Making it work: the European Social Fund - European Union Committee Contents


European Social Fund inquiry: visit to hardest to help support provision at Tomorrow's People Trust, 3 December 2009

The Members of the Sub-Committee that visited Tomorrow's People Trust were Baroness Howarth of Breckland (Chairman) and Lord Inglewood. Kate Meanwell, the Clerk to the Sub-Committee, and John Bell, the Specialist Adviser for the inquiry, were also in attendance.

Tomorrow's People Trust is a charity that has been established for 25 years and works to tackle the cycle of unemployment. Its ESF-funded project is located in the East of London and is targeted at the "hardest to help", such as lone parents, the over-50s, participants with disability or health problems, ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed. It has been in operation for 18 months, and is part of the London Job Centre Plus (DWP) co-financed ESF programme, under Priority 1. The project started in July 2008 and will run until July 2011, with ESF funding of £1,550,000.

The Sub-Committee was met by Margaret Strickland (Local Operations Manager, Tomorrow's People Trust), Chris Dunne (DWP Contract Manager), Sam Shearer (Head of Marketing Department at Tomorrow's People Trust), Greg Mavroudis (Employer engagement team, Tomorrow's People Trust), Steve Swan (Director of Welfare to Work for Tomorrow's People Trust), Paul Salisbury (Lancaster Office Cleaning), Sharlene DeCourtney-Odle (District ESF Manager for City & East District), Matt Price (Short Term Limited) and Graham Flooks (Short Term Limited).

The visit began with an overview of the Tomorrow's People Trust's work in Bow under its ESF-funded LO4 project, that is "hardest to help support provision", a large part of which involves motivational work and confidence building with the participants.

It was reported that there is no distinction between which parts of the project are financed by the EU and which by the UK. It is comprised of two main strands - "ready to work" which targets the long-term unemployed who could quickly be moved back into work with a little training; and "care to work" which is predominantly aimed at lone parents and provides them with the necessary qualifications to work in the care industry. Participants can engage with the programme for up to 19 weeks in a one year period, and can leave and return during that time.

Chris Dunne, commenting on the distinction between ESF supported activity and national mainstream programmes, felt that the ESF contract was able to work more actively around employers' and participants' needs. He suggested that the provision from Tomorrow's People Trust was a more approachable option for people, which worked much more closely with clients in comparison with the New Deal, which operated more systematically.

Sharlene DeCourtney-Odle highlighted that unlike some other national programmes, participants did not have to be in receipt of Job Seeker's Allowance to be eligible for the ESF-funded support. Chris Dunne echoed this point, stating that the ESF-funded programme filled the gap between signing on and the New Deal, and after leaving the New Deal, when participants would not be able to re-join for 18 months. It was felt that this enabled more "joined up" provision and kept beneficiaries in touch with the possibilities of employment and training which they could not otherwise access.

Steve Swan estimated the participant cost per job at £5,000 which he thought was an appropriate level of funding for those furthest away from the labour market. Chris Dunne emphasised that the objective of the programme was to make people more employable as well as to secure a job for them and reported that so far the project had met the district's expectations quite well.

Project specifications and bids

In discussing project specifications, Chris Dunne reported that the DWP District outlines key areas of a programme that it would like to be addressed within the overall scope of the relevant co-financing plan, in this case the first funding round of the London Job Centre Plus plan for 2007-2013. Most recently for the City & East London district these were care work and provision for New Deal leavers, with the focus of the round being the hardest to help. It was reported that the percentage of different client groups expected (such as ethnic minorities and lone parents) is set at the National level in agreement with the EU.

From the provider's perspective, Steve Swan stated that upon seeing a specification advertised, they would analyse how it fits with the Trust's mission, what needs to be achieved, and how realistic the targets are. The Trust also looks for opportunities where it can deliver the model that it has found to work and tries to make it a demand led process by researching employers' needs. In the most recent commissioning cycle, the Trust bid for four programmes, two in London and two in the west of England. The Trust's no-bid rate is about 75%, and the success rate when it does submit a bid is about 60%.

Co-financing provision

Steve Swan felt that co-financed funding was a double edged sword. He highlighted the advantage of the Trust not having to find match funding itself, but thought that the previous system whereby SRB (Single Regeneration Budget) and ESF match could be used together had worked well and brought benefits by co-ordinating ESF with SRB provision. He highlighted the Getting London Working project as an example of this.

Another change discussed under the provision of co-financing related to how the funding is divided. Whereas under the previous programme the organisation received the funds if it demonstrated that it was fulfilling its obligations under that project, there are now two aspects to this, with a management fee and an output-related element. Steve Swan reported that with some commissioning strategies the Trust had decided not to bid for the provision because the split between the two entailed too much upfront expenditure and risk for the provider. For the current LO4 programme there is a 50/50 split between the management fee and output related funding, whereas with some projects Steve Swan and Chris Dunne confirmed that this could be weighted as a 30/70 split.

Responding to the suggestion that future ESF programmes might target only the poorer Member States with funding, Margaret Strickland felt that there was real poverty in the UK and that much of it was hidden. She stressed that there are people in the UK in need of the support that the ESF provides.

Adaptability of the programme

Sharlene DeCourtney-Odle commented on the usefulness of the ESF contract in delivering tailor-made training that could be adapted according to the needs of participants, albeit within certain parameters. Margaret Strickland emphasised the evolutionary nature of the project and its ability to change in response to new ideas, needs and external stimuli. Examples of this included the creation of a customer service course, the addition of food hygiene to the "care to work" course, and of CCTV training to the security package. These changes were made after discussion between the provider and DWP and financed from the discretionary fund in the contract.

Work with employers

The importance of employers in the work of the programme was emphasised by Margaret Strickland, who highlighted the relationship between Tomorrow's People Trust and Lancaster Cleaning Company, which employs just over 4,000 people nationwide. The two started working together several months ago, and the Company has since trained 200 participants and employed 50, of whom only four have not continued in employment. Margaret stated that the Company provided people with the potential to progress once they had started work with the organisation and stressed that the sustainability of this employment was an important factor in its success.

In this context, it was highlighted that Tomorrow's People Trust provide in-work support to participants for six months across both LO4 (hardest to help support provision) and LO5 programmes (pre-employment and in-work support). This includes regular dialogue with the employer and the employee, which Margaret Strickland and Paul Salisbury felt enabled small problems to be resolved before they escalated, aiding the retention of staff.

Paul Salisbury explained that the Lancaster Cleaning Company's involvement with Tomorrow's People Trust followed its establishment of a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee. He highlighted the high turnover of staff in the industry and stated that they were now matching the right people with the right jobs. He also commented on the positive attention the relationship received from clients, who were keen to be associated with the work.

Another company recruiting some of its staff through the ESF-funded LO4 programme of Tomorrow's People Trust is Short Term Limited, a recruitment company in the construction industry which is based in the same building as the Trust. This company has been working with the project for 6-8 months. Matt Price explained that he had not realised the use they could have from the Trust in filling vacancies. He explained that Tomorrow's People Trust can facilitate various aspects of training for them too, such as the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card and security training. Paul Salisbury underscored the importance of this, stating that it used to cost Lancaster Cleaning Company over £1,000 to train an employee.

Graham Flooks highlighted the cost of training as a barrier to many wishing to return to employment. For example, with Security Industry Authority (SIA) training it can cost over £300 to obtain the relevant card, which he felt would be out of many people's reach. He identified a particular problem in the construction industry where there have been a number of redundancies. Whereas previously many of these positions did not require a CSCS card, it was explained that this may not be the case with new positions in the industry, following the implementation of CSCS across the board. Pre-employment checks were another area where it was felt that the programme benefited employers.

Regional Issues

The primary barrier identified for the project was that it can only help those within the defined District, and the Trust has had to turn away prospective participants because they did not meet this requirement. Chris Dunne recognised that people in other areas should be able to find support locally but stressed that there was a motivational aspect to it, whereby people might not want to go back to the programme they had come from.

Paul Salisbury commented on the regional approach, recognising that Lancaster Cleaning Company had a model that works well in getting people out of long term unemployment and into work, and emphasising that national agreements along the same lines as that with Tomorrow's People Trust would be welcome.

The project

Members looked at the support being provided to people using the Trust's services. This included people using the computer facilities to search and apply for jobs, training sessions in customer care and a motivational project. Users mentioned that they received more time and attention from the project than they would get at a Jobcentre Plus. They were also positive about the ability and opportunity to work alongside others and foster peer support. One participant felt that the programme had built their confidence and particularly appreciated the professional advice they had received and the way things were tailored to their needs.

Members also spoke to some of the advisors who carry out one-to-one support with participants. They stated that they were getting 40-50% of people into jobs and thus meeting their targets, notwithstanding the current recession. It was explained that upon registration, participants have an initial assessment of their needs and are given an individual action plan with targets.

9 December 2009

European Social Fund inquiry: visit to Pecan, Elephant and Castle, London to discuss the project "Step Up", 3 December 2009

The Members of the Sub-Committee that visited Pecan were Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord Wade of Chorlton and Baroness Young of Hornsey. Alistair Dillon, Policy Analyst to the Sub-Committee was also in attendance. The Sub-Committee was met by Michael Bradford (Contracts and Quality Manager, Pecan), Steve Rawlins (Deputy Director), Andy Tuck (Fundraising Officer), Ellen Fung (Youth Programmes Manager), Mark Smith (Youth Training Manager), Tope Chiedozie (Step-Up Caseworker/Trainer), and Lucy Masters (Step-Up Caseworker/Trainer).

The project aims to help 14-18 year olds to gain new skills and prepare for employment. It is targeted at those that have been excluded from school, have excluded themselves prematurely from school or been referred by a school. The courses offered are both accredited and non-accredited, so while some of them see the young people gaining an officially recognised qualification (such as the European Computer Driving Licence), the non-accredited courses are often simply designed to improve the confidence of the young people by awarding them an in-house certification upon course completion or providing a taster of courses the young people might be interested in studying, such as photography. The project started on 1 September 2008 and is due to finish on 31 July 2010. It will receive £1,012,100 of ESF funding and is co-financed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The cost of each student per year is around £1200-£1400.

Members had an opportunity to see the computer facilities available to participants and were photographed by those learning photography skills. There followed a structured exchange of views with participants and with project managers.

Views of the participants

The participants were supportive of the project, considering that it adds value compared to their experiences within mainstream education. They also stated that they would recommend their friends to attend. One participant, who learned to touch-type through the project, indicated that she had benefited particularly from the advice available from her mentor which had enabled her to identify a course that she might then pursue at college.

Another participant, who had undertaken a photography course, noted that there was important value in securing a qualification in order to obtain a job in media. He considered that it would not have been possible to secure the qualification without the support of the project.

The emotional support provided by the project was particularly welcomed by one participant. Previously out of school, she has now finished an English course and is currently training for the ECDL. In her view, she would eventually have made progress without the course, but over a much longer period of time.

Another participant, who had been excluded from school, welcomed his course in touch-typing which he didn't feel he could have completed at school, and he considered that the one-to-one attention available at the project was a particular benefit.

Views of the project managers

The dominant theme from the managers was that the "hard outcomes" (number of participants, achievement of qualification) necessary for the release of funds do not reflect many of the "soft outcomes" which offer the greatest benefits to participants.

The "soft outcomes" highlighted included: the provision of advice; the development of confidence; the ability to work with others; regular attendance; distance travelled (for example, simply attending might be a huge development for one person, relative to another person's achievement of a qualification);

It was agreed that it was more difficult to put a financial value on soft outcomes although, as each young person is already assessed against individual goals set with their own case-workers, it was considered possible. It was thought that tutors would usually know if a young person was on a "meaningful journey" towards employability.

As regards co-financing, they considered that the rigid criteria for projects have deterred some small organisations from getting involved, including those with which Pecan might have worked.

Managers noted that they use volunteer mentors to stay in contact with young people after they have left the project. None of this follow-up work is funded.

There was some discussion of the evaluation requirements, which were considered to be onerous. It was the provider's view that all of the paperwork undertaken is to claim the funding, with no other benefit accruing to the organisation itself. There is some audit undertaken by the LSC and by OFSTED.

Pecan considered that the main benefit of a youth project such as this is the one-to-one attention that cannot be provided by mainstream education. It was thought that the ideal contract length would be three years, to be extended to five years if appropriate, rather than the current two years. It was reported that at the end of each contract period, the organisation faces possible redundancies.

9 December 2009

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