IGN in action

Supported employment in Barking and Dagenham

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Inclusive Growth Network

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A prevention-based approach to health, social and economic outcomes is key to reducing demand on local services now and in the future. A well evidenced route to greater personal resilience, independence and wellbeing is through supported and secure employment. But this requires a concerted effort to work differently at a systems level – connecting different service areas to employment and job brokerage support, and working closely with both employers and people.

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to work has the support to do so. The borough called on the Inclusive Growth Network to help deliver their long-term ambition of designing and developing a new supported employment programme for people with complex needs, driving forward their prevention first approach.

The Learning and Work Institute carried out a review of best practice from similar programmes elsewhere, led workshops with officers and stakeholders, and carried out interviews with users. This fed into key recommendations for the implementation of a new supported employment pilot, including which target groups should be prioritised and what support is needed for them to progress into employment. The programme focused on people with learning disabilities. At present, the employment rate for people with learning disabilities in the borough is 2.6% and the target is to increase this to the London average, currently 5.2%.

What next?

This work has acted as a catalyst for Barking and Dagenham to successfully bid for £350k of funding from the Department of Work and Pensions to deliver a programme targeted at residents with learning disabilities, autism, or both. The Council has committed a further £150k, including a new specialist employer engagement function to identify, engage and support more employers to offer flexible and supported employment opportunities for those with disabilities. London Borough of Barking and Dagenham hope to expand this programme in the future and this work has provided a robust framework for exploring other approaches, including a whole-household employment support, working with debt services.

Key learnings

  • Take a targeted approach and don’t try to do everything at once. It makes sense to tailor your programme to service areas where there is already engagement, existing relationships and infrastructure. Barking and Dagenham have started by tailoring the programme to residents with learning disabilities, but have also set up a trial approach in debt services, and are looking at moving on to supporting residents with mental health challenges.
  • Develop an evidence base to further embed the approach. Progress and impact can be used to build momentum, enabling schemes to develop in other service areas and amongst other cohorts. Showing why these approaches matter and their costs and benefits can underpin proactive approaches to funding and programme development.
  • Close engagement with employers is crucial. There is evidence that programmes that work with both the employer and the individual are more successful. Employers are more likely to continue to offer supported roles once the infrastructure is in place. Adjusting roles and putting support in place is a big ask for employers – helping them on this journey is vital.

This work has been delivered through fully funded IGN implementation advice – bespoke support, tailored to member needs, which helps to unlock projects that deliver inclusive growth.