2021 has been another big year for MOTW as we’ve continued to work through the impact of the pandemic and settle into our ‘new normal’. We’ve pulled together during some challenging periods which have included staff shortages, changing guidance and adapted delivery approaches. Yet despite all of this, our staff have remained enthusiastic, resilient, and dedicated to delivering the best service possible to our participants.
MOTW delivery was due to end in December 2021 and close by February 2022, however in April 2021, we were awarded additional funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund which allowed us to extend delivery to March 2023 (with the programme closing by June 2023). This is fantastic news not only for our staff who have had their contracts of employment extended as a result, but also for the local communities we support.
MOTW are set various targets by the programme funders, and we’ve broken these down into the following sections to help explain our progress and highlight our successes:
MOTW have a target of 3154 participants starting on programme between April 2017 and September 2022. At the end of November 2021, the cumulative number of participants starting on programme was 2752 of which an impressive 414 started in 2021 alone. Our performance against this target is firmly on track, and we’re confident in our ability to surpass the total requirement of starts by the end of programme.
We also have a target for the number of participants who achieve an employment related result by the time they leave the programme, which is 1350 between April 2017 and March 2023. At the end of November 2021, we have supported an amazing 1170 participants to move into training and education, employment, or independent job search (against a target of 1350 between April 2017 and March 2023). 200 of these results were achieved in 2021 alone, and we remain firmly on track to achieve the target set by our funders for end of programme results.
As well as reporting on results, we also report on a number of ‘outcomes’ participants achieve whilst on programme. We have met the cumulative targets for two of these outcomes with 1307 participants leaving the programme feeling their work readiness had increased (of which 269 were in 2021), and 1290 leaving the programme feeling their health & wellbeing had improved (of which 254 were in 2021).
Despite the continued challenges, particularly earlier in the year, we have continued to work with referral partners, stakeholders, and other employment support programmes in the area to promote the support MOTW provides and ensure referrals and results remain steady moving forward. We’re delighted with our positive performance at this point in the programme and this is testament to the hard work and commitment of all MOTW staff.
However, our success is measured by more than just numbers! We’re delighted to share the following positive performance measures and achievements of 2021:
To help reduce the digital divide in our region and remove access to technology as a barrier to engagement, throughout the course of the year MOTW continued to provide equipment such as laptops or smart phones to those participants that would not have been able to engage with the programme without it. We also had the opportunity to refer any participants who lacked digital skills to our charity partner VODA’s Digital Champion Outreach Programme, which helped people to make the best use of their devices. One such participant was astounded at the progress he made, and he said:
I’m really pleased with it; it’s made the world of difference and I’m quite proud of myself!
Mental Health and Financial Barriers:
At the end of 2020, we identified that more and more participants were presenting with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and / or debt and benefits worries as a direct result of the pandemic. This made it difficult for them to engage with the programme effectively. We therefore procured some Mental Health & Wellbeing support from the Wellbeing Challenge, and Financial Capability support from Oasis Community Housing to take us to the original delivery end date of December 2021. This support was brought in to help our participants move past their financial and / or wellbeing barriers and continue positively with their journey towards employment and has been extremely well received by participants and staff members alike.
We asked 16 participants who had attended a Mental Health & Wellbeing course for their feedback, and they all commented that they enjoyed it and felt like they have benefited as a result of going on it. One participant said:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course. It’s really manageable and I’ve learnt some really good skills that I can work on myself in everyday life to overcome obstacles
As a result of participant feedback we asked our staff what they thought of the courses on offer, and everyone agreed that both provisions should continue. One staff member said the following about the Financial Capability support:
When being able to refer to the Financial Capability support it gives us peace of mind that our participant will be supported with their extra needs and allows us to concentrate on goal completion and helping remove work and training barriers
We’re now taking steps to continue providing this support in line with our new delivery end date of March 2023.
Another valuable step on the employment journey is volunteering, this helps people to develop a routine, consider their appearance and presentation and get used to workplace etiquette and expectations. Volunteering is not one of the Results targets set by our funders and is therefore not reported on formally, however our staff work incredibly hard to identify suitable opportunities and placements for participants who are keen to pursue volunteering, which often has a positive impact on their end result. We therefore felt it was important to record how many of our participants undertake volunteering opportunities while on programme so Volunteering is now recorded as an Outcome, with performance shared internally via monthly performance reports.
The Gatekeeper’s Garden:
The Gate, Newcastle’s premier leisure destination, launched an urban garden project in October 2017 with the aim of bringing new skills and volunteering opportunities to people across the city. The Gatekeepers Garden project started by inviting young people from across Newcastle to design and create a new living wall and garden on Jacobins Chare. It was believed to be the first ever biodiversity graffiti wall at the time, and the living masterpiece has proven a huge success since its creation. Towards the end of 2020 The Gate made the decision that the maintenance of the garden going forward would be the responsibility of a chosen charity. This charity would send groups of volunteers on a regular basis to ensure the upkeep of the space and in return the volunteers would benefit from getting outdoors in a safe environment, learning transferrable skills, and having the satisfaction of seeing the garden flourish. We are delighted that MOTW were selected as the first chosen charity for The Gatekeepers Garden – it’s been a fantastic opportunity for both our participants and staff, and since our MOTW volunteers started work there in the summer the Garden has really flourished!
MOTW is subject to audit by our funders and these audits come in two forms – planned quarterly audits by the National Lottery Community Fund, and randomly selected audits by the European Social Fund which can be on expenditure only (Article 125) or on expenditure and participant files (Article 127). As well as our regular quarterly audits we were subject to three A125 and one A127 audit this year. Preparing for the audits often takes some time as we need to review the sample being audited, request supplementary information from partners wherever we find gaps, and collate the information in a format ready to submit to the auditors via secure file transfer. The Programme Management Team worked hard throughout the year, supported by our Admin & Compliance Officers, Senior Navigators and Delivery Partner Managers, to ensure all the required information was submitted to the auditors as requested. Whilst there were some queries and adjustments required because of the audits held in 2021, with some recommended areas of focus moving forward, generally our audit results were very good. We view audit feedback as a learning opportunity to ensure our processes and procedures remain fit for purpose and continue to support partners to comply with funders guidance in the best way possible.
We’ve welcomed 20 new members of staff to the programme this year, including Navigators, Admin & Compliance Officers and Programme Administrators. Everyone has settled in well and are already making a huge difference to the lives of our participants. When asked why he’d chosen to come and work for MOTW, Leon Kettle, a Navigator who joined our Gateshead team said:
I joined MOTW because I’m passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. The caring, dedicated and inclusive nature of the team motivated me to start working here and everyone has made me feel very welcome
While most of these new staff came into vacant existing posts, some came into newly established posts – in 2021 we increased our staffing resource by 3.5 full time equivalents, which allows us to support even more people moving forward.
Of course, the introduction of new staff means we’ve also said goodbye to a number of colleagues this year, some of whom had been on MOTW since the beginning… but the time was right for them to move onto new challenges, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work on MOTW and wish them all the best in their future endeavours!
MOTW staff continued to work remotely at the beginning of the year in line with government guidelines but as the restrictions began to ease, where possible and necessary, we moved back to our offices for some of the working week. This has really helped teams get back to working closely together and encouraged staff to share knowledge, challenges and best practice with colleagues as well as catch up on paperwork and compliance.
Staff Events & Workshops:
An MOTW All Staff Event was hosted in December 2021. We had originally hoped to hold this in person however due to rising local cases of coronavirus and news of the new strain of the virus being diagnosed in the UK, it was decided to move the event to Microsoft TEAMs instead. This didn’t dampen our spirits though!
The virtual event allowed MOTW staff to get together and have some fun to celebrate the successes of the last year. The agenda comprised of an opening round up of 2021 from Adam Crampsie, Chief Executive of Mental Health Concern, our Lead Partner. That was followed by a look ahead to 2022 by our Programme Manager, Nicola Barraclough, followed by some quizzes and games with a prize, donated by Mental Health Concern, awarded to the winning team. We received some lovely feedback about the event with comments such as:
Very well organised, the variety of topics, the splitting of the teams and the clear effort the organisers had gone to
I really enjoyed the event, team moral was good, the CEO of Mental Health Concern was very passionate and it’s good to have that behind us
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
As well as the end of year event, we held four virtual staff workshops throughout the year. These workshops are a great way for staff members to network with external services and referral partners, and one another. They’re a great opportunity for staff to learn more about what local providers can offer our participants, ask questions, and get a good understanding of the support on offer in the region. We’ve welcomed guests such as a Senior CV Writer from PurpleCV, a Manager from the National training provider System Group and our very own Darren Tate who founded Suitability. Feedback has been really positive and we’re looking forward to hosting more workshops throughout 2022.
You Said, We Did:
Throughout 2021 the effects of the pandemic continued to take its toll on MOTW staff, and whilst our partner organisations put initiatives in place to ensure staff were supported appropriately, the Programme Management Team were keen to help too. A colleague survey was therefore issued in February 2021 to identify any pressure points and areas of concern staff had, ask for ideas to inform future delivery, and enhance on any areas where we were doing well. Questions included asking whether the communications received about the MOTW programme were enough, whether more training was required for staff members and what people liked/disliked about working on the programme.
We had a really positive response rate, and all responses were collated into an action plan with meaningful actions assigned to the Programme Management Team to deliver throughout the course of the year. These actions included creating new TEAMs channels, updating process guides, organising regular file audits with feedback shared across the programme and delivering a series of Staff Workshops.
There were 15 areas of feedback we allocated actions to overall, and we’re pleased to share that all but one action was completed – the outstanding action (a request for Mental Health First Aid Training) is being carried forward as a priority into 2022. As previously mentioned, we have seen a high turnover of staff members throughout the course of the year, so the decision was made and communicated that all Mental Health First Aid Training would be organised in 2022 to allow our new members of staff to settle into post before taking advantage of the training.
Next year will be our last full year of programme delivery, and we’ll continue to deliver the high quality, exceptional support we’re known for, to the people who need us.
Blended Delivery Approach:
As we move into the new year, we’ll continue to deliver a blended approach to our participants, carrying out some appointments face-to-face but others via digital methods – we assess every appointment case by case and will continue to put our participants needs and preferences first.
We’ll also continue to work in an agile way, meaning staff members will work from both the office (so long as it remains safe to do so) and their home address depending what best suits their day.
We forecasted a significant underspend on our budget by the end of programme – as well as continuing to ask staff to utilise the participant expenses to purchase eligible items that add value to the participant journey, we also sought ideas for how the forecasted underspend could be used to further add to the participant journey without duplicating support or services already out in our communities. Ideas were submitted by staff across the programme and included the introduction of work readiness workshops, on-street marketing / engagement to attract economically inactive referrals, a green carbon literacy wage subsidy scheme and even a participant minibus!
We need to make sure any new developments are eligible under our funders’ guidance, so early in the New Year we will be considering all the ideas put forward and, for those that we think fit well within the guidance, will be working up further with the aim of implementing for a years’ worth of delivery before the programme ends.
Extended Mental Wellbeing & Financial Capability Support:
We will finalise plans to continue the Mental Health & Wellbeing and Financial Capability support until the end of 2022, and we’ll prepare for our referral window closing in September 2022 by continuing to build our networks and enhance our relationships with our referral partners, GPs, and other community services to create a lasting legacy for the programme and the invaluable support provided to the people of Tyne & Wear.
Cross Cutting Themes:
We are already mindful of ensuring we embed our funders Cross Cutting Themes (Sustainable Environmental Development and Gender Equality & Diversity) into the work we do, with some teams starting litter picking walks at the end of 2021 to not only help the environment but also support participant wellbeing and social skills. However, there will be more focus on these themes in 2022, to ensure we continue to balance environmental, social, and economic considerations and continue to treat everyone equally, in a meaningful way, when designing and delivering our programme activities.
To support us to achieve all our end of programme targets, we’re planning a large Out of House marketing campaign in 2022 to encourage Tyne & Wear residents who need our support to get in touch. Watch this space for a radio advert, publications within local magazines and newspapers and our very own carriage card design across the Nexus railways, as well as our regular social media posts and updates.
You Said, We Did 2022:
We’ll continue asking our staff for their feedback, ideas, and suggestions so another colleague survey will be issued in Q1 2022. The results will help identify any key areas of action required to take us through to the end of
Closing the Programme:
As 2022 draws to a close we’ll be starting to put plans in place for closing the programme – such as moving our active participants as close to a result or outcome as possible before delivery ends, reviewing historical claims to close any gaps in information, undertaking closed file audits on all participant files, making arrangements for how and when the final claim will be submitted, and planning a final farewell event….
We’ll also receive our final evaluation report from the external evaluators Ecorys, which will outline the impact MOTW has had.
It’s been another challenging year, but we’ve had many highlights and achievements! We are remaining optimistic about the future, and whilst we’re sad to be approaching the last full year of delivery, we can’t help but feel proud of how far we’ve come, everything we’ve achieved and the positive impact we’ve had, and continue to have, on our local community.
All staff on MOTW have remained amazingly resilient and passionate about their work throughout 2021, and I appreciate their commitment and hard work supporting our participants to move past their health barriers and find work. I’m very proud of the progress the programme has made this year!
Nicola Barraclough, Programme Manager