As the government prepares to end its COVID-19 furlough scheme on 30 September, Debbie Attwood, group director of People at ForHousing, discusses how the housing sector can use innovation and creativity to help people build new careers
Later this month, the government’s furlough scheme which has protected millions of jobs up and down the country is set to end.
A recent report from the London School of Economics estimates around one million jobs could be lost and one in 16 businesses are at risk of closure.
Many social housing tenants could be impacted as this new change comes in. Some will face being made redundant, some will have already been affected last year when the COVID-19 crisis hit.
These turbulent times have affected us all. I firmly believe that we have a responsibility across the housing sector to be innovative and creative in how we support people through this period.
At ForHousing we are passionate about making more things possible for more people.
This is reflected in our Wellbeing Strategy, which underpins all our work and commits us to a person-centred approach to providing stable homes; supporting prosperity and continual learning; promoting physical and mental health; and increasing community cohesion and digital connectedness.
Our drive to support people to build a better future for themselves hasn’t wavered throughout the pandemic.
If anything, we have a fresh resolve to ensure we empower and enable those who need it most to gain new skills, work experience, and long-term employment.
And we’ve been creative about how we’ve achieved this.
Our Bright Futures scheme offers a wide range of employment, education, and training opportunities and support for business start-ups.
In the past year alone, Bright Futures has helped 32 people to get into work or secure an apprenticeship, provided 26 work experience opportunities, supported 44 people to gain qualifications, and helped 24 new businesses launch.
‘Do Your Own Thing’
Our ‘Do Your Own Thing’ programme unleashes the entrepreneurs in communities. It helps people fuel their potential, explore possibilities and develop business ideas before embarking on self-employment.
To date, the Do Your Own Thing scheme has supported over 700 people and helped to create 182 businesses since it was set up in 2014.
Emma Harwood, 39, from Darwen, was working at a florist in Little Hulton, Salford when the previous owner announced her retirement.
With dreams of taking over the shop herself and expanding the business Emma was worried that, even with her floristry qualifications, her lack of business experience would be a barrier.
The team helped Emma secure a £500 grant and provided a wide range of advice on how to set up a business, along with further funding of nearly £600 during lockdown.
“One million jobs could be lost and one in 16 businesses are at risk of closure”
Emma said: “The financial and business support from Do Your Own Thing has been absolutely amazing. The grant enabled me to renovate the shop, put my own stamp on it and create a bit of joy on the precinct. I’m so proud of it.
“I had to delay my official launch last year because of lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped me working and welcoming new customers.”
She credits ForHousing’s Do Your Own Thing team for helping to push her to take a risk and follow her creative and business dreams.
She said: “This really is the best job in the world, I love it. I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve had from Do Your Own Thing and from local people.”
It’s great to see Emma’s business is now thriving, thanks to her having the support she needed to harness her passion and creativity.
Bright Futures also supports people who are out of work to gain new skills and improve their prospects through a range of initiatives.
These include the government led scheme, Kickstart, which creates new six-month job placements for 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment.
Aaronn, aged 25 from Salford, was on Universal Credit after losing two jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak. He found the Kickstart scheme gave him the chance to gain hands-on experience to build a real career.
He has now secured a permanent job with ForHousing and is undertaking an Institute of Occupational Safety and Health qualification to help him develop his skills.
Aaron said: “Every job you go for wants you to have experience, but it can be really hard to get it. The Kickstart programme helps break that cycle and helps you get the foot in the door at an organisation.
“Now, I am over the moon to have a permanent role as Health and Safety Administrator. I have a career that I can develop now and the support to do that.”
Research shows 43% of young people feel the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their long-term career prospects, so there has never been a more important time for us to do all we can to help young people follow their dreams.
At ForHousing we are always looking for ways to innovate and improve our employment, education, and training offer, to learn from and collaborate with partners and to share best practice.
It’s time for us all across the sector to get creative in supporting people of all ages to achieve their goals, gain new skills, and improve their career prospects – to ultimately strengthen the communities we serve.
Image: Debbie Attwood, group director of People, ForHousing
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