Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire Kickstart partnership reaps rewards

In 2020, Routes To Work partnered with Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL) and agreed to act as an intermediary for Third Sector organisations who were working with VANL.

The Kickstart scheme is a £2bn UK Government Scheme which provides funding to employers to create new 6-month job placements for young people aged 16-24 who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The purpose of the partnership is to help develop core and employability skills to enable sustained change and be better equipped for future employment.

VANL co-ordinated the Third Sector employers interest and involvement, while liaising with Routes To Work . After applying in October 2020, Routes to Work received confirmation of being successful as a Kickstart Gateway organisation for the third sector in December.

The final application was submitted, with 13 employers offering 36 vacancies for young people. We received our official Grant Agreement in early January confirming that 10 out of our 13 employers had been successful (32 vacancies).

This partnership has meant that not-for-profit employers have been able to participate in the scheme and offer young people opportunities that they would otherwise not have been able to.

No One Left Behind – from National to Local

Following the signing of a Partnership Working Agreement for Employability in late 2018, the Scottish Government signalled its continued joint commitment with COSLA to move towards a local partnership approach to the design, commissioning & delivery of employability services that reflected local circumstances and service demand.

This involved the formalising of 32 Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs) which would be required to reflect the diversity of organisations involved in the employability environment at each local authority level and who would become responsible for local decision making.

Since 2018, we at Routes To Work have delivered our specialist Case Worker provision, providing dedicated support to local residents who are at risk of being left behind as the economy recovers and grows – including individuals who are facing housing and homelessness issues; young people with mental health challenges; older workers (aged 50+); and residents from Black & Minority Ethnic communities across North Lanarkshire.

Since inception, this programme has assisted a total of 265 clients from such backgrounds to enter employment, many of whom could not have envisaged this life-changing experience prior to engaging with the service. We have also helped some 77 individuals being supported into work even during the period of lockdown and remote working across the entire 2020/21 year.

We have also some 77 individuals being supported into work even during the period of lockdown and remote working across the entire 2020/21 year.

Young Persons Guarantee

The Young Person Guarantee, formally launched in November 2020, set out an ambitious plan to support all Scotland’s young people to have a prosperous future. The Guarantee committed that within the next two years, every 16-24 year old in Scotland would either be in paid employment for a period of between 12 and 24 months, enrolled in education, actively involved on an apprenticeship or training programme, or engaged on a formal volunteering or supported activity programme.

£60m was allocated by the Scottish Government to support the initial response and included £30m for Local Government to be focussed on those groups of young people with existing barriers to entering the labour market.

At Routes To Work, we developed a series of complementary service interventions to support this ambition, and with funding support from North Lanarkshire Council, introduced an enhanced Case Worker service for young people from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds including those experiencing mental health challenges; young carers; those from the LGBT+ community; school leavers without formal qualifications; and people who had engaged with the criminal justice system.

Under the programme, additional targeted activities include the provision of sector-based routeways which deliver personal development, skills and vocational training programmes to support young people to access jobs available in growth sectors locally (construction, logistics, care etc). It also includes a targeted transition training fund to provide investment in industry-related training and accreditation for young people facing redundancy as a consequence of the pandemic, which is designed to support their quick return to the labour market.

Despite activities only being launched in the last quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, over 100 young people were supported through these initiatives – with 11 entering employment by the end of March.

These programmes will continue throughout the course of the 2021/22 operational year, with the intention of supporting another 600 or so young people in their quest to secure a job, training, an apprenticeship or enter further and higher education.

Despite activities only being launched in the last quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, over 100 young people were supported through these initiatives – with 11 entering employment by the end of March.

A brighter future for North Lanarkshire parents

Life as a parent comes with the joy of raising children; but it also brings significant challenges for those also trying to secure stable employment to help pay the bills – or even keep a roof over their heads.

Routes To Work has played a key role in 2020-21 in delivering support under the Prospects For Parents (PFP) programme, part of Scottish Government’s ‘Parental Employability Support Fund Programme’ in North Lanarkshire, to provide intensive support to help low-income parents find work and to progress careers for those already working.

The PFP programme uses a number of strategies to help struggling parents, including case worker and employability worker support in finding fulfilling employment opportunities that secure their health and wellbeing – as well as generating a living wage with which they can learn to budget and maximise the family income.

This past year, Route To Work has helped change the lives of parents in North Lanarkshire through various bespoke interventions to assist and meet their needs. Among the activities, we have run an online Friday Peer group and laughter therapy, as well as mindful parenting sessions. Parents have had access to our online workshops with our skilled trainers to help with their confidence, wellbeing and mental health. And crucially, we have organised training to help develop skills from Sage accounting to food hygiene.

During 2020-21, after registering 100 clients through the scheme, Routes To Work has helped 17 unemployed clients get a job, and supported 13 clients to progress in their existing jobs. This has proved to be as lifeline for parents who – without such support – could continue to face a range of issues including childcare challenges, homelessness, financial worries, addiction or trauma.

Confidence brings opportunity for Chelsea

It’s a big enough challenge to be a young single mother today without the extra burden of keeping yourself employable in the job market.

A client of Routes To Work – Chelsea Macdonald – found herself in exactly this position when she came to us struggling with mental health and low in confidence. After spending some time easing Chelsea into a better frame of mind, her case worker was able to advise on some positive coping strategies which would help in her journey back into work, as part of the Prospects For Parents (PFP) initiative.

Her initial fear of change was hard to break. But with support, our team was able to the take small steps needed with her to join a peer group for parents online and open up to other like-minded people – something she now participates in regularly.

This prompted a further opportunity to support Chelsea in working on a fresh CV that reflected her skills and attributes, many of which could be transferable to a number of sectors. Her confidence growing daily, Chelsea’s Routes To Work case worker then set about securing job interviews for her. Though it was clear that she was initially reluctant at times to take the leap, we worked through her concerns and anxiety, and were able to source training that would help her gain certification virtually. As a result, she has been doing her Health & Safety, COSHH and her Food Hygiene in Catering.

“I’m so grateful for the help as I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone.”

Chelsea is now showing a different mindset, and is committed and ready with employment-related activities. Even Covid lockdowns didn’t prevent her having over six interviews in two weeks, and she has since secured the Domestic Assistant role she really wanted.

Throughout this journey, with some tough love and lots of support, the Routes To Work team is delighted to see where it has taken Chelsea, who herself says: “I’m so grateful for the help as I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone.”

Exceptional Contribution to Teamwork

Clyde Valley Housing Association annual report showcasing some of our work by sharing a story on one of our shared clients.

A small glimpse of some of the success RTW have had since partnering with Clyde Valley Housing Association.  Joyce, one of the RTW Specialist Caseworkers, shares the experience of the fantastic partnership built with CVHA to support the most vulnerable in our communities.