Over the course of the pandemic, Ongo’s Employment Support team has continued to help and encourage thousands of local people into work.
From March 2020, the team has signed up and supported 542 people through various services and projects, including Sparc, Kick-Start, and Next Level Project.
Each of these projects have been designed to help local people achieve their employment, confidence, and life goals – such as the Sparc Enterprise project, which can help people set up their own business and be their own boss.
Some examples include:
- 367 people have been given mental health support and life coaching through Ongo Talk, Looking-Up and various other services
- 77 people are signed up to Ongo’s Next Level project
- 100 ex-offenders have been supported through Ongo’s Empower and Through the Gate project
- 132 people have been given general employment support, and 64 people have been supported through the Building Better Opportunities project
Hayley Cullen, operational manager at Ongo Communities, said: “It has been incredibly challenging to continue with the huge range of support we provide, amidst a pandemic, but I am really proud of every single team member for rising up to the challenge and being so dedicated.
“The way in which we deliver our services has changed and we’ve had to adapt to conducting video call appointments, online chats and socially distanced appointments when allowed.
“Regardless of these challenges, we have been able to sign up 542 people, 123 of which have gained employment and a further 94 have completed training that will boost their employment opportunities.
“Thank-you to all our clients who have continued to support us and allow us to help them. We can’t wait to see you all again in person.”
Naz Nazir, an ex-offender who has benefited from Ongo support, said: “Not many people have the time or consideration. We leave prison and we don’t know where to turn or how society might judge us, and that makes it difficult for us to get back into something that feels like normal life.
“Thank-you for the opportunities that BBO has given to me. I have been offered a job, I haven’t felt judged, and I now know that I have a chance to make my life good when I get home.”
Next Level project
Ongo’s Next Level project aims to help those who have successfully found employment to further develop their skills, so that they can progress and build a long term career and is part funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).
Amanda Barker, Ongo’s Next Level manager recalled one of the success stories. She said: “I first spoke to Gemma Donnelly in July 2020 – she wanted to be self-employed as a domestic cleaner and needed to get some qualifications relevant to cleaning.
“After working with me, she decided to take the plunge and go for her Level 2 in Control and Prevention of Infection through Adult Skills as well as a Level 2 Cleaning course.
“Along with completing her courses, Gemma began to put together a Facebook page and designed some posters, which she distributed around the local community.
“Her enthusiasm and passion for starting her own business was immediately evident, and she also received business support from Sparc.
“As with the team, Gemma developed an initial business plan, which included researching competitors, identifying overheads, and looking into pricing in order to create a tangible and sustainable business model.
“Based on the strength of Gemma’s business plan, she was then referred to North Lincolnshire Council’s Business team to apply for a new business start-up grant, which was accepted.”
Gemma Donnelly said: “Ongo were fantastic and quick to respond to my questions. I received great support from Amanda Barker, who kindly supported me in upskilling myself ready for my new venture.
“My business is now up and running, and I continue to receive support from Ongo in my self- employment journey.”
Gemma’s business is called ‘Sparkling G3ms’.
Mental health support
The Looking-Up and Ongo Talk team provide mental health support. They receive funding from the Department of Working Pensions and the European Social Fund (ESF) to deliver the intensive service, which is provided by Ongo’s dedicated small team of highly trained staff.
Fiona Wilkinson joined the Looking Up project in October 2020, having been referred by Job Centre Plus due to becoming unemployed after the family printing business fell on hard times.
As she worked in the family business and always lived at home supporting her elderly parents, she had no outside relationships and felt very self-conscious and stressed when meeting other people.
Upon learning this, Fiona was referred to coaching, and after a one-to-one interview, she engaged in the coach walks, where she met with other members of a small group.
She was then offered help in exploring different careers paths, where she expressed an interest in becoming a personal assistant.
From there, the team looked at the requirements and discussed training. That’s when Fiona was enrolled onto Dignity and Safeguarding Adults Level 2 and completed the first assessment with Adult Skills.
She was also helped in submitting an application for a Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS), as well as with updating her CV, which she sent through to Ongo’s recruitment team.
From this, Fiona has been contacted for a screening interview and has been put on the PA register awaiting a client match.
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