Manchester is helping long term unemployed people into work with a bespoke employment support program. Working Well, which has been running since 2014, sets up out-of-work people with coaches who assess their needs in all areas of life, linking them to services that help with mental health issues, family problems or housing, for example. By taking this holistic approach and partnering with other government bodies, the program has helped more than 500 people find work.
Results & Impact
According to its last assessment in March 2017, 4,684 people had enrolled formally in the program and 515 had found work.
Big Life, Ingeus, Greater Manchester Council
The program appointed one Key Worker per 40-50 participants, allowing them to create bespoke packages for each client that were drawn from a wide range of government services such as housing, medical services or family support. Greater Manchester local authorities selected providers the Big Life and Ingeus, organisations with expertise in employment support, to deliver the program.
Cost & Value
Since 2015, the program's budget has been approximately $130 million.
Running since 2013
Assessments identified several obstacles to the success of the project. Some 23% of participants left the program, partly due to changes to benefits categories. Working with people who had been unemployed for a very long period was also a challenge: those who had been out of a job more than six years were 76% less likely to find work then those who had been employed for less than six months.
Manchester has helped more than 500 unemployed people get jobs by offering them individual coaching and support that deals with problems outside of work, including mental health and family counselling.
The Working Well program, which was piloted in 2014 across Greater Manchester, targets people who are out of work, many of whom are living with a long-term mental or physical health condition. It sets participants up with a Key Worker who assesses their individual needs and helps them address problems in their lives, connecting them with appropriate opportunities and services in areas like healthcare, housing or training. To support the Key Worker, Working Well establishes fast-track connections these other departments in Greater Manchester.
By taking a holistic approach to preparing for work, the program is a new way to help participants to prepare to look for a job, explained Mat Ainsworth, Assistant Director for Employment at Greater Manchester. “Before provision was very much employment-focused, but there didn’t seem to be much support regarding other barriers to work,” he said.
Where in previous programs support workers would be allocated to participants at a ratio of 200:1, each Working Well Key Worker is allocated around 40 clients, allowing them to think carefully about their individual needs. “The Key Worker is somebody to build a sustainable relationship with clients during their journey into work,” Ainsworth said. “What we bring to the table as Greater Manchester is an infrastructure in which the Key Worker relationship can deliver.”
According to its last assessment in March 2017, 4,684 people had enrolled formally in the program and 515 had found work. Approximately 227,000 people are currently unemployed in Greater Manchester.
An interim report in 2015 showed that 60% of participants said they felt the program was having a positive impact on their ability to find a job. At the beginning of the program 45% of participants said they felt they were capable of finding and maintaining work, and after one year that had risen to 66%.
Common feedback included the view that Key Workers had improved participants’ confidence, “really listened” to their needs and gave them holistic support that took into account all aspects of their lives. Many participants were referred to the program by GPs, and suffered from serious mental health conditions and very low confidence. They required intensive one-to-one and long-term support in these areas to get a job.
“The result was to force those issues. There was a pathway to affect them, rather than them being ignored,” Ainsworth said. Connected, person-centred services allowed Greater Manchester to better tailor their offering, too. “It also helped to shape and inform local commissioning – we know what’s needed now.”
The current outcomes fall short of the program’s target of getting 20% of participants into work within a year and of 15% retaining work. But the results were skewed by the fact that some 23% of participants left the program, partly due to changes to benefits categories. When these numbers are deducted from the final cohorts, the percentage of participants who returned to work is more than the aimed for 20%.
Working with long-term unemployed people was also a challenge: those who had been out of a job more than six years were 76% less likely to find work then those who had been employed for less than six months.
Everyone taking part in the program is long-term unemployed and living with a physical or mental health condition. The help offered to jobseekers – intensive support in several areas of life, including family life, health, housing and debt management, as well as in skills, training and work experience – is available for up to two years as participants look for work, and a further year while they’re in employment. In many cases, clients said it was the first time they’d been successfully helped with issues like drug abuse or family conflicts.
Ainsworth believes the program was made possible by its local focus, and Working Well sprung from an observation that centrally planned employment programs weren’t working for Manchester. “The genesis for it was when we made the Greater Manchester Economic Strategy,” he said. “One of the things we realised was the Greater Manchester would never achieve its aim of being an economic powerhouse if we didn’t tackle unemployment and worklessness.”
“When we looked into the issue, we identified some important factors of failure,” he continued. “Because the programs were designed, managed and commissioned by a central government department there was no sense of local accountability and ownership.”
As well as rectifying that in the employment programs themselves, Working Well has additionally developed new government streams specifically targeted at the needs of participants. The program’s Talking Therapy service, for example, supports people who said mental health issues were a barrier to work. It is run by the National Health Service and refers participants to a psychological assessment and, if appropriate, treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling.
The program aims to have helped 50,000 people by 2019 when the current phase will come to an end. It’s now expanding its reach to other needy groups, such as single parents.
Working Well Greater Manchester local authorities selected providers Big Life and Ingeus, organisations with expertise in employment support, to deliver the scheme.
(Picture credit: Flickr/Grey World)