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‘We Care Academy’ Leeds City Council  

This case study forms part of the Care and Health Career Academy toolkit which provides guidance for those who want to establish their own career academy. It was commissioned by the North West Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (NWADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA).

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Leeds City Council has a clear focus on the social care workforce, its aim is to support the social care workforce to have the best skills, founded upon high quality research and evidence that improves the health and wellbeing of the people of Leeds. In order to deliver an effective, skilled social care workforce in Leeds, the DASS has invested in the organisational and workforce development team to deliver a range of services including:  

  • The We Care Academy  
  • Continuous Professional Development of the social care workforce  
  • Leadership Academy  

The We Care Academy was established in 2013 by effective collaboration between independent sector providers, Job Centre Plus and education partners to create a single, joint up approach to delivering values based attraction, recruitment and setting a solid foundation for retention.  


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. It is economically diverse, has good innercity transport links and has high levels of employment. In this context, recruiting to social care requires creative approaches and an emphasis on the benefits of working in the sector, for example, values, flexibility, making a difference.


The We Care Academy has a particular focus on recruiting people into the social care sector in Leeds. The We Care Academy sits within the local authority and the team works alongside the commissioners allowing them together to effectively support workforce, market shaping and development across the city. The We Care Academy model brings together the council, Leeds City College, Job Centre Plus and care sector employers to deliver high quality staff to support the most vulnerable people in the city. For staff wanting to work in the city they are supported to find roles that work for them.

Alongside the partnership working with Job Centre Plus, Leeds City College and social care providers that exists to support the development of a high quality social care workforce, the We Care Academy works with the newly formed Leeds Health and Care Academy to support the delivery of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Their aim is to build ‘one Leeds workforce,’ where people employed in health and care can work as if they are one city-wide team. ‘One workforce’ is about better ways of working to benefit the people of Leeds, including those who work in health and care.

Purpose of the academy

The purpose of the academy is to attract people with the right values and behaviors to work in the social care sector, to link people with prospective employers and to enable employers to support and develop their workforce. Ultimately ensuring high quality support for people using social care services and contributing to the economic development of some of the most disadvantaged communities in Leeds, in line with the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy.

The We Care Academy delivers and supports the following areas of workforce development.


  • Sector based work academies (six weeks) national pre-employment programme aimed at people that may need more time and support to enter the labour market
  • Step into Care bite size academies (two weeks) local pre-employment programme aimed at anyone that is looking for a career in the care sector, including people not in work and not in receipt of benefits and people already employed in other sectors as well as those that live in the lower super output areas across Leeds and people that are furthest away from the labour market.
  • Apprenticeships (six week pre-employment programme open to all ages)


  • Careers fairs
  • Drop-ins in community spaces
  • Apprenticeship fairs
  • Pop-up information sessions
  • Values based recruitment assessment centres
  • Portable DBS and relevant recruitment paperwork to hand over to employers to speed up recruitment processes.

Retention or development

  • Induction
  • Continuous Professional Development and upskilling/reskilling
  • Leadership and management


  • Integrated apprenticeship model
  • Personal Assistant sector based work academy
  • I Care… Ambassadors Health and Care

With sector-based work academies participants are referred to the programme by Job Centre Plus and remain on benefits during the course and are able to access financial support for travel and childcare costs through Job Centre Plus. The We Care Academy also provide lunch vouchers for participants where applicable.

What the Academy does

Recruiting to the programme

The academy uses a robust values-based recruitment and selection process for entry to the programmes. They hold regular selection events where candidates’ complete:

  • A values based case study which looks at free writing skills and values
  • Literacy and numeracy assessments (minimum Entry 3 requirement)
  • ‘A Question of Care: a Career for YOU’ which is an online, interactive profiling tool for people thinking about working in the care sector.

If a person is successful within each of these activities they are interviewed by a panel from Leeds City Council and/or JCP+ and Leeds City College. This interview is usually on the same day and has a strong focus on values, attitudes and behaviours that are in line with that of the care sector.

For those people not suitable for the programme, for example they do not have the right level of literacy or numeracy skills, JCP+ will work with their customers and refer for additional support, candidates not registered with JCP+ are sign posted to Leeds City College who will work with them, in their community if appropriate, to help them achieve Entry Level 3. At this point they are able to go through the process again, ensuring Leeds loses as few people as possible from the sector. Only if the person’s values do not correlate with those of the sector are people rejected. This approach is based on the premise that you can teach people most things they need to know, but values are what makes the difference to a person’s day to day life when they are being supported.

Leeds City Council ensures the candidate has an enhanced and portable DBS certificate and request references in line with employer requirements. The council collates this information and the person’s employment history along with documents required under the Asylum and Immigration Act. All these documents are handed to the employer at such a point as the person is offered a job. Leeds has examples of people being offered a job on the Friday and starting on the Monday as a consequence of this approach. This combined with the supportive, people interventions, offered by the team ensure the maximum number of people move through the programmes into longer term employment.

As employment rates are increasing across Leeds the number of candidates available through Job Centre Plus have reduced. Leeds has looked at other ways of bringing people into the sector. This has included the development of a bite sized pre-employment course, two weeks in duration. This includes Cache (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care and Safeguarding Adults.

This is delivered by Leeds City College. The We Care Academy having tested and shaped this and are now delivering this on a monthly basis. The frequency of running the programme and the variety of providers now working with the Academy means people can flex around life issues, should they need to halt their programme for any reason it is easy for them to pick it up one or more months later. This programme is offered in community venues to increase engagement with people in their own place, it adds flexibility and relevance for candidates as vacancies are also targeted within these localities. It also acts as a strong branding message to the public “local jobs for local people, particularly in the economically poorer parts of the city

Work experience placement

The sector based work academy includes a four week work experience placement, the two week bite-sized programme involves a one week placement. The purpose of this is to support participants in developing their skills and confidence while having the opportunity to work in the social care sector and understand more about the job role. When on placement, learners are seen as regular employees as far as possible with the acknowledgement that they will need ongoing coaching and supervision. This gives the candidate a clear picture of what it is like to work in social care and provides the employer with an opportunity to assess the individuals’ potential. The We Care Academy matches the person, their values, their geographical location (no more than one bus ride) and their preferred area of work, for example, residential or domiciliary care, to the available providers, where possible. Providers taking part in the programme are required to ring fence a vacancy for the individual, subject to a successful interview. Encouraging providers to offer vacancies to the programme has become less challenging over time, as many providers now come directly to the academy for their staffing requirements. The academy receives positive feedback from providers on the quality of staff they employ through this route.

The work experience element of the sector based work academy has additional challenges when working with the Personal Assistant (PA) market. Leeds has addressed these by having a team of individual employers prepared to provide work experience, but rather than a guaranteed interview the participants are supported to join the Centre for Integrated Living (CIL) register. This is a PA register that people in receipt of direct payments use to find PAs or list their vacancies.


The academy delivers apprenticeships through the apprenticeship levy and is supported by Leeds City College. These are for the council internal staff and are also made available to social care providers through the councils levy transfer process. The We Care Academy is also exploring different ways of using or sharing the council’s apprenticeship levy and recently held an apprenticeship levy information day to engage and share information with non-levy paying providers.

Continual Personnel Development (CPD) and Upskilling

Leeds City Council provides bespoke programmes for local care providers to meet their workforce needs as well as CPD opportunities for professionally qualified staff through their endorsed Centre of Excellence Social Care Training Centre and the Leadership Academy. Leadership and management

The Leeds City Council Leadership Academy brings together the learning and development opportunities that support leadership and management across the adult social care sector. All the training provided through the centre is delivered through our Skills for Care Centre of Excellence, which means that it has to meet the rigorous quality requirements needed to achieve and maintain this status. This programme compliments, and sits alongside, the existing Leeds Adult Social Care training and development offer. Its overall aim is to raise the quality of care provided by supporting leaders, managers and aspirant managers.


In order to support the Leeds City One Workforce’ aspiration, Leeds City Council was a key partner, in conjunction with Health partners in the development of an integrated apprenticeship that included placements in both health and care. This programme is being re-evaluated in order to ensure that successful candidates are able to secure suitable employment opportunities once they have completed the programme.

What makes it work? 

  • Working with partners and understanding each other  
  • Shared/common goal/ win-win  
  • Relationships  
  • Can Do attitude  
  • Problem solving approach  
  • Knowing the providers, the needs and the local area/context of care  
  • Targeting localities  

What are the challenges?  

  • We are a small team with lots of ideas and solutions to the issues we see prioritising ideas  
  • Managing delays eg DBS. We have no control over this. However, making them portable helps people get into work quicker and move around the sector more freely  
  • When we first started it was hard convincing providers this could and would work, it’s not an issue now and many providers have an open offer of vacancies with the academy.  
  • Building trust and credibility at the pilot stage  


Leeds understanding of the ‘We Care’ Academies impact is primarily through stories and through the relationships they have, particularly with providers and key stakeholders. As well as receiving positive feedback, the fact that providers come to them for staff means the system is working.  

Follow-up indicates that previous candidates have stayed and some have progressed within the sector and some now becoming I Care… Ambassadors to support recruitment to the sector by sharing their journey into care.  

Based on figures for the We Care Academy, we had 80 per cent of candidates into jobs within the care sector.  

Under the umbrella of the We Care Academy, we launched the Step into Care Programme in January 2019 (Seeing Potential – Skills for Care), this is aimed at people that may be further away from the labour market/or face multiple barriers to employment. We have recruited 44 people into the care sector across the city under this programme. The people that we target through Step into Care can include but is not limited to those who may have health conditions (including mental health issues), long term unemployment or care leavers and carers.