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Leeds City Council, We Care Academy: Recruiting for values and working with local communities to increase the diversity of the workforce

This case study forms part of the publication, 'What good looks like: values-based recruitment in adult social care.' It shows the benefits of recruiting for values and working with local communities to increase the diversity of the workforce.

Key points

  • A multi-stage recruitment process aims to bring the best out of candidates and reach under-represented members of the community.
  • Strong links have been developed with local communities to attract people into care roles, while positive relationships with providers enable candidates to be placed with suitable employers quickly.
  • The impact of the recruitment campaigns has been captured through a combination of data and personal stories, to illustrate the full impact on people’s lives.


Leeds is a large and diverse city that like other cities has pockets of deprivation as well as a significant number of people who use social care. Leading job sectors include digital health, data and medical technology. Leeds is economically diverse, has good inner-city transport links and has high levels of employment.

What problem did you seek to address?

The We Care Academy was established in 2013, sitting within the local authority in Leeds. Its aim was to improve recruitment and retention in adult social care across the city through collaboration with independent sector providers, employment and education partners. In 2014, the Academy won a Skills for Care award, and a “winner of winners” accolade, for its work.

The team was conscious that the profile of its workforce did not fully reflect the diversity of the community. From its inception, the team wanted to widen the talent pool, not just to address workforce challenges, but also to target under-represented groups and people from the most disadvantaged parts of the city:

It was important to us that our workforce reflected the multicultural demographic of the city. We also wanted to reduce the barriers for people from diverse communities coming into the sector.” A We Care Academy representative

What did you do?

The team developed a multi-stage process to recruit to a broad set of social care values – such as being kind, caring and compassionate. These values reflected the principles and beliefs of people working across the wide range of external social care providers as well as within in-house teams. 

A helpful test when developing their values was to ask the question, ‘what sort of person would we want caring for our own family?’:

The values are key, because we can give candidates the rest of the knowledge, the training, the development, the policies, the procedures, but we need the right people with the right values supporting the most vulnerable across the city. So that’s what we look for in every person that comes through the door.” A We Care Academy representative

Removing barriers

A key principle to the approach in Leeds has been to remove some of the barriers that stand in the way of people when considering applying for a care role, particularly when English is not their first language. They removed the standard application form, and instead asked people to contact them for an initial conversation to understand what they are looking for, what kind of role appeals to them, and what their ambitions are. Those initial conversations probe for people’s values, while also providing jobseekers with a real-world picture of what the role entails:

What’s really important during those conversations is that we, as a team, are reflecting those values that we’re looking for, like clear communication, setting expectations of the role, having an open and honest conversation…warts and all.” A We Care Academy representative

Interviews are conducted as informally as possible, primarily as a means of getting to know the candidate as well as possible, and to bring out the best of them – “there are no trick questions”.

Probing for values

Candidates are asked to complete the A Question of Care online profiling tool, which asks how people would respond to a number of video-based scenarios using multiple choice options. This is followed by an information and assessment day, which includes a case study example in an area of care candidates are interested in. This helps to understand if candidates hold the same values by identifying areas of concern in the case study and how they might respond in these situations.

Candidates are then invited to a values-based interview, to gain a deeper understanding of what is important to them as individuals. The team probe for informal experience in particular, recognising that candidates often don’t think these experiences would translate to a career in care:

A lot of people think they've not had experience of working in the sector, but they don't realise, for example, that they've raised a young family. And there's so many transferable skills from that into this sector. Some people say ‘I’ve just been a mum’, but that means organisation skills, communication, multi-tasking, working under pressure…” A We Care Academy representative

Going into the community

The team targets their recruitment activities by going out into the community, rather than expecting people to come to them. They visit community centres, mosques, and run recruitment fairs in areas where vacancies are highest. The feedback is that people are more comfortable in their own environment, certainly during the initial contact, rather than visiting a corporate building, often several miles from their home.

Who was involved?

  • The information and assessment day is supported by a pool of care workers that reflect the wide range of backgrounds within the workforce – “being able to relate to other people, and see people from your community in those job roles, is really important”.
  • The whole team supports the values-based interviewing process on a rotating basis, to reflect back the values they are looking for in candidates.
  • The team visits schools, academies and recruitment fairs to talk about their role, what it entails, and to break down some of the perceived barriers and preconceptions.
  • The team works with the Skills for Care’s I Care… Ambassador programme which is hosted by the Leeds Health and Care Academy. The team has created several case studies profiling Ambassadors like Devon, to show a real-life journey into a career in social care.

What was the impact?

  • The team collects data to capture the impact of their work, which shows that 50 – 60 per cent of candidates that come through the process and have completed a work experience placement are offered a job with the host employer.
  • A recent recruitment event resulted in 800 referrals, 350 interviews offered on the day, and 10 job offers on the day alone.
  • More recently, the team’s focus has been on demonstrating impact through stories and case studies, as “that really highlights the difference you can make.” For example, the team interviewed someone who experienced several challenges following her arrival in the UK. From a values perspective, it was more important that the candidate was open and honest about their past, than the nature of the issue itself:

If she’d gone to anyone else, she’d probably have been turned away… but we looked past that. We did the risk assessment, had the necessary support in place, and she was successful in being appointed to a role and she’s still there now. She’s an amazing person.” A We Care Academy representative

What makes it good?

  • Starting small: The team began with just a single person running the information sessions, but grew larger in response to ever-increasing demands from their local social care providers.
  • Recognising talent and spotting potential: The multi-stage process draws out transferable skills and values from candidates from across all of their experiences, even if they themselves don’t see them as relevant.
  • Keeping people engaged: The team has developed strong links with local communities to attract people into care roles, and uses a range of mechanisms between information sessions to stay in touch with jobseekers. 
  • Relationships with providers: Having positive relationships with providers enables the team to place candidates with suitable employers quickly.
  • Capturing impact: Taking a broader approach to capturing impact, combining data collection with creating narratives, testimonies and personal stories.

Further information


Leeds City Council


Shahida Mahmood
Organisational and Workforce Development Business Partner
Leeds City Council
Email: [email protected]

June Rollins
Senior Organisational and Workforce Development Business Partner
Leeds City Council
Email: [email protected]

A further case study on the We Care Academy forms part of our Care and Health Career Academy toolkit.