Employment initiative is more than just a work in progress

Date 7.10.2020

A University-backed return to work initiative saw 170 people get back into employment and resulted in a £1m+ social impact boost to the economy.

Working Progress is a national project which provides funding to organisations who steer people from ‘difficult to reach’ groups toward employment, such as those who are over 50 or have a disability and have struggled to get back to the place where they are confident to start seeking a job.

An evaluation has found that, between August 2019 and July of this year, Working Progress Northamptonshire resulted in a number of benefits to participants in the programme as well as partner organisations, such as local charities.

The social impact value for the project during that period was £1,110,876. This includes a £143,381.87 reduction in welfare payments and increases in £44,000 (tax) and £44,966 (National Insurance).

The project helped participants and partner organisations who employed them in the following ways:

  • Improved relationships: Strong relationships with the delivery partner and other programme participants, which ensure programme participants are empowered to build relationships that help to reduce social isolation.
  • Increased wellbeing: Support and positive relationships, which enable programme participants to feel empowered, leading to increased self-confidence, self-esteem, and social skills.
  • Increased individual self-efficacy: Self-efficacy improves programme participants confidence and motivation which increases the chance of finding employment.
  • Increased abilities in job searching and general employability skills: Improved digital and technology skills, English language skills, knowledge of creating a curriculum vitae, and interview management increase programme participants employability.

Feedback from participants who took part in the project’s evaluation include:

“It’s made me more outgoing. I’m not so much afraid to tackle things now because I know I’ve got people behind me to help me” and “They have time for you, that’s what I like about this programme, they have a lot of time for you. It doesn’t matter what time of their day it is, they’re there to support you.”

Working Progress Northamptonshire has been co-delivered by the University’s Research and Innovation directorate and partner organisation Commsortia since 2016. It is match-funded by the European Union and the National Lottery Community Fund.

The University’s team worked behind the scenes using their expertise to help local organisations not used to working with the EU to put in bids for Working Progress funding, in turn helping build organisations’ capacity.

They acted as a ‘safe pair of hands’ managing this process, giving oversight and providing assurances to the over-arching Working Progress project that everything was running correctly.

Dr Claire Paterson, Senior Researcher in Social Innovation and Impact*, led on the research into Working Progress Northamptonshire. She said: “Aside from the obvious financial benefits such a scheme can bring it’s the real, human stories of achievement that give Working Progress resonance and, we hope, a lasting legacy. For some, even getting to the point where they could ready themselves to re-enter the job market was an achievement and to read their heart-warming stories of progress to that point has been reward enough.”

This report is for phase two of year one. Working Progress is continuing to support participants in Northamptonshire until December 2021.

*Find out more about our Institute for Social Innovation and Impact’s work.