Tackling unemployment and skills shortages in Merseyside

By Nick Stephenson, Riverside’s project manager for employment and training.

nickstephensonHAmagcropThis week the National Housing Federation released their Home Truths report, which not only revealed the cost of home ownership in the regions, but also the impact of unemployment and underemployment on people’s ability to get onto the housing ladder.

Nationally, 6.2% of working age people are unemployed. But in the North West, this figure is 7.1%, in Merseyside it’s 10%, and in Liverpool it is 12%, which means that more than one in ten people are out of work in the city. In addition, the government plans to cut tax credits, scrap child poverty targets, and remove support to help disabled people into work. All of these measures will impact on people living in our properties, which is why our work to provide training and employment support for tenants is as vital as ever.

As one of the largest housing associations in the Merseyside area, our work to help people secure jobs and training is part of a package of support to make sure that people can continue to keep a roof over their heads. Money advice, helping combat fuel poverty, making people digitally savvy, and employment and training support are services not traditionally delivered by housing associations, but crucial in times of austerity to ensure sustained payment of rental income.

Many of our neighbourhoods in Merseyside are characterised by unemployment and deprivation, that’s why, for the past five years we have been working in this area to get people into work.

This year we have helped 91 people in Merseyside secure jobs. Our Merseyside employment and training team works closely with tenants to provide the guidance needed to help get a job, gain skills, training or work experience. We already have a great track record, not only in supporting our residents to find work, but also in helping local employers fill their vacancies.

The team has a network of 15 job clubs in community venues close to where our customers live, in Anfield, Walton, Bootle, Halton, Runcorn, Dovecot, Belle Vale, Toxteth, Vauxhall, Kensington and Wavertree.

We helped Elise, who had been unemployed for more than eight years, regain confidence and escape the social isolation that left her feeling trapped and in despair. Our Merseyside team worked with Elise over a six week period, providing one-to-one support to help her build confidence, develop job searching skills, a CV and apply for jobs. We held mock interviews for her and gave her plenty of encouragement and support prior to interviews.

Elise was successful in securing a job in a support role, working with people with dementia in a residential care home. The first few weeks in a new job can be quite challenging for those who have been unemployed long-term, so support at this stage can help people stay in employment and adjust to the culture change of holding down a job. Throughout these first weeks we provided ongoing support, as well as access to budgeting and benefits advice. During this time, Elise completed an NVQ Level 2 Certificate. She now has more ambition, is confident and motivated and has adjusted to her new lifestyle.

Our training and employment services extend beyond Merseyside into every neighbourhood where we have properties, in a bid to continue to transform lives and revitalise neighbourhoods.