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Issue 8 Spring 06
Times, they are a-changing The new shareholder on the block Exclusive interview with John Hutton MP The truth behind those Aussie stereotypes
Changing Lives. Creating Futures.
For those of you who don’t know, Working Links was set up in 2000 to deliver the Government’s Employment Zones in some of Britain’s most disadvantaged communities. Since then, we’ve helped more than 63,000 people into sustainable jobs – and had a positive impact on the lives of many individuals and communities around the country.
08 Looking to the future: interview with John Hutton MP. We talk to the Work and Pensions Secretary about his new role. 12 Times, they are a-changing. We’ve just made some big changes to our company structure. Read all about it here. 04 26 16 Face to face. We bring together two people in a recent jobseeker’s success story. 20 The new shareholder on the block. Let’s take a closer look at Mission Australia. 23 Why we’re pleased to be the UK’s first PPVP. The Government has recently announced new welfare reforms – and we’re ideally placed to help meet their objectives. 26 An executive decision. Discover why the Government’s share in Working Links is no longer being managed by Jobcentre Plus. 32 34 30 Mixing work and pleasure. Should you or shouldn’t you? WL LIFE investigates the pros and cons of office romance. 34 The truth behind those Aussie stereotypes. Discover the fact and fiction in our European view of Oz.
03 Letter from the editorial team. 04 Upfront. A round-up of the latest Working Links news. 07 One minute interview. …with Oliver Halley from Mission Australia. 32 Partner profile: One Parent Families. 28 Vox pop: The secret of a successful business? We asked our Self-employment Consultants for their top tips. 18 I’d recommend this… We get people to recommend their favourite reading material. 38 And finally… …some bits and pieces to round off this issue.
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Editorial team Working Links Writers Ltd pHDesign Copywriting Working Links Writers Ltd Design pHDesign Art pHDesign Photography pHDesign Print ProCo Working Links Newton Business Centre, Thorncliffe Park, Chapeltown, Sheffield, S35 2PH www.workinglinks.co.uk
G’day, and welcome to our latest bonza issue of WL LIFE! Why the rather crude attempt at the Australian dialect you may ask? Well, it all ties in with our big company news: Working Links has recently taken on a new shareholder, an Australian charity called Mission Australia. They’re one of the largest employment service providers Down Under, and they now own one third of Working Links. We tell you all about it in this issue – why we’ve done it, and what it means for our organisation and the people we work with. Rest assured, Working Links is still very much focused on helping people back to work across the UK – and with a new shareholder on board, we’re confident we can make an even greater contribution to the Government’s welfare to work agenda. As always, there’s lots of other stuff to read too, including an article about Gail Weston, a 41-year old mum from the West Midlands who’s gone back to work after 20 years; a feature on office romance (should you or shouldn’t you?); and top tips from our self-employment consultants on how to set up a successful business. And finally, back on the Australian theme, we take a look at the truth behind those Aussie stereotypes. Is the whole of Australia really so laid back it regularly falls off its sunlounger (while being bitten by poisonous insects and casually wrestling a few crocs)? Turn to page 34 to find out. Enjoy the issue!
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Issue 8 - Spring 2006
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Issue 8 - Spring 2006: 03
Your round-up of the latest Working Links news
A brand new kind of jobhunting environment We think traditional office layouts can sometimes be off-putting – so we’re now updating ours to make them more informal and relaxed. Plymouth is just one of our locations that’s already had an ‘environment makeover’ – with new, open-plan offices which opened in Mayflower Street in the city last year. As well as a jobsearch area, jobseekers can now benefit from a café-style market place, inhouse training facilities and a constant care service which supports them once they start work. Helping to fill the construction skills gap Here’s the dilemma. The construction industry needs more skilled people. Yet many jobseekers, particularly older ones, don’t have access to construction training and job opportunities. “Young people can get free training through organisations like the LSC,” says Employer Consultant Sarah Triggs, “but older people aren’t eligible.” So in October, we teamed up with construction company Wates to run a two-week awareness event in Birmingham, specifically for older jobseekers. “They got to go on site visits, do their Construction Health & Safety test, and work on things like interview techniques,” says Sarah. “And at the end of it, they each got a guaranteed interview with an employer.” Four of the delegates have now been taken on, either by Wates or one of their sub-contractors.
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Off the streets and into work It’s a well-known fact that homeless people find it particularly hard to get work – so we’ve been working with Business in the Community to run a special programme called Ready2Go. After a two-day work skills preparation course, homeless jobseekers get to go on a two-week work placement with a major employer, such as M&S, Zurich, British Gas or HBoS. They then get six months’ ongoing job coaching. “The aim is to reintegrate unemployed homeless people back into the world of work,” says Alex Bradley who’s been running Ready2Go in Wales. “We’re also making major employers more aware of the discrimination homeless people face.” Recycling a forest worth of paper We want to be as ‘green’ as possible at Working Links, so we’ve now introduced a new environmental policy to help us ‘reduce, re-use, recycle, recover and dispose’. As part of this, we’re now recycling all our paper through the national Shred-it programme. So far we’ve recycled 17,875kg worth of the stuff, which equates to 183 trees – definitely the size of a small forest. Not bad considering we only started in August. Shred-it saves over seven million trees a year worldwide – and the shredded paper they collect is made into different recycled paper products.
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New work for women in Wales Most of us probably think of jobs like gas fitting, plumbing and electrical work as purely male professions. Not anymore. Thanks to a new project in South Wales, called Ready Set Go, groups of unemployed women are now learning these trades – and then using their skills to work on social housing projects. “It’s a project that’s being run with several partners including Chwarae Teg – an organisation which promotes the economic development of women in South Wales,” says Lynne Lundregan, project manager for Working Links. “Our role is to provide work taster sessions, once the women are trained, so they can put their skills into practice, for example by renovating old council houses. We also introduce them to potential employers and help with transport and childcare.”
What’s it really like working at Working Links? We wanted to find out, so we recently conducted an employee survey with the help of our trade union PCS, looking at employee attitudes to their jobs. Over 20% of our people took part and we had some very positive results. Generally people said they found their jobs “interesting and enjoyable”, and that they felt they “were accomplishing something”. There were areas where we could do more though – the top three issues nationally being job security, ‘being treated with respect’ and pay – and we’re now working closely with the union to respond to these results.
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John Hutton Q&A
In November last year, John Hutton was appointed Work and Pensions Secretary just in time to find himself at the centre of nationwide debates on employment, welfare reform and pensions.
Obviously the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be familiar to most Working Links readers, but what exactly is being Work and Pensions Secretary all about? Right now the role of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is changing, not just because the world is changing, but because I want to change it. I’m using my role to lead a debate on the evolution of social policy.
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The DWP is central in delivering UK social policy, covering not only the entire Benefits System (except for Tax Credits), but also employment, including support and routes into work for those of working age who are inactive, and one of today’s political hot topics: pensions. As a result of this role, we’re also leading the debate on some of the most important issues facing society today – how do we achieve real, lasting equality of opportunity for everyone; how can we ensure the health and wellbeing of our workforce to protect our nation’s prosperity; how can we provide a secure future and a comfortable retirement for our ageing population? A large part of my role as Work and Pensions Secretary is to ensure the right conditions exist for these debates to take place and for the reforms that arise to be put in place. With that agenda, we imagine your average day is pretty full? Yes it is, but it’s never dull. Why did you get into politics in the first place? I chose politics because I wanted to change things. Poverty, discrimination and disadvantage are an affront to everything I believe in. Working Links has helped more than 60,000 people into work since 2000. Do you feel initiatives like ours are part of the future for employment programmes? Since the introduction of New Deal, the Government has given its full support, backed up with funding, to Employment Zones and the partnership approach exemplified by Working Links.
In fact, these initiatives and the partnerships that make them work, have been so successful that we are constantly exploring possibilities for expansion. In ‘A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work’ our consultation paper on welfare reform, we’ve put forward specific proposals for expanding programmes designed to help lone parents, those on incapacity benefits and older workers in particular. The success of existing schemes such as those operated by Working Links in assisting people from these groups has helped convince many of the benefits of a partnership approach to employment. So how would you sum up the UK employment situation at present? We have made real progress. Some 2.3 million more people are now in work than in 1997. The UK’s employment rate, at around 75%, has risen to become the highest of the G8 countries. But there’s still work to be done if we are to extend the prosperity enjoyed by the majority to everyone in our society – realising our vision of opportunity for all. We’re aiming to reduce the number of people claiming incapacity benefits by one million
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over the next 10 years; help a further 300,000 lone parents to find work; and increase the number of people over 50 who are in work by one million. Why? Because being in work is good for you: not just better for the economy, but better for the individual. Work is the best route out of long-term poverty, enables greater independence and, in many cases, can even improve a person’s health and well-being. It can transform the life chances of individuals, their families and the communities in which they live. Everyone has the right to work, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to ensure they get the support, opportunity and access to do so.
Are there any specific areas in UK employment that the Government is currently looking at? Under our proposals for welfare reform, we’ve identified three key groups that would benefit from greater support: those on incapacity benefits, lone parents and people over 50. In each case, we’re proposing packages which combine the financial support of benefits with practical assistance tailored to help the individual find work. In the case of lone parents, there will be more, regular work-focused interviews as well as increased access to programmes such as work tasters, and personal advice when making the transition back to employment. We will support this with financial incentives for lone parents engaging in back to work activities – rewarding those who look to help themselves. New Deal and other programmes will be extended to offer greater support to older people seeking jobs, and we will continue to work with employers to increase opportunities for flexible working and gradual retirement.
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And we’re planning a comprehensive overhaul of incapacity benefits, based on the principles of ability not incapacity and of tailoring support to the individual, all built around a new Employment and Support Allowance and programmes such as Pathways to Work. It’s not about cutting back benefits or forcing people to take on jobs that aren’t appropriate. It is about promoting every individual’s right to work. We are also proposing a number of ways to improve workplaces: ensuring better support for those who develop impairments and health conditions; encouraging employers to adopt inclusive attitudes to those seeking to return to work after claiming benefits; and promoting best practice in general workplace health, to prevent people falling out of work in the first place. What advice would you give to those facing difficulties in finding a job? Don’t give up. Remember: we’re here to help you plan what options you have.
Further information and contact details: To see the consultation paper, ‘A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work’, go to www.dwp.gov.uk/aboutus/welfarereform Or you can order a copy from: The Welfare Reform Team, Level 2, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London WC2, telephone 020 7712 2521. Comments can be sent to the Welfare Reform Team at the above address by 21 April 2006, or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 21 April 2006.
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Up until a few months ago, Working Links had three shareholders: Manpower, Capgemini and the Government. It had been a very successful formula – the public and private sectors working together to deliver ‘back to work’ programmes in a more effective way. And in the last five years, we’ve shown that as a model, it can work exceptionally well. But in November last year, we decided to make a change, to shake things up a bit – and add a new shareholder into the mix. And not just any new shareholder, a voluntary one – and one from Australia at that. Why?
Managing Director for Working Links Keith Faulkner explains it all... “We have ambitious goals for Working Links – to have a larger workforce and a wider presence in every region of the country and possibly overseas. To make that a reality, we knew we couldn’t just sit back – we needed to make sure our structure was still the right one for us, so that we could keep growing our business and better manage any short-term problems.”
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Our objectives haven’t changed – and, with a new shareholder on board, we’re now one step closer to achieving them.
The new shareholder route So last year, we commissioned Henley Management College to conduct an in-depth review into the best future structure of our organisation. Their advice? To gain investment from a voluntary sector organisation. “We explored other options as well, such as venture capital, getting a bank loan and even floating Working Links on the stock exchange, but after much thought, we decided that a new shareholder – and a voluntary one specifically – was the way to go,” explains Keith. Why Mission Australia? Our next task was to consider potential organisations who might want to invest in us, and we’d feel comfortable having on our Board. It had to be an organisation with similar values to Working Links, preferably with experience in employment services and of working with disadvantaged people. Mission Australia fitted the bill perfectly. “We chose Mission Australia for a number of reasons,” says Keith. “Firstly, they are a strong and innovative voluntary organisation – and extremely good at what they do. They are a market leader in Australia at working with disadvantaged people – they helped more than 55,000 people into jobs in 2004-2005 alone. And the fact they are voluntary adds an interesting new element to our structure, and makes us the UK’s first ever public/private/voluntary sector organisation.”
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The Australian advantage Of course, we could have gone with another UK shareholder. But we felt Mission Australia offered the best fit for us – and we can learn a lot from our Antipodean cousins. Australia was the first country to contract out public employment services, and it has been highly successful there. Indeed, the UK Government has expressed a particular interest in the Australian model, so the fact we now have strong links with one of Australia’s biggest employment service operators should be very good news for us. “This is a unique opportunity for us to share new ideas and innovative approaches for tackling the problems relating to unemployment and a lack of opportunity,” adds Keith. “At the same time, our new shareholder gives us the capacity and stability we need to strengthen and grow our business, so that we can extend our ‘back to work’ services to even more people in need nationally. This is a very exciting development for us.”
This is a unique opportunity for us to share new ideas and innovative approaches for tackling the problems relating to unemployment…
So what’s in it for us exactly? We think our new structure offers lots of benefits. With Mission Australia’s expertise (and significant cash investment), we can: • build and strengthen our capacity, and ensure our business is secure for the future • deliver services to even more disadvantaged people in the UK, and possibly overseas • become more established in the new markets we want to be involved in, such as crime reduction, health and education • respond to the changing needs of the UK Government • show our commitment to the future of employment programmes, particularly in light of the Government’s aim to engage the voluntary sector further in delivering public services.
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We put Working Links MD, Keith Faulkner, on the spot – and quizzed him further about our new structure, new shareholder and potential new opportunities. What’s Mission Australia’s stake in Working Links? They own a third of our company shares. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions owns another third. And Capgemini and Manpower now jointly own a third. How much has Mission Australia invested? £1.45 million. We’ll be using that money to grow our operations, and extend our services to even more people. Did you need the money because of financial difficulties? We’re not in difficulty now, but at the end of 2004, things weren’t going that well for us. We weathered that storm without exceeding our credit limit, but we certainly don’t want to face those kind of problems again. So this investment will definitely strengthen us financially. But it’s also been about giving us the capacity we need to grow Working Links, which is what we want to do. What role will Mission Australia play in Working Links? Like our other shareholders, they’ll sit on our Board and work with us to improve our strategy and the delivery of our services. Will it mean international opportunities? Potentially. We’ll be looking into all the different options for building on our current services. We already have international expertise in advising foreign governments on their employment programmes, most recently in Singapore and China. We may well take advantage of further international opportunities. Have your long-term business plans changed now? Not at all. Our vision is still to be an organisation with a workforce of at least 2000, making an even greater contribution to the ‘welfare to work’ agenda. We also intend to become more established in new markets such as crime reduction, corporate and social responsibility, and economic regeneration. Our objectives haven’t changed – and, with a new shareholder on board, we’re now one step closer to achieving them.
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We bring together two people in a recent jobseeker’s success story – Gail Weston, a 41 year-old mum from the West Midlands, and her new boss Sam White, Deputy Distribution Manager of Connect Distribution.
The background Gail hadn’t worked for more than 20 years as she’d been bringing up her son and looking after her terminally ill mother. Sam was looking for reliable and enthusiastic staff for Connect’s growing business of distributing electrical, household and finished goods. Working Links brought Gail and Sam together and solved the issues that could have prevented this success story from happening.
Sam’s top five tips for impressing employers at interviews
1. Be enthusiastic! Some jobseekers give you the impression they really don’t care about the job at all. 2. Find out about the company. If you take time to discover what they do, it’s a real plus. 3. Don’t worry about experience. It’s more important that you’re ready to learn. 4. Age isn’t an issue – it’s your attitude and wanting the job that counts with me. 5. Try to look presentable – you don’t necessarily need smart clothes, but do show you’ve made an effort.
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“I had to go out to work after my mother died, but at my age and with virtually no experience of work, I didn’t think anyone would look at me. The Jobcentre put me onto Working Links. I wanted a part-time job so I could ease into work gradually and they looked at all the options. There was this vacancy at Connect for a warehouse operative packing electrical goods, and my consultant Caroline Singh persuaded me I could go for it.” “I was really worried it would involve computers, and I’d never even been to an interview before. But Caroline was great. We did a Connect awareness session and she took me through a practice interview. They even gave me money to buy new shoes for the interview.” “At the interview my stomach was doing somersaults, but Sam and the Connect people really made me feel at ease. I couldn’t believe it when they offered me the job.” “I’ve now finished my three months’ probation and everyone says my confidence’s gone from zero to ten. I’m doing overtime, and if there’s the chance to do full-time I’d like to go for it.” “The best thing about Working Links is they’re such a friendly bunch. They’ll make you a cup of tea, have a chat and ask what they can do to help. They even got me a bus pass at the beginning so I could get to work.”
“Gail came across really well at interview. She was keen and like the 20 plus other people we’ve had from Working Links, she knew something about our company, which I think’s important.” “Her age wasn’t an issue. We’ve got lots of middle-aged staff here, and if they want the job I’ll give them a chance. I know Gail was worried about computers, but there isn’t that much involved. With a little bit of training, everyone picks it up really fast.” “We use many recruitment sources like the Jobcentre and word of mouth, but what I really like about Working Links is that everything’s done for you. They get the person to you, sort out all the schedules and organise the CVs. When I need people, all I do is call my Working Links contact Sarah, tell her how many people I want to interview and she’ll do all the organising. And I can be confident about who she sends. In the past I’ve had part-timers turning up for full-time posts, and people who are clearly unsuited. Working Links do their homework, so I get the right people, who fit the job.”
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I’d recommend this… book
Read any good books recently? Or what about your all-time favourite read? We asked six of our consultants for their recommendations.
“My favourite book has to be ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters. All of her books capture the darkest, shady sides of Victorian London. Just when you think you’ve sussed the story, she turns the plot upside down with mysterious and unpredictable twists and turns.” Sarah Buxton-Adams, Employer Consultant, Birmingham “My recommendation would be ‘The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey’. It’s by Spencer Wells, a specialist in population genetics and evolution, who travelled the world to decipher the genetic codes of people, from the Sahara Desert to Siberia. The book looks at how the DNA of humans can help us to work out where our ancestors lived and what they were like. It’s a subject I find fascinating.” Sarah Triggs, Employer Consultant, Birmingham “I really enjoyed ‘The Time Traveller's Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger, which chronicles the story of Henry and Clare. Henry has a rare genetic condition which means he can travel in time within his own life. He meets himself as a boy, a teenager and an adult, and when he meets Clare at the age of six, he has come from their joint future, so he already knows she’ll be his wife one day. It takes a few pages to get the hang of the constant changes in age and the lack of chronology, but it’s well worth persevering. It demonstrates beautifully that there is no stopping fate, we all have our destiny mapped out for us, and even knowing what that fate is doesn’t give us the power to change it.” Sharon Baker, Selfemployment Consultant, Birmingham
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“I'd recommend the 'Greek Anthology' as edited by Peter Jay. It's a collection of pithy poems stretching back from the 7th Century BC to the 6th Century AD, reaching from Greece’s Golden Age and up to the Byzantine renaissance. The poems are epigrams for the most part, and the early examples were originally inscribed on monuments, graves and the bases of statues as well as private verses found on pots and the like. The verses capture all the variety of life, many are entertainingly frivolous and delightfully dirty too.” Tim Wells, Self-employment Consultant, Tower Hamlets
“My favourite book is ‘Wild Swans’ by Jung Chang. It tells the story of three women, living through the last century in China. It’s beautifully written, and although it’s a personal story, it’s also a history lesson, and gives you an insight into communism and the Chairman Mao dictatorship. I read it travelling round Thailand, and some of the scenery described in the book looked a lot like the rice fields and lush vegetation that was whizzing past my bus window on the way to Chang Mai. This book reminds me that there's a whole wide world out there, waiting to be discovered.” Georgina Rudden, Consultant, Stockport
“My personal favourite is ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ by Roald Dahl. It’s about a group of farmers who hate Mr Fox because of the chaos he causes in their chicken sheds. The farmers decide to catch him but Mr. Fox, being very cunning, hatches plans to outsmart all of them! I like it because I come from a farm, so I identify with the story, also because my Grandad used to read it to me when I was a little girl! My better half is reading the life story of John Peel which he also highly recommends. Half the book was written by John and then after his death, his wife continued it and finished his life story.” Sarah Miller, Engagement Consultant, Bootle
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They’re one of Australia’s biggest employment service operators. They helped over 55,900 disadvantaged people into jobs in 2004-2005 alone. And now they own one third of Working Links. We take a closer look at Mission Australia – who they are, what they do, and what they think about being our newest shareholder.
If you live in Australia, and you’ve fallen on hard times, chances are you could be getting help from Mission Australia. They're a non-denominational Christian organisation, and one of the country's leading charities - and for more than 140 years, they’ve been helping Australia’s most disadvantaged individuals and communities out of crisis and into security. “Our programmes inspire self-confidence and hope by helping people tap into their own
resources, overcome disadvantage and pursue more positive, independent lives,” says Eric D’Indy, Mission Australia’s Director of Marketing and Corporate Affairs. “We run nearly 330 different services across metropolitan, rural and regional Australia. This includes services for families in need, initiatives for marginalised young people, accommodation solutions for homeless people, and programmes designed to strengthen whole communities.”
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Common ground Like Working Links, Mission Australia also runs employment and training services for unemployed people and those seeking to re-enter the workforce – and they are extremely successful in this area. In 2004-2005, they worked with 159,000 unemployed people, placing more than 55,900 into jobs, helping 1,004 people set up their own businesses, and encouraging more than 7,500 people to complete vocational training. “Our services were established mainly for disadvantaged jobseekers – especially those who have been continuously unemployed for at least 12 months – to assist them in finding sustainable longterm employment,” says Eric. “We find the self-esteem our clients gain when employed is a vital part of our work in helping Australians get back on their feet to lead more fulfilling lives. Our achievements this year have consolidated our standing as one of Australia’s leading not-for-profit employment service operators.”
So why has Mission Australia joined Working Links? In recent years, they've started looking beyond their own country for opportunities to use their expertise to help disadvantaged individuals and communities, both in the developed and developing world. “With its cultural and political links to Australia – along with a deregulated employment service environment – Britain offered an appealing market for us to consider extending our operations,” says Eric. “Working Links is one of the UK’s most successful organisations at helping people back to long-term work. They have a similar vision of making a lasting difference in some of the most deprived communities in the country. We are confident that with our shared experience; this partnership will help change the landscape of the job market in the UK, giving priority to the nation’s most disadvantaged people and communities.”
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To give you more of an insight into Working Links’ newest shareholder, here are some of the varied projects Mission Australia is involved in. As you’ll see, their work has many similarities to ours – and we think we can learn a lot from them, to help us in our work with disadvantaged people and communities across the UK. The guardian angels of Sydney For 25 years, Mission Australia has been running Missionbeat – an inner city transport and patrolling service that offers help to homeless, intoxicated and drug affected individuals throughout Sydney. Described by many as the ‘guardian angels of Sydney’, Missionbeat operates seven days a week and, as well as giving people immediate assistance, puts them in touch with the services that can help them. Turning young lives around As part of their work with young people, Mission Australia runs U-Turn in Tasmania – a unique initiative which addresses juvenile vehicle theft. Given that the young offenders have an obvious interest in cars, U-Turn takes them through a 10-week training course in car maintenance, panel beating and spray painting. The idea is to give participants an aim in life, something to apply themselves to. It’s also great for the community. Less car theft means lower insurance premiums and safer neighbourhoods. Tackling disadvantage from an early age Helping disadvantaged families and children is another big focus for Mission Australia – and they run support and early intervention programmes in some of the country’s poorest communities. This includes Pathways to Prevention – an initiative in Brisbane, designed to help disadvantaged children, aged 0-5, prepare for school, and give them the very best chance to make a successful start in life. Getting Australia back to work Of course, employment initiatives are Working Links’ main focus – and as we’ve said, they are a major priority for Mission Australia too. Very much like us, their employment services include everything from jobsearch and training to counselling and post-placement support. And their initiatives particularly target disadvantaged jobseekers, predominantly those who’ve been out of work for longer than a year. You can find out more about Working Links’ newest shareholder on their website at www.missionaustralia.com.au
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By giving them greater freedom, they have improved performance – independent evaluation shows they achieve significantly better job outcomes.
Why we’re very pleased to be the UK’s first PPVP (public-private-voluntary partnership that is!) You’ve heard of PPP – public-private partnership. But how about PPVP? It’s what Working Links has now become, with a new shareholder joining our Board, the charity Mission Australia. It means we are now the first employment programme provider with public, private and voluntary sector shareholders – potentially the first organisation in the UK even – and we think this unique company structure puts us in an ideal position to deliver on the Government’s new welfare reforms. This is certainly borne out in their latest Green Paper – ‘A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work’. In it, they outline their new proposals for tackling unemployment, and specifically their plans for helping people on incapacity benefit, lone parents and older people back to work (we summarise these over the page). Throughout the Paper, the Government talks about its desire to involve the private and voluntary sectors further to tackle issues such as social exclusion and worklessness.
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Here are some extracts from the Paper which was published at the end of January: “…Since coming into office in 1997, we have embarked on a radical series of reforms to our welfare state…these have made a huge difference. Britain now has the highest employment rate of any G8 country…but there is more to do…” “…Our economy and society is changing fast. Our welfare state must help us respond to these changes… to support those unable to support themselves….to support people in acquiring the new skills they need for the jobs of the future…to help UK companies succeed in the new global economy. We set out here our proposals for how this could be done…” “…We need to reform not just the policy framework, but also the delivery of the welfare state. This is why we invested over £2 billion in bringing together the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service to create Jobcentre Plus… “…At the same time, we have brought in private and voluntary sector providers. In Employment Zones, providers are paid, not according to what they do, but according to what they achieve. By giving them greater freedom, they have improved performance – independent evaluation shows they achieve significantly better job
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outcomes than Jobcentre Plus does with comparable clients…” “…In this next stage of reform we will need to engage private and voluntary sector providers…” “…There will be an expectation…that local partners will work together to improve economic regeneration, through skills, employment and health. Voluntary and private sector organisations, with their distinctive understanding of the social and economic environment in a local area, will be key contributors to making a success of this initiative…” “…Our proposals build on the principles of the New Deal…They will set a new direction – bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors in a new mission to transform some of Britain’s most disadvantaged communities.” The fact that we now have public, private and voluntary sector shareholders makes us ideally placed to help the Government achieve its objectives – and we are keen to promote our new PPVP status as the way forward for back-to-work contracts. You can read the full Green Paper at www.dwp.gov.uk/aboutus/welfarereform
The Government’s new welfare reforms – at a glance What they want to achieve The Government currently has three main aims: • To reduce incapacity benefit claimants by one million within a decade • To get 300,000 lone parents back to work • To increase by one million the number of older people (aged over 50) in employment How they plan to do it They have announced various new proposals to help them achieve their objectives. These are some of the main ones: Incapacity benefit • Incapacity benefit will be replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance by 2008. • The Pathways to Work initiative will be rolled out nationally. This has already been piloted successfully, and shows that with the right support, many people on incapacity benefits can move back into work. • There will be new initiatives to improve workplace health, and improve access to occupational health support, to minimise the likelihood of people developing health problems in the first place. • GPs will begin taking active steps to support patients who want to return to work. • Employment advisers are also being piloted in GP surgeries. Lone parents • A premium will be trialled so that lone parents are better off if they take serious steps towards preparing for work. Older people • There will be more back-to-work support for people over 50. • Unemployed people aged 50 to 59 will have to be actively looking for work, and getting support through the New Deal. Worklessness • City pilot schemes led by local stakeholder consortiums will form the basis for tackling concentrated urban worklessness. These consortia will be obliged to use private / voluntary sector providers to deliver their employment programmes.
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Our company structure has changed in more ways than one recently. As well as a new shareholder, the public sector share in Working Links is now being managed by the Government’s Shareholder Executive.
“The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions holds a one third share in Working Links,” explains Deputy Director for Market Development Karen Masterson. “In the past, DWP appointed Jobcentre Plus to represent their interest, but they have now transferred that, as part of the Government’s policy to provide more professional and more independent support in its shareholdings.” You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of the Shareholder Executive. They are, in fact, the department set up specifically to manage the Government’s interests in various organisations, such as Royal Mail and Channel 4. As a separate body, made up of representatives with significant business experience, they can offer us greater strategic input and advice.
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Meet our new non-executive director Mark Russell is the representative responsible for managing the Government’s shareholding in Working Links. "Aside from my statutory role as a non-executive director on the Working Links Board, I am also ensuring, where I can, that the Secretary of State's interests as a shareholder are being properly looked after,” he explains. “This clearly has a financial element to it but I also need to look out for his other policy and commercial interests.” “However, I don't regard the role as one of policeman. Far more important is how I can make some contribution to the company and its development. This is the fun bit since Working Links is at such an important stage – there is much that a strong non-executive team should be able to add. Managing Director Keith Faulkner hasn't missed this point and has already put me and my colleague Joanna Edwards to work helping the Working Links Executive Team develop the next stage of the company's business strategy!" What about Jobcentre Plus? Of course, Working Links has always had a very close relationship with Jobcentre Plus, so will that be affected now they are no longer on our Board? Karen Masterson doesn’t think so. “This change will remove any perceived conflict of interest that might have existed with Jobcentre Plus on our Board, given we also tender for Jobcentre Plus contracts,” she explains. “So actually it should strengthen our special relationship with them.” You can find out more about the Shareholder Executive at www.shareholderexecutive.gov.uk
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VOXPOP :The secret of a successful business? You’ve got a great idea
for a new business, but you’re not sure how to go about it – or whether to take the plunge. What should be your starting point? How can you avoid the pitfalls? And most importantly, how can you increase your chances of success? We ask some of our Self-employment Consultants for their pearls of wisdom.
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“Your aim in business, quite simply, is to sell a product or service and make a profit. And you want to do that with minimal effort and risk, in terms of the time and money you put into it. Ideally you also want to do something you find rewarding. To achieve all of that, you need to know your product, your market, your customers, your competitors and your suppliers. So your starting point has to be market research and business planning. Pricing is also key. One of the biggest pitfalls for new businesses is the failure to sell their product at the right price, to make enough profit to cover their costs. Overall I’d say the most successful businesses are those that can adapt to the dynamic, ever-changing situation they operate in.” Peng Ong, Self-employment Consultant, Hackney “You may think it’s an appealing option, but have you really thought about the practicalities of working for yourself? Will you be able to get up in the morning without a boss to answer to? Will you be able to work from home with your kids running around? Think carefully about whether you’ll really be able to do it. Also, get some customers or contracts before you sign off benefits or leave your job – it could take a few months and you’ll need something to live on in the meantime. Plan for the worst – what would you do if you didn’t get any work in, or lots of work at once? If you can deal with the worst case scenario, the rest should be fairly easy. Understand the difference between bread and butter, and jam – by that I mean the steady regular work that pays the bills, versus the more one-off lucrative contracts. Finally, be visible – the best advertising is word of mouth, so make the most of customer relationships.” Tim Wells, Self-employment Consultant, Tower Hamlets “www.bizhelp24.com is a good place to start. It’s the most comprehensive business set up advice site I’ve found – there’s pretty much everything on there, from loan providers to tax, and lots of good marketing tips. When someone comes to me with an idea, I get them to go away and really think carefully about what’s involved, and decide if they still want to take it on. I’d say you need to be realistic. If you want to set up a restaurant for example, you’re going to need a massive investment upfront – and you could be risking a lot. It might be better to start small, and set up a mobile sandwich van, say, first. Then you can build on that. And whatever your idea, make sure you’re absolutely committed to it.” Sharon Baker, Self-employment Consultant, Birmingham
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Did you know you’re just as likely to meet your future partner at work as you are in a bar or through friends? That’s the finding of a recent UK poll of 9,000 workers anyway. It also revealed that over 60% of those polled had been involved romantically with a colleague at some time or another.
Companies trying to ban office romance may as well try and ban Christmas – but if you’re about to get entangled with someone at work, it’s worth following a few guidelines… UK employees work the longest hours of any country in Europe, so it’s not surprising many of us are finding romance in the workplace. And, as any psychologist would point out, people in the same line of work often have similar interests, so we’re more likely to be attracted to them. What companies think Believe it or not, many companies now have policies on office romance – so make sure you know what these are. Some discourage it altogether – while others suggest you tell them about it. In the States, some companies even ask employees to sign socalled ‘love contracts’ to ensure the couple treat each other fairly if things go wrong! A bad move professionally? Although things haven’t gone quite that far in the UK, it’s pretty much an unspoken rule not to let your love life interfere with your work. In the worst case scenario, you could end up losing your job and your work friends over an office fling – so before things go too far, it’s worth asking yourself, is it really worth it? The beginning of a beautiful friendship On the flip-side, you don’t want to discount relationships with colleagues altogether. It’s hard enough finding a like-minded partner these days – and, as you probably already know each other pretty well, chances are you could be very compatible.
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Want to know more? Take a look at some of these sites: www.divorce-online.co.uk www.thesite.org www.handbag.com www.monster.co.uk www.bbc.co.uk/onelife
The DOs and DON’Ts
So there are pros and cons of getting involved with someone at work. There’s also a right and a wrong way of going about it. Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts to follow: DO: • • • • • Find out your company’s policy on relationships between colleagues – preferably before you get involved with someone. Tell your boss in confidence about the relationship if you can – it may help later if things don’t work out. Think it through carefully. At first, it may seem fantastic seeing each other every day at work – but what about in the long term? And can you handle it if things go wrong? Be careful what you say to colleagues – it’s a bad idea to gossip about intimate details of your love life with people you both have to work with. Keep your professional and personal life separate – it’s by far the most sensible approach. DON’T: • • • • Snog in the stationery cupboard, lift, or anywhere else at work for that matter. Send soppy emails to each other all day long using work email – these things stay on the system for some time, and are easily traced. Start a romance with anyone in senior management if you can help it – if things don’t work out, it could be very awkward, and it could lead to accusations of favouritism too. Let your romance affect your standard of work – if you do, you could be gaining a partner, but losing your job. Issue 8 - Spring 2006: 31
One Parent Families
Who are they?
Who are they?
One Parent Families is the leading national charity promoting the welfare and interests of the UK’s 1.8 million lone parents. They do this through research and campaigning, and they are widely recognised as the experts on the issues lone parents face. In addition, the charity runs services for lone parents through its Lone Parent Helpline 0800 018 5026, and publishes factsheets and information for people bringing up children on their own. The charity has tripled in size in the last five years, thanks in part to the generosity of author JK Rowling, their President.
How do we work together?
How do we work together?
Through our work to help lone parents into jobs, we’ve forged several links with One Parent Families: • We jointly run Discovery Weeks and Mentoring programmes in London. These are free five-day courses and coaching sessions, designed to help lone parents achieve their goals in a way that fits in with their family responsibilities. • We have jointly developed a lone parents’ survival guide, containing all sorts of practical information – from how to manage childcare, to flexible working options. This is now available to all our lone parent clients nationally. • We have also commissioned One Parent Families to train some of our front line consultants. By doing so, we’re able to tap into the charity’s expertise, and ensure our ‘back to work’ programmes for lone parents are as effective as possible.
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What they say about us What they say about us
“Working Links shares our passion and commitment to removing the barriers that can hold lone parents back. They treat each client as an individual with a unique set of issues to work through. One Parent Families’ partnership with them provides us with an opportunity to influence programmes that can help lone parents move into work.” Chris Hills, Innovations and Partnerships Director, One Parent Families.
For more information about One Parent Families, visit www.oneparentfamilies.org.uk or call 0207 428 5400.
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THE TRUTH BEHIND THOSE AUSSIE STEREOTYPES...
G'DAY MATE! LET'S CRACK OPEN A COUPLE OF TINNIES, THROW A STEAK ON THE BARBIE, AND HAVE A LOOK AT SOME AUSSIE STEREOTYPES. IS THE WHOLE OF AUSTRALIA SO LAID BACK IT REGULARLY FALLS OFF ITS SUNLOUNGER (WHILE BEING BITTEN BY POISONOUS INSECTS AND CASUALLY WRESTLING A FEW CROCS)?
1. 2. 3.
PROBABLY NOT… TO WELCOME MISSION AUSTRALIA ONTO OUR BOARD, WE LOOK AT THE FACT AND FICTION
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> Laid back layabouts You'll hear the phrase 'no worries' everywhere you go in Australia, and it’s a refreshing change to our more uptight British approach to life. But laid-back certainly doesn't mean lazy. Australians work an average of 1,800 hours a year, significantly more than most Europeans (at 1,350 hours). Aussies may relax with a barbie (and who can blame them in that climate), but their ingrained work ethic is reflected in language like 'hard yakka', and 'bludger' – someone who wants a free ride. Australians are hard workers for a good reason: 1. A sheila 2. A barbie 3. A croc 4. Uluru 5. Roo crossing 6. A rogue 7. Rip tides 8. Amber nectar 9. A gum tree survival once depended on it. Only 200 years ago, the first white settlers found unforgiving soils and unreliable rivers, and people battled the land to eke out a living. Today's ease of life and a growing economic presence has only come with modern irrigation and the technology for a comfortable city infrastructure.
IN OUR EUROPEAN VIEW OF OZ.
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> Rough around the edges The Crocodile Dundee tough guy and beer-swilling rancher are a part of Australian culture – but if they exist, it's only in the 'outback', the thousands of miles of rainforest, scrub and desert which stretch across Australia's interior and North. Half the area of the continent contains only 0.3% of the population. The most densely populated 1% contains 84% of the population, and 70% of Australians are in the cities, living an urban, cosmopolitan life. Australians read more newspapers than any other nation, 80% of them work in service industries, and a surf around the cities' websites rather than beaches reveals cultural venues and festivals galore.
> Everything's poisonous Yep. Australia has six of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world, including the Taipan whose bite can contain enough venom to kill 100 people. They’ve got the Funnelweb spider, whose fangs can pierce clothing and kill a man in two hours. Even the delightful male platypus has a poisonous spine that can kill a dog. Many plants will cause a rash if touched, and the country has over 1,000 species of plant which are toxic. Plant poisoning of livestock costs Australia $100 million each year. The seas are no better, with delights including the Box Jellyfish, whose sting can stop cardio-respiratory function in three minutes, and kills more people than sharks and crocs. Do, nevertheless, try to avoid the Great White, and the Salt Water Crocodile.
*This afternoon, everyone's having fun in their swimming costumes eating a pub meal with an original roguish individual…!
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> The driest of humour Aussies are justly famous for their sense of humour, much of it reflected in their use of 'Strine', Australia's own language with its extraordinary abbreviations, adoptions from Aboriginal languages and convict slang. If you're tall they'll call you Shorty, if you've red hair, you’re Bluey. Those of us who secretly watch Home & Away will sometimes wonder what's happening this arvo when everyone's having a bonzer time in their bathers eating a countery with a ridgy-didge larrikin* [see translation opposite]. > They're all criminals Australia Day, on the 26th January, celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, carrying 750 convicts and hundreds of soldiers. Families who can today trace their lineage to a convict are often rather proud of it. Of course Aboriginal people had been on the continent for at least 50,000 years, although only about 250,000 descendents now survive. Many free settlers came from Britain who were nothing to do with transportation – and with the goldrush in the 1850s, numbers of immigrants jumped up. The country has since welcomed many Asian people, as well as arrivals from Mediterranean Europe. So today's Australia is a vibrant, multi-cultural melting pot rather than a cauldron of convicts!
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We bust some employment jargon, stagger you with a statistic, quote someone famous, and précis one of our programmes. Jargon-busted Welfare to work: a phrase frequently used in employment programme circles, as in “Working Links runs ‘welfare to work’ programmes and “we contribute to the ‘welfare to work’ agenda.” ‘Welfare to work’ actually means ‘the journey we help someone take to move from being unemployed (and dependant on welfare benefits) into long-term (paid) employment’. So now you know.
Staggering statistic In the last financial year (2004-2005), Working Links generated an income of £47,963,219. In the same period, we spent almost a third of that amount (£14,984,012) on helping jobseekers back to work.
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In a nutshell… Focus 50
What is it? A pilot project we’re running with Jobcentre Plus, to help people aged 50 or over, access Jobcentre services, plus volunteering, training and employment opportunities. Where do we run it? Cardiff. What’s special about it? It’s the only project that brings together a range of Age Positive organisations and employers through events across the city and the Vale of Glamorgan. What do we do exactly? We organise the events, liaise with local employers, and help older jobseekers access the services on offer. We’re also raising awareness with an ongoing marketing campaign, via the radio, press, targeted leaflet drops and community sessions. We’ve even hired eco-friendly Ad-Bikes that provide a free taxi service around the centre. How successful has it been? In the two years it’s been running, the project has engaged over 200 eligible people and raised the awareness of thousands more. What do people say about it? “This event is a great example of how organisations can work together and help employers realise that the invaluable skills and experience of older workers are going to waste.”
[Gareth Matthews, Working Links’ director for Wales and the West of England, talking about our event at the Millennium stadium in April 2005] Who said it? “There’s no i in team, but if you look hard enough there’s a me.”
[see the bottom of the page for the answer] Who said it? Answer: David Brent, The Office
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Printed on 50% recycled material
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A Working Links Production WL LIFE (V8-04/06)
Issue 8 - Spring 2006
Newton Business Centre, Thorncliffe Park, Chapeltown, Sheffield, S35 2PH www.workinglinks.co.uk 0800 917 9262
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