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29 October 2013

Tuesday 29 October

Back in July I wrote a blog which challenged some of the ways young people are currently supported into work by the government and its agencies (https://www.londonyouth.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/rosies-blog/payment-results).

Brilliantly, I had a response via Twitter from one of the senior managers within Jobcentre Plus inviting me to come and witness first hand what goes on with young people as they look for work. So, I spent one morning last week at Brixton Jobcentre and the following morning with the youth employment team in Colchester Jobcentre.

What was apparent at both centres was a clear vision for what Jobcentre Plus should be and the experience that young people should have. It feels like the middle of a change process to implement this and there is already progressive work emerging around outreach and group work to engage young people and encourage peer support. There is a real coherence about a commitment to improvement and to not pretending to get everything right first time – and there has clearly been significant investment in the development of strong leadership at a regional and local level. All of this was really encouraging to see and there was a real awareness across the board that young people need and deserve a different quality of conversation when they are looking for work, particularly if they are facing multiple boundaries to progress.

But what I realised in these two days was quite how difficult it is to carry out a major change agenda in a climate in which all public services are being asked to do more for less. So much of supporting people into employment is about the strength of the relationship between the jobseeker and the adviser. And strengthening this relationship is a challenge in an environment where recruitment freezes make bringing in new talent difficult; and where some staff do not feel they can excel in the roles they are assigned without resources to invest in developing their skills.

While the advisers I met at both sites were passionate and ‘bought into’ the new JCP agenda, there seemed to be lack of opportunities to develop the different type of skills around engagement, coaching and facilitation that key frontline staff will need as they are expected to deliver a different kind of service.

I think the youth sector and the myriad of third sector providers working to support young people into employment have a responsibility to support the change that JCP is driving and to support the development of youth work skills in advisers while budgets are tight. At London Youth we’ve found individual Jobcentre staff very positive in engaging with our Build-it programme, supporting some very hard to reach young people into skilled jobs in construction. And in return our youth workers are beginning to better understand DWP’s objectives and how to best support young people through the system. This dialogue and positive exchange of ideas and learning needs to continue; whilst also involving young people themselves meaningfully in the conversation.

So I’d like to offer to help by hosting a seminar for Jobcentre Plus youth advisors from across London to come together with young people and youth workers and explore the skills and the type of engagement that move young people forward – and how each can support the other to do their job and achieve their shared objectives for young people.

I’d like to thank the teams at Jobcentre Plus in Brixton and Colchester for giving me such a unique and honest insight into their work.

If you’d be interested in attending the seminar mentioned above, then please email hello@londonyouth.org.uk and we will send you more details once event details are confirmed.