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Jobs Plus – can a pilot project in the USA work for us?

In January, Communities that Work member Phil Bowley from GreenSquare Group attended a discussion on employment support at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in London.

The discussion looked largely at a unique American pilot programme called Jobs Plus and was introduced by Jim Riccio from research group MDRC with the aim to explore how a similar programme might work in the UK.

Here, Phil gives us his thoughts on the meeting, where it may lead and how Communities that Work might benefit from being part of UK-based pilot.

“The meeting was a lively, animated discussion about what the social housing sector does to help people find employment.

Jim Riccio explained to us the new Jobs Plus pilot in New York. It brings together different organisations to help create opportunities for people to gain access to the work market, using three key ideas:

1. Employment and training services: the creation of a local job centre in a district or neighbourhood which interact far more personally with clients.

2. New rent rules: incentives that help reduce rents temporarily to ‘make work pay’.

3. Community support to work: Building social capital and inter-relationships (including more resident-to-resident learning).”

Phil continues, “How does this apply to us? Well the general idea is to problem solve in new ways, to look at issues from new angles. By creating partnerships between local or-ganisations such as health, employment and housing to look rather more holistically at the issues and barriers stopping people being employed and create solutions to overcome them.

“The interesting thing here is that it is not an initiative that housing leads on. Housing au-thorities are not allowed to apply for their own funding. They need to be in a partnership with others.”

Another key concept discussed was the idea of ‘saturation’. Intervene with all and every-body including working people in that community.

So, can projects like this work in the UK?

“Jim went on to explain that the Accord Group in the UK have developed, on their own ini-tiative, a Jobs Plus style programme that includes:

1. Multi agency partnerships
2. On sites services
3. Community support for work
4. The idea of ‘saturation’
5. Financial counselling.

It’s possible that Accord’s work may go on to create a prototype for others.”

“There was huge appetite to learn more and explore the opportunities further – especially as programmes of this kind are in the beginning phases.

There’s an opportunity for Communities that Work to talk to MDRC and other key organisations about how we might be involved in future pilots in the UK and who knows, maybe we can begin some links with our American cousins and hear how it’s working for them.

It would be a big job to set up a pilot of this kind – but one that could reap huge rewards for our residents’ futures.”

For more information contact Phil: Phil.Bowley@greensquaregroup.com

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