Wouldn’t it be great to be able to show the value of every pound invested in projects to support unemployed people into work?
You could easily see which types of initiatives brought about the best results. It would also make it easier to attract more funds if you could positively demonstrate the value of interventions.
Well, one housing association has. It believes that every £1 it has invested in supporting its unemployed residents to develop their skills and find work is worth £5.67 in terms of reducing benefit claims and rent arrears, and improving tenant wellbeing.
The Chief Executive of Ashram Housing Association told The Guardian that measuring the impact highlights how quality of life for residents can be improved.
So why is a social housing provider getting involved with employability support, and is Ashram unusual in the work that it is doing?
The majority of housing associations have developed, or are in the process of developing, initiatives to support residents who are unemployed. Some are working independently via their own employment support staff whilst others are partnering with local training providers and colleges.
And there are numerous reasons why it makes sense for them to get involved.
Figures published earlier this year show that 20% of people in social housing are unemployed, notably higher than the national average.
There is the very practical benefit of residents increasing their income by working and being in a better financial position to pay for their accommodation.
There are also wider benefits in terms of employment enabling increased spending in local shops and services which can help to improve prosperity within the whole community.
Some would ask why a resident would access this type of support from their housing provider. However, for many it is easier than seeking out help from elsewhere.
Most housing providers have active tenant participation and support schemes in place which have established relationships with residents. This can lead to an easy and seamless referral to employment support.
Much of the support offered by housing associations is delivered within the community that the resident lives in, making it logistically easier to access than other delivery points.
Residents may also feel more comfortable accessing support in an environment which is more familiar to them, like their local community centre.
The support provided by this type of initiative varies. Some are providing workshops and advice on interview skills and job searching, while other are offering help with training and skills development opportunities to help boost CVs.
And a growing number of housing association projects have identified the need for high-quality information, advice and guidance to underpin their activities to help residents find sustainable employment.
A growing number are using online resources like Adult Directions to help their residents identify which occupations suit their skills and interests and help them to plan a route into a new career.
Adult Directions offers a cost-effective way of helping residents take the first steps to sustainable employment.
So, it seems that at a time when publicly-funded employment support initiatives are facing criticism for not showing significant progress in addressing the number of people who are out of work, housing associations are finding a winning formula that everyone can learn from.