2020 has been quite a year, one as a nation we’ll arguably never forget. But despite the anxieties, worries and loss we’ve suffered as a result of the pandemic, MOTW have kept going, worked hard to support those who needed us whilst remaining positive and looking forward to the future of the programme…
MOTW were set various targets by the programme funders, one of which was to start 2055 participants on programme between April 2017 and June 2021 and as at the end of November the cumulative number of participants starting on programme was 2297 which has far surpassed the target. MOTW is one of the strongest performing BBO programme across the North East which is a direct testament to the hard work and commitment of all the MOTW staff.
When the first lockdown began in March 2020, we expected the number of referrals to drop, however we continued to support the 395 participants already on programme. Participants and Navigators moved towards digital channels for communication as they were unable to meet face-to-face. Whilst some participants welcomed the opportunity to chat online and over the phone, others struggled and MOTW were not only able to offer participants training and guidance but also provided them with the method to communicate by purchasing tablets. This not only helped them to maintain contact with us, but also helped them keep in touch with other members of their support network and access any benefits that had been moved online. Participant feedback throughout the pandemic was extremely positive as a result
I like the way they go out of their way to help you. Everything you ask of them they go above and beyond to get the information for you
Despite the drop in referrals, during the months of lockdown we welcomed 55 new participants, and were able to successfully exit 47 with a positive result (meaning these people reached their target of getting into employment, education or training or felt emotionally and mentally ready to independently job search). Monthly referral rates have steadily increased across MOTW since the first lockdown restrictions were eased, with the monthly numbers heading back to pre-COVID averages. However, there is a direct correlation between the regional lockdowns and tier announcements and the fluctuation in referral numbers which we hope will level out as we move into 2021.
We’ve welcomed 11 new members of staff to the programme, ranging from Senior Navigators to Programme Administrators and they have all took part in MOTW’s virtual induction. Meeting your new colleagues via video calls may not have been the most traditional start to employment, but they’ve all hit the ground running and are settling in really well.
All MOTW staff began working remotely in March 2020 in line with government guidelines, and whilst some of our offices opened back up in the summer the majority of us continued to work from home. Home offices were constructed in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and even a shed and the morale and engagement of staff fluctuated as a result. In December 2020, the Programme Management Team organised a virtual End of Year Event and all MOTW staff were invited to attend. Ran via TEAMS it was a great opportunity to get everyone together and have some fun. Scott Vigurs, COO of MOTW’s lead partner Mental Health Concern opened up the event and thanked staff for everything they had achieved throughout the year, summing it up with “The fact we are all still helping people to move towards employment is amazing”. The event comprised of quizzes and games, with staff members actively encouraged to get involved and we received some lovely feedback with 93% of staff who provided feedback stating we should organise more similar events next year!
I felt very valued and appreciate how much time and effort was put into this to make it as successful as it was, Thanks!
The pandemic took its toll on our participants, and conversations with their Navigators often turned to financial advice and mental health support. To help MOTW staff cope with these conversations and feel better equipped to deal with, answer and support participants MOTW offered each staff member the opportunity to attend a Mental Health First Aid course. This accredited course is designed to help build up emotional resilience and manage the wellbeing type conversations staff were dealing with on a daily basis.
Ran by Mental Health Concern, 18 staff members have already completed the course, with more dates added in 2021 for those who missed out. Those who attended were full of praise for the content, the delivery and the knowledge they absorbed but it was the feedback about the MOTW staff from the MHC trainer Catherine Goodfellow which really struck a chord.
The MOTW staff who attended the MHFA courses in November and December 2020 were a joy to work with – the groups were very respectful of each other and engaged well, contributing as much as they felt comfortable with.
MOTW successfully obtained a further 6-month extension to the programme delivery as a result of forecasted underspend, meaning we can now accept referrals until the end of June 2021 and support active participants until December 2021. This is a fantastic achievement, and one we worked hard to get approved! We’re looking forward to maintaining our momentum, continuing our work and making more life-long changes to the people of the region.
Following feedback from our Navigators, the Programme Management Team worked hard during lockdown to re-evaluate the programmes offer. Participants were relying on their Navigators for financial and mental health support, and whilst our Navigators have extensive experience and the ability to signpost participants to appropriate services it was felt that the journey would be less disjointed if MOTW could provide the necessary support themselves. We therefore secured two training courses:
Financial Capability Training.
Ran by Oasis Community Housing, the course was designed to help participants tackle debt or benefit anxieties, get a hold of their finances and set realistic budgets.
Mental Health & Wellbeing Training.
Ran by the Wellbeing Challenge the course is structured around supporting participants to build their resilience skills, understand whatwellbeing is and how it relates to them and giving them the confidence and knowledge to find specialised resources and support.
Feedback from participants has been really positive and the courses are scheduled to continue throughout 2021.
Our Employer Engagement Team (EET) have already started to assess and improve their offer. They recently reached out to businesses and organisations from across Tyne & Wear with the first issue of their online brochure called ‘MovingOn’ where they highlighted how MOTW can help them and how we can work together moving forward. Feedback has been really positive and further issues are planned throughout 2021.
The EET have also developed and launched a series of digital workshops where participants could learn more about how to complete online application forms, and how to be creative in their job searches by recognising their transferrable skills. Each workshop is a mixture of live debate, some pre-recorded training videos and activities to help the participants depending on their needs and aspirations for the future. This will continue to evolve over time in accordance with the participants needs as we focus on improving employability and building long and lasting relationships with the businesses of our region.
Our biggest referral partner since the programme began has been the Job Centre Plus, who continue to refer clients that match our eligibility criteria on a regular basis. In order to maintain this brilliant relationship, we’re looking forward to increasing our communications with the network next year as we introduce quarterly performance reports and work together to improve the number of referrals that commence onto programme.
It’s been a tough year, one we could never have predicted, and who knows what 2021 holds. As a programme we know where we’re headed – into our last year of delivery! And whilst that may seem sad, we need to think positively and make sure we help as many people as we possibly can whilst creating a lasting legacy of everything we have achieved so far. We have a lot to be proud of, a lot to be thankful for, and a lot we’re looking forward to.
I could never have imagined the challenges that lay ahead for the programme back in March, but one thing I never doubted was the MOTW staff. I’m so proud of how well they’ve adapted to our new way of remote working, and how creative and thoughtful they have been in keeping in touch with participants and encouraging them to keep engaging with employability activities. As a programme we have sustained our positive performance despite the challenges we faced as a result of the pandemic, and I’d like to extend a huge thank you to each and every member of staff for making that possible. Their dedication, compassion and excellent work ethic have all helped support out participants to face their anxieties and reach their potential. I’m looking forward to a brighter 2021 where we will continue working together to make a positive difference in our community and build a lasting legacy for MOTW.
Nicola Barraclough – Programme Manager