Army in Crook was a turning point in my life. I was surrounded by people who genuinely supported me and helped me as I rebuilt my confidence again.
‘At Hoxton Salvation Army we come alongside people as they try to find employment and are particularly working with those who have faced barriers in making their way back into employment or who have complex needs.
‘We help prepare people to become job-ready and to stay in work, help them identify any obstacles and support them as they overcome them – whether that’s building self-confidence, supporting them as they address housing or financial issues, helping with job-searching or offering guidance.’
Hoxton Employment Plus Local is open three times a week and offers employment support services on a voluntary basis to people in the local community seeking employment. The initiative started in 2010 and has been evolving ever since as the team works to meet the needs of the community in which they serve.
Jobseekers receive support in searching for jobs and employment skills such as writing CVs, filling in job applications or preparing for interviews. When each new client arrives, they have a welcome interview and are registered. Depending on their individual needs, the team works with them to create a plan based on the support they need. Each session is attended by around ten people.
Karel Vian is currently looking for work. She described to Mr Thomas-Symonds her own journey.
Karel said: ‘Coming to Employment Plus really helps my confidence while I’m looking for work. When my temporary contracts end, I return to The Salvation Army for support. They recently helped me update my CV – when I come I’m confident I’ll get the help I need.’
The Salvation Army has a long history of supporting people looking for employment. The concept of ‘work for all’ was an integral part of founder William Booth’s social programme, which The Salvation Army is committed to today. We deliver a number of government contracted welfare-to-work programmes as well as operating around 70 Employment Plus Locals.
Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ‘The Salvation Army has recognised a need in the community in Hoxton and is responding with its trademark sleeves-rolled-up compassion-in-action approach. Listening to people who have come today for help searching for work, I have heard about the challenges people have faced and how the Employment Plus Local initiative has provided a supportive community in which they can strive to overcome barriers to employment, irrespective of their starting point.
‘It is vital this important work can continue and I know there are questions about the new Work and Health programme that must be addressed so all employment support providers can plan for the future.’
The Salvation Army Employment Plus currently delivers a number of government contracted welfare-to-work programmes, including Work Programme and Work Choice. To date this has given us the opportunity to engage with around 8,000 people. We also operate more than 70 Employment Plus Locals in community settings with new centres opening on a regular basis. Akin to work clubs, these are initiatives led by our church and community centres where jobseekers can get information and guidance in a supportive environment. We also run a number of social enterprises to help people who have fallen on difficult times acquire skills, build self-confidence and prepare them for work.
In 2017, Work Programme and Work Choice will be replaced by the new Work and Health Programme. The new programme is still in the design phase, but we hope that it will offer fresh opportunities to provide much-needed specialist support to jobseekers who have disabilities and health conditions.
At the same time, we are very aware that the funding currently earmarked for the new Work and Health Programme is relatively limited at around £130 million a year for England and Wales. This represents an 80 per cent cut compared to the funding currently available for Work Programme and Work Choice. As a result, we are expecting to see an increase in demand for voluntary community-based employment services, such as those offered by our Employment Plus Locals.
The Salvation Army is responding to this challenge by growing its network of Employment Plus Locals and we hope that other charities, churches and faith groups will prepare similarly. However, this will be a drop in the ocean given the scale of the loss of government-contracted employment support. We are asking that there is greater clarity on the support that will be available to jobseekers who do not qualify for the Work and Health Programme and how this will be funded.