Suffolk County Council: Work Well Suffolk

Work Well Suffolk is a locally integrated coaching and employment service that tackles the deep-seated barriers to work for all who need it. The service acts as the ‘cement between the bricks’ of the health, employability, skills and wellbeing services that are available to people in Suffolk. It will ensure that individuals can gain bespoke and timely access to relevant services whilst blending in coaching, employability support, skills provision, advice and guidance.

The challenge

Work Well Suffolk is an ESF funded project that aims to reach around 2,300 people over a three year time span. It was initially implemented to provide employment, education, and training to residents of Suffolk, especially those with certain vulnerabilities e.g., those with long-term health conditions, mental health issues, learning disabilities or difficulties and autism. The project went live on 1 April 2020, which coincided with the initial peak of COVID-19. This led to many people shielding within the county and lots of businesses were forced to close to prevent the spread of the virus. This unprecedented situation resulted in people either needing to work from home until further notice, being furloughed from their employer or were made redundant.

Although the project was developed before the pandemic, Work Well Suffolk was able to support residents within Suffolk gain employment, upskill in areas that they may not have necessarily had time to focus on before and support individuals with self-employment once the pandemic subsided.

Since businesses have started to re-open since the lifting of restrictions, the Work Well Suffolk project has continued to support those hard-to-reach individuals by creating pathways for them to find support through voluntary and statutory sectors, increasing confidence and independence whilst navigating a new world of opportunities. The coaching service has also been able to restart face-to-face support that benefits most participants who prefer this way of working.

The solution

Work Well Suffolk adopted a person-centered approach to help those vulnerable individuals and ensure they have the correct support readily accessible in their local area. The Work Well Suffolk project has a specific 1-1 coaching service contracted by Realise Futures which supports the participants with a variety of barriers e.g., lack of confidence, mental health issues, uncertainty around creating a CV and applying for job opportunities. The coaches cover the whole of Suffolk which is split into three main sections: West Suffolk, Mid Suffolk and Babergh, Ipswich and Waveney & East Suffolk.

Work Well Suffolk strives to be a project that is flexible and broad to ensure that it can support a wide range of participants and their needs. Staff work out in the community to ensure that barriers surrounding employment, training, and education are removed and to ensure that individuals achieve their expected goals and achievements.

The impact

Work Well Suffolk is a free and voluntary service, and which has already had an impact on the residents of Suffolk. To date, there have been 1,148 participants (84 per cent of target) pass through the project since April 2020. Through the service, the council has helped participants into employment in the following industries: retail, construction, manufacturing and hospitality, whilst others have been supported into self-employment - such as wheelie bin cleaning, masseuse and dog walking.

How is the new approach being sustained?

To sustain the approach, the Navigators from the Work Well Suffolk project are working towards gaining personal relationships and improving collaboration with key contacts, across different sectors as well as maintaining an interest in their respective services and keeping abreast of developments and customer updates. Regular meetings are held to share ideas and evaluate the service to make improvements and shape the delivery of the service.

The services Work Well Suffolk is currently engaging in includes work coaches from DWP, Social Prescribing, Supported Housing providers, Access Community Trust, Community Action Suffolk, local colleges/higher educational facilities, local disability forums, Voluntary Access Statutory Partnerships (VASP) meetings and local food banks. Through this collaborative approach, the council is able to provide wraparound support to participants in the programme in order to ensure they are able to benefit from a range of opportunities that arise from these different services therefore allowing them to develop themselves personally and professionally.

Lessons learned

Although Work Well Suffolk has only been running for around 18 months, the council has recognized that a large proportion of its target audience do not have access to laptops. During the pandemic, the only way of communicating to participants was through phone, email or Zoom. It became apparent that more and more individuals were not able to access vital services due to them being in digital poverty. Work Well Suffolk was able to find a solution and secured 50 laptops that could be loaned out to participants on the project to allow them to be able to access training, courses and edit documents they needed. This has helped numerous individuals secure employment opportunities and to secure more qualifications through this scheme and the council plans to continue to loan these out as necessary to Work Well Suffolk participants.

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