The Social Enterprise Mark Guest Blog features editorial and discussion contributions from accredited social enterprises which hold the Social Enterprise Mark.

Have we forgotten to ask how we can BE and DO better?

By Caroline Bartle, Managing Director of 3 Spirit UK

I started to write this blog at the start of the year. Normally this is a time most people take stock and ask how can we BE and DO better?  However, within our social care sector, this reappraisal is not new, but rather ongoing, and insidious.  We are constantly being asked, how we can DO better. For many services this has resulted in cutting back, and prioritising profitability.

However, what is the impact of this?  Is there a hidden cost of dwindling social care funding, creating highly competitive, low cost, low value services? Has this disproportionate focus on the turning a profit  taken us away from more ethical aspects of our work, as we forget to ask how can we BE better? Surely the test of how we can ‘BE’ better as a social care service lies within the ‘social impact’ that we have, not in the profit that we accrue.

About twenty years ago after a relatively short career in social work I became a proprietor of a social care business at the age of 27, and when I look back over the last two decades I see the factor which drove me to business was the freedom to BE the person that I wanted to be. Because of this, I get immense pleasure from my work, and my collaborations. I spend time working with the individuals that I chose, and I have the opportunities to learn about, and develop what I determine as critical, interesting and applicable. I am motivated, engaged and free to be innovative. My values are at the heart of my business, sometimes at the expense of profit.  Over the years my values have evolved. As a young entrepreneur, I was always interested in creating and sharing, however now I am more concerned about how these collaborations impact on our communities, collectively and positively.

Despite being a ‘for profit’ organisation, we shared our resources, widely and openly (with no material gain), and attempted to reach out to individuals and organisations through our work. Whilst we have had many supporters, we have also been met with some alarming responses: individuals proactively unfollowed us, and actively excluded us. It was disappointing and deeply demotivating. There appears to be a lack of trust in our sector: driven possibly by competitive, anti-collective forces.   Consider though what the possibilities might be for our sector if we are able to foster trust, and build alliances beyond the competitive limitations of market forces. What if we all shared common goals, the communities that we serve? What if there was a less of a ‘me’ mentality and more of an ‘us’?

The growth of a market was stimulated, in part with the introduction of the Community Care Act, and has relied on competitive forces, creating best value. However, how effectively does this model work now, in this current climate?

In 2012 the government introduced the Public Services (Social Value) Act in an attempt to get commissioners to consider the social impact of their buying power. However, this only applies to high value contracts. So what of all the other services, or individuals, purchasing services in their community? Whilst these services are regulated by the CQC, many are driven by profit, and may not always be making their decisions in the interests of ALL of their stakeholders.  If we are to really make a ‘shared society’ work, should we not ‘expect’ that social enterprises are afforded preferential treatment at a local buyer level? In 2015 there was a review of the implementation of the Social Value Act, suggesting that the Act be extended to contracts below the public spend threshold. It is my view this could be extended further than suggested.

In the healthcare market we have already seen many services become social enterprises. Health has long had an expectation that it should service all stakeholders, as since the introduction of the NHS, it has been free at the point of delivery.

However, that is not the case for social care: the expectation remains that many providers maintain a ‘for profit’ status. Many business minded individuals identify opportunities in a growth market, particularly in the community, where there is a growing need to support individuals with more complex levels of care. The question is – how sustainable is this in the current market? Does the social enterprise model work better in this climate, and if so – should commissioners consider this as part of their market shaping strategy as part of a long term goal for smaller, as well as large organisations? Could this be applied across all types of services, particularly training services like us, whom should be embodying an example, as advocates of ‘best practice’.

So, what are your driving values as a proprietor? To make a profit or make a difference? Whilst on the face of it, it may be a little more complex than that, determining the overriding priorities will help to properly focus priorities on outcomes. As an education provider in social care, we aim to buck the trend, and embody this change.

Social enterprise  is a more comfortable fit for us: synergy with stakeholder expectations and our activities. Through raising awareness, we aim to provide better insights into the experience and needs of the individuals we support in the social care sector.  From a business perspective, it seems to make sense, as it is through trading that we may have a bigger impact in society.

Social justice – more than just a pipedream?

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

PlussPluss has over 45 years experience of working with some of the most disadvantaged people in society. However, the fact is that today, we are working with many less severely disadvantaged people than we have done in the past.

This is absolutely not because the need has gone away, but as a result of the reduction in funding for these services, which has historically been provided locally.

The upcoming Building Better Opportunities contracts will provide a new range of support but these are not focussed in the way that, for example, local authority learning disability services have been in the past.  And whilst we welcome the focus of the Work and Health programme, it is clear that the programme is for people with a shorter-term into-work prognosis.

At the top level then, this situation is unfortunately at odds with the objective of increasing social justice in the short-term. Increasing social justice should be about addressing disadvantage, reducing inequality and widening opportunities for all people.

In terms of real life issues facing the people that we work with today, the nature of the economy in 2016 (typified by underemployment, zero hours contracts, minimum wage jobs) and the stresses on public services mean vulnerable people’s lives are often more fragile than they have ever been.

When talking about people who are disabled, it is always good to take a step back to reflect on who they actually are. They are not some “distant” group of people – the reality is that they are all of us. The fact is that well over 85% of people with disabilities have acquired them through the course of their lives as a result of illness or injury.

By definition, people with disabilities span the social and economic spectrums. As it stands, the help available from DWP contracted provision is primarily aimed just above the bottom of the demographic – ie. entry-level jobs. This leaves huge gaps at either end of the spectrum where people are not supported – an issue which has to be addressed.

The obvious fact is that this huge degree of diversity means that a one-size approach is never going to work. Halving the disability employment gap requires us to have an amalgam of support services ranging from pre-work, into work and effective retention strategies. All need to be delivered against the specific needs of the individual if lasting change is to be achieved.

Very often one of the major barriers which we see with those people who are more marginalised is the view that work is unattainable. This is often as a result of that message having been drummed into them over a lifetime by medical professionals, schools etc. This has to change, with recognition that employment is a health outcome being vitally important.

We know that at the macro level the labour market and people’s needs will change over time. Therefore it is critical that we have a range of integrated services which embeds local expertise so that it can flex to deliver what is needed on the ground now and for the changing needs of tomorrow.

So what does this mean for commissioning?

Quality, highly effective services are required to deliver lasting results and value for money for the exchequer. We must avoid the race to the bottom in commissioning to ensure that inexpensive just doesn’t end up being cheap.

  • We must retain a focus on in-work support to avoid churn and implement new retention strategies to avoid the bath tap analogy – as fast as we’re filling the labour market vacancies, it’s emptying out twice as quickly. This must take into account the numbers of people falling out of the work from professional, technical and managerial positions who have long careers behind them and who will choose not to access Jobcentre plus.
  • We need to find ways to support people who cannot access DWP provision to re-enter the labour market. It is vital that government finds ways of incentivising local authorities to retain employment services for people in receipt of adult social care who are unlikely to gain access in large numbers to the Work and Health Programme.
  • We need to bring on board others (such as NHS Confederation, CCGs, GP’s etc.) to support our efforts to make work a genuine and valuable health outcome for health stakeholders.
  • We need to build a presumption of employability in the eyes of commissioners for those unlikely to be accommodated by the Work  and Health Programme.

As well as increasing social justice for people because it’s the right thing to do, there is also a very clear economic argument. 

Landman Economics modelled the economic impact of a sustained increase in the rate of employment amongst disabled people between 2105 and 2030. They found that a rise of just five percentage points would lead to

  • An increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of £23 billion
  • A gain of £6 billion to the Exchequer

For Pluss, the argument for a return to the principles of “invest to save” in order to support effective local provision that operates alongside the DWP Work and Health Programme would seem clear.

As a sector, we need appropriate levels of funding to be available so that quality services are provided, thus ensuring that achieving social justice is more than just a pipe dream.

Promoting true professionalism as a social enterprise

By Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark

trustmarkAs TrustMark nears a close on its 10th Anniversary year, we nostalgically look back on how we got to this point. This year we’ve been campaigning heavily to promote reputable tradespeople, and shone light into the daily activities of our ten TrustMark Ambassadors, all of whom excel in customer service, trading practices and standards of workmanship.

Our ambassadors have been involved in a range of activities this year to promote reputable traders. They started off by being featured in our anniversary report which you can download here. This looks at their business practices, ethos and how they stay true to their customers. We’re proud to work with them to change the industry stereotype and instil confidence in customers that by looking for the right indicators you can find truly professional tradespeople.

trustmark-infographicFirms have come a long way from the commonly branded ‘cowboy’ brush that they are still tarnished with. This year alone, we’ve seen a huge drive to change this unfair image. We released an infographic at the start of this year with some keys statistics on how much UK tradespeople contribute to the economy, which unveiled some astonishing figures. The repair, maintenance and improvement sector alone is worth £2.7 billion every year, so the work carried out by tradespeople has a huge impact on the UK economy.

We’re proud to call ourselves a Social Enterprise Mark Holder. We’ve held the Mark for five years already, so we understand how much value it adds to a business such as ours. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we put the interests of our Registered Firms and their customers at the heart of our business, and having a symbol that recognises this is important as consumers know that we aren’t focused on purely commercial gains.

Naturally, we aim to stay competitive, but in a way that benefits society and the construction industry. To us, the Mark shows businesses we have their best interests at heart, and we’re not just another scheme trying to make money. Social Enterprise Mark CIC are committed to ensuring the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation.

SE_BRAND_APPROVED_RGBAll organisations awarded the Social Enterprise Mark accreditation have one key quality in common: their main aim is to use income and profits to benefit society, rather than individuals such as business owners or shareholders. As the only social enterprise accreditation that is internationally available, we see it as a distinctive sign of quality and reassurance to consumers. It is also re-assessed on an annual basis, to ensure businesses are maintaining a fair approach and keep consumer interests at the core of activity.

As a social enterprise, we don’t have a big marketing budget to play around with, so for TrustMark as an organisation we focus on spreading the word organically and adding value to our firms and their customers in any way we can in order to grow and stay competitive. Being a Social Enterprise Mark holder sends a message to firms that we are a professional organisation, and we feel that such affiliations attract the right sort of firms to become TrustMark registered. It’s important in this day and age to give a platform for quality, expert people to sell themselves with the recognition they deserve.

Within our big drive this year to promote professionals in the industry and add credibility to their businesses, we’ve set about a number of initiatives, to expand on the work with our Ambassadors and offer easier ways of staying professional to all of our Registered Firms.

One of the ways we looked to do this way by launching a new feedback system earlier this year to add value to traders on the TrustMark website. We see online reviews as a real sign of quality, and is obviously a great way for these firms to prove their worth to new customers who might not be familiar with their standards of workmanship. We try to encourage our firms to request reviews from all customers, even those that might have had some hiccups along the way. Reviews are often criticised for their inability to distinguish between real and fake, but with this new system in place, we are going the extra mile to ensure reviews are genuine. All customers leaving a review will have their review moderated by Referenceline to ensure they are genuine customers, and are not denied the right to leave a review by the firm.

We’re now looking to 2017 and how we can continue to add value to our Registered Firms so that they can pass this on to their customers. We’ll soon be launching a National Trading Standards Approval scheme – so this is something to look forward to seeing in the New Year!

Yes we can – how the NHS can lead the Disability Confident movement

By Social Enterprise Mark holder Pluss

If you haven’t seen it yet, you will soon. And when you do, it’ll blow you away.


It’s the ‘Superhumans’ trailer for Channel 4’s coverage of the 2016 Paralympics that comes hard on the heels of this summer’s Rio Olympic Games. Set to the Sammy Davis Jr. track ‘Yes I Can’ being stunningly performed by a band of disabled musicians, the three-minute film features world-class athletes as well as a rock climber with one arm and a rally driver who steers cars with his feet. It also shows people carrying out everyday tasks – a woman without arms efficiently changes her child’s nappy; another writes notes during a phone call while gripping her pen with her toes. Cut to a gloomy room where a careers officer is telling a young man with a disability, ‘No you can’t’. His message is swamped by a kaleidoscope of people who’ve been featured in the trailer who take it in turn to chorus ‘Yes I can’.

The message is a simple one – see the person; recognise ability; help it flourish because that way everyone benefits.

Within the NHS, it’s easy to think of disability in terms of us and them. In fact, one in three people have some form of disability or limiting condition. The reality is that disability is a part of everyone’s life whether this means friends, family or colleagues, and any of us can become disabled at any time. Disability is everyone’s business.

The Government recognised this recently when, as part of its Disability Confident campaign, it made a commitment to halve the UK’s disability employment gap. That’s the difference between the percentage of people with disabilities who are in work and that of the working age population as a whole. That difference is currently around 33%. To achieve this ambition – in other words to close the gap – will mean one million additional people with a disability or a health condition in work.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this would be a good thing – for the individuals themselves, for employers, for all of us. For NHS Trusts in particular, it makes sound business sense, not least because the NHS Confederation reports a huge problem in recruiting – especially to the 60% of its lower tier jobs. Trusts need talented and resourceful staff, but how best to bring them on board?

There’s a mountain of evidence that workers with a disability are at least, if not more, productive and reliable than their non-disabled colleagues. From Pluss’ experience, disabled employees also bring to work those can-do attributes that they’ve needed to develop in their everyday lives. And having a workforce that is representative of the people being supported by NHS Trusts can only help inspire recovering patients, and help Trusts better understand and respond to their patient base.

For this to happen, Trusts need to think creatively about recruitment if they are to tap into this pool of talent. Employment rates amongst people with a disability or health condition (that’s one in three of us, remember) are low because stubborn preconceptions stop us seeing beyond the disability; and because inflexible recruitment procedures can prevent that pool of people from showing Trusts how they could shine if they were given the chance.
There are some simple steps that Trusts can take to develop a more inclusive approach to recruitment, one that is flexible enough to include some innovative routes into employment for people with a range of disabilities and health conditions. Traditional recruitment procedures such as panel interviews and group sessions are one of the biggest barriers for people with complex disabilities. Working interviews or time limited work trials offer a far better opportunity to judge whether a person has the skills and capabilities to do a job really well. Job carving, with the help of an organisation like Pluss, can ensure a job fits a person’s unique set of skills. Longer term recruitment techniques including traineeships and internships such as Project SEARCH help people grow steadily into outstanding employees.

A yes we can willingness to make small adjustments in work pays dividends too. The changes a Trust might need to make to support dedicated disabled employees are frequently tiny and, almost always, those changes are worth the investment. The NHS is the most iconic health brand in the world. As an institution, it is uniquely placed to see the whole remarkable person, to recognise not what people can’t do but what they can. Showing innovation in how it recruits its workforce can put an NHS Trust where it should be – at the forefront of the Disability Confident movement, and be good for business too.

PlussIf your Trust isn’t sure about the best place to start, or how to build on the steps you’ve already taken, the Disability Confident campaign offers some really good ideas to raise awareness and challenge perceptions. And you can always talk to Pluss. We love hearing from employers and we’re always happy to help.

www.pluss.org.uk

 

Health in our community and how we can work together

By Gareth Presch, Founder of World Health Innovation Summit

We now have the tools and the will to inspire, innovate and share knowledge to support our health services. World Health Innovation Summit provides that space for innovation and knowledge exchange to take place so all sectors of society benefit.

Problem: Our health services are under immense pressure with demand rising. Staff morale, recruitment, retention, patient safety and overall pressures are seeing the current health services stretched to breaking point.

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Solution: World Health Innovation Summit (WHIS) provides an innovative and unique global opportunity to bring people together. WHIS is about inspiring, innovating and sharing knowledge to improve and support healthcare services. It’s a platform for everyone in the community to come together and share their knowledge so we all benefit. Every sector is touched by health, and WHIS allows us all to contribute in a constructive manner and deliver solutions that benefit us all and most importantly while doing so it creates huge economic opportunities.

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Unique and Innovative – Previously we only had patients and clinicians discuss how we solve or improve our health problems. However, health touches everyone and every sector and WHIS provides the platform for all sectors to get involved (Patients, Clinicians, Voluntary Sector, Education and Businesses) so everyone benefits.

Our #WHISCumbria16 summit, which was held in the City of Carlisle, attracted over 300 people and we had a staggering 23.7 million twitter impressions around the World (#WHISCumbria16). This exposure and promotion for the City and region was unprecedented. The value to the City over the 2 days was estimated at £40,000 and we estimate that economically WHIS has brought in excess of £100,000 over the last few months through our various activities.

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To put the WHIS reach into context, we have had enquiries now from over 10 different locations around the World, proposing to host a WHIS summit. WHIS has reached over 100 countries and continues to grow. We’ve just signed a partnership with a top digital health influencer, Salus Digital, that gives us the opportunity to share our vision with key stakeholders in the digital sector.

The WHIS model is a community led initiative that supports existing health care provision while looking at prevention (WHISKids, WHISatwork etc).

An example of the local impact – A father of two disabled children attended WHISCumbria and. based on the knowledge exchanged, he set up a peer support group for other fathers of disabled children. This has a direct impact on alleviating pressure on the local health economy. It means those fathers don’t have to go to their GP’s for support, and also has a significant impact on their quality of life, which in turn results in improvements to the family’s well-being.

From a global perspective, a similar support group was established on the back of WHIS Cumbria – Global Villages for Mental Health – a twitter account set up to support people with mental health problems.

These are just two examples that are innovative and were born as a direct result of the WHIS Cumbria event.

Audience – 80% of our Twitter following are health professionals and decision makers. It’s very evident by the speakers we attracted to WHIS Cumbria that key stakeholders support our ethos and work.

With increasing population growth expected over the next 30 years, it is imperative that we look at how we communicate with the wider public on a local, national and international level around health. Education and knowledge exchange will play an important role as our current health services are stretched. The World Health Innovation Summit platform for knowledge exchange and preventative programmes will play a key role in how public engagement and support of our health services develop around the World.

For example, in six months we’ve seen WHISKids grow from a pilot project to being in 8 schools, with 10 more schools interested. These programmes look to support children with health & wellness and we use a mental health app, the My Way Code, as part of the programme. Results have been significant, with children reporting that it is fun and interesting while also educational.

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The World Health Innovation Summit is a social enterprise and set up to support communities in a unique way. Our profits after costs go back to local communities. Income generated from our activities will be re-invested into local projects.

The WHIS model is aligned to social good and therefore businesses aligning themselves via partnerships with WHIS will see a return (CSR), based on supporting a health initiative that improves health and social care not just locally and nationally but also internationally.

We are unique and innovative in that nobody has ever done anything along these lines before.

To draw a comparison, we can look at Websummit (technology based summit), who saw growth from 400-42,000 in 5 years. WHIS, by comparison, focuses on health and social care as well as technology, so we expect growth to be similar or in excess of this.

WHIS
Communities are supporting our activities and now we are seeking to partner with companies and agencies with the same values that are aligned to improving our community’s health care while sharing knowledge.

*If you have an idea that can help our health services or community contact us on info@worldhealthinnovationsummit.com


 

This post originally appeared on the WHIS blog on 15th July 2016: http://www.worldhealthinnovationsummit.com/blog/2016/07/15/health-in-our-community-and-how-we-can-work-together-gareth-presch/

 

Mind the gap…

…The step change needed to halve the disability employment gap

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

First the good news, then the maths.

The good news is the government’s unequivocal commitment to halving the disability employment gap.

Now the maths.

The disability employment gap currently stands at around 43 percentage points. To halve the gap means moving around 1.2 million more disabled people in work. In the last five years, the number of disabled people in work has risen by just 23,000. Halving the gap also means keeping people in work. According to the ONS, over 400,000 disabled people each year lose their job and fall into unemployment or inactivity. One in six of those who become disabled while in work lose their employment during the first year after becoming disabled.

What’s more, the challenge is increasing. The ONS predicts that by 2020, over a third of the workforce will be over fifty, and more than half of the over-50s workforce will have a disability or impairment. Like all really effective aspirational statements, the government’s pledge sets an almost unachievable goal. Almost, but not quite. It raises the bar. It demands that we think differently, that we make some brave choices.

Like President Kennedy’s pledge in 1961 that Americans would land on the Moon by the end of the decade, the idea of halving the disability employment gap is do-able because, perhaps naively, we can imagine a world in which it is possible. Many people believed that a Moon landing was possible, but not all of them understood the level of commitment, resilience and willingness to innovate that was needed to realise the goal in 1969. I believe we can, if we choose, get a million more people with disabilities into work and, importantly, keep most of them there – but not without an almost unimaginable level of commitment, resilience and willingness to innovate on the part of government and the partners it chooses to work with.

As the flagship initiative to deliver the government’s pledge, the challenge for the Work and Health Programme is that, for a majority of its customers, `any job` won’t be good enough, and for many a job start will, at most, represent only half of the journey. We’ll need to have primes in place who understand the critical nature of specialists in delivering outcomes on the programme, who can build and contract manage a team of specialists with local credentials and partnerships that are integrated with local health systems, in particular mental health, to support the journey back to work.

At £130 million a year, the Work and Health Programme will have around 20% of the combined resources of Work Programme and Work Choice, and will help upwards of perhaps 10,000 people a year to enter the workplace. It will set an important tone. But to reduce the disability employment gap by any significant measure will require a step change across half a dozen complementary areas of work.

  • First, government should explore ways of developing a robust retention service that meets the needs of both employers and disabled employees in a much more proactive way than the Fit for Work Service and Access to Work provision is currently able to do.
  • Second, we should ensure that the strategic and commissioning weight of LEPs, City Deals and Growth Plans are used in a co-ordinated way to maximise the opportunities of disabled people to enter local labour markets.
  • Third, I endorse the calls of a number of organisations for Government to explore the potential for ‘disability leave’ as a way of more constructively managing the fluctuating conditions of some employees. 40% of all employed disabled people say that modified hours have enabled them to stay in work; 36% of those out of work say that modified hours could have helped them retain their job.
  • Fourth, we need to find ways to support people who cannot access DWP provision to re-enter the labour market. Providing employment support is not a statutory requirement for local authorities or CCGs The four DWP mental health and employment pilots about to commence are welcome, but they take place against a background of dwindling funding for locally commissioned supported employment programmes, making it vital that government finds ways of incentivising local authorities to retain employment services for people in receipt of adult social care who are unlikely to gain access in large numbers to a capped Work and Health Programme.
  • Fifth, a significant percentage of disabled people falling out of the workforce are from professional, technical and managerial positions with acquired disabilities and health conditions who have long careers behind them and who will choose not to access JCP. Government and other stakeholders should urgently explore the potential for an intervention designed to support this cohort of people to rapidly re-enter the workforce.
  • Sixth, we need to get to grips with the transitions agenda, finding ways to help talented young people with learning disabilities and hidden impairments onto apprenticeship routes and supported internship programmes as part of a national unified drive to ensure that every young person with a disability who wants to transition into work can do so.

Finally, we need a step change in the way employers are engaged and supported to be part of the solution. We need to build on the Disability Confident initiative – from a promising PR campaign driven by committed providers and seventy active employers into a national movement which is identifiably driving the agenda, holding to account and championing innovation across each part of the plan.

Achieving remarkable things isn’t easy. We shouldn’t pretend this is a quick fix, or that more and more can magically be achieved with fewer and fewer resources. But a challenge has been set. Now we need some brave decisions that will move us from a visionary slogan to a detailed roadmap.

Please click here to read Pluss’ full submission to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into halving the disability employment gap.

 


PlussSquare_400x400Pluss is an accredited social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

How the Social Enterprise Mark can benefit Higher Education Institutions

By Cara Aitchison, Vice Chancellor of University of St Mark & St John

Our students and graduates are increasingly reporting that they seek employment and lifestyles that enable them to contribute to the social, cultural and environmental well-being of their communities, society and the world around them, rather than simply thinking of their degree as a route to a highly paid career. This presents an opportunity for university leaders who chose to put ethics, civic engagement, social and environmental justice and sustainable economic development at the heart of their strategic plans and student experience.

By being accredited with the Social Enterprise Mark, universities can better demonstrate their sustainable and ethical business credentials to the next generation of applicants. We can show our students how we apply in practice the values and knowledge that we teach and how they too can be part of a social enterprise culture.

We are all under increasing pressure to expand and diversify our income streams, and to demonstrate our positive benefit to the students, communities and stakeholders we serve. The social enterprise business model provides opportunities for HEIs to transform the way we are perceived by stakeholders and can enable us to position ourselves as ‘businesses’ driven by social objectives.

MARJON-LOGO-CMYKThe University of St Mark & St John was awarded the Social Enterprise Mark in 2015, signalling our commitment to social enterprise and demonstrating the social value that we create as a university.

As the number one university in the UK for social mobility, we are proud to be recognised for our commitment to helping local communities and the broader south west peninsula to thrive and prosper. The Social Enterprise Mark helps us to communicate this commitment to students, potential applicants, partners and the wider business community and sets us apart as a values-based, socially conscious university.

As we enter a new era in Higher Education, where the Teaching Excellence Framework and other policy developments emphasise graduate earnings, we need ways to demonstrate our parallel commitment to social enterprise principles, and the Social Enterprise Mark offers one such mechanism.

There is currently a potential discount for GuildHE members that commit to apply for the Social Enterprise Mark before the end of August 2016, and I would recommend doing so. My colleague, Professor Brendon Noble, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and International who took forward our application for the Social Enterprise Mark, can also talk to you about our experience and the benefits.

You can get in touch with Social Enterprise Mark CIC with any questions, or to express your interest in applying – 0345 504 6536 or via email.


 

Originally posted on the GuildHE blog on 22nd April 2016

Why talking about ‘what is a social enterprise?’ is still important

By Gareth Hart, Co-founder of Iridescent Ideas

“So you’re a social enterprise, eh? What does that mean then?” How many times have you been asked that question? How many times have you answered it but still aren’t convinced that they questioner has ‘got it’ or believes it?

The debate about the definition of social enterprise may well seem jaded and old news to those of us within the social enterprise community but it seems that a large proportion of the general public didn’t even realise there had been a debate going on. So, the aforementioned question comes up time and time again. If we want to establish new audiences for social enterprise and push the concept into a wider public consciousness it is vitally important to maintain a public dialogue about ‘what is a social enterprise’.

No one really seems to question you in the same way if your business is a charity or Fairtrade or eco-friendly. There is an automatic assumption these are ‘good’ things. People know what these terms mean. They come with a nice badge, logo or number that tells the public they’ve been checked out and do indeed do what they say on the tin. If only there was a similar thing available to social enterprises…

SE_Business_Identifier_RGBEnter the Social Enterprise Mark. The Mark is the social enterprise equivalent of the Fairtrade logo or the Charity Commission number. The Social Enterprise Mark provides:

  • A clear definition of what constitutes a social enterprise
  • An instantly recognisable ‘stamp of approval’ to show that your business has been independently assessed and meets criteria to justifiably call itself a social enterprise
  • A national community of like-minded ethical businesses for social enterprises to engage with
  • A range of other benefits around marketing and support

There is growing interest in the Social Enterprise Mark, particularly among large organisations like universities. Plymouth University was the first social enterprise university and has held the Mark since 2012. Many of the large health spin-outs also hold the Mark. These organisations provide services to huge numbers of people and have strong roles in public life in their respective towns, cities and areas. I would like to see more large healthcare providers really engage with the public around understanding that they are receiving great services from a local social enterprise. The Mark could help them do this.

As the social enterprise sector, and public awareness of it, continues to grow, so I hope that the Social Enterprise Mark will continue to flow into public consciousness and eventually become as recognisable as the Fairtrade logo. The Mark will evolve, I am sure, and we need an ongoing dialogue about what it means to be a social enterprise both within and outside the sector.

With the introduction of the Social Value Act in 2013 there is a requirement for social value and impact to be given more weight within commissioning of services. Consumers are looking to purchase ethical goods and for businesses to behave better. Surely then, the time is right for the Social Enterprise Mark to become a stamp of social value so that commissioners and customers alike will recognise social enterprises and be able to make more informed choices about the goods and services they buy and use.

I believe that social enterprises are better for the economy and for society. We need to articulate more clear what ‘better’ looks like of course. Social enterprises create wealth and jobs and also deliver environmental and social value. The Mark can be the guarantee that proves this.


 

Originally published on Iridescent Ideas blog, 2nd September 2015

Failure, the secret to success

By Des Day, MD and Founder of Supply Shack

I was asked to give a talk to 500 school children on 7th March at Ferndown Middle School in Dorset on the subject of “Failure”.  These kids ranged from 9 years to 14 years.  At first I thought these kids surely won’t be subject to failure on any scale compared to us grown-ups….

I rocked up at this school and met Kaye Jackson of Jon Egging Trustwho I do some volunteer mentor and speaking for.  The kids swarmed in the main hall in a very orderly fashion and promptly sat down on the floor.   They looked a little cold so I asked them to oblige me by standing up and then sitting down, then standing up, then sitting down…. you get the idea.  It broke the ice, they cracked a smile and they got warm in the process.

Failure; I guess most people have experienced this debilitating, paralysing effect in some shape or form.  It’s that lingering monster waiting to snatch any chance of you realising your dreams. Experiencing failure helps create building blocks that put us on the road to success.  As long as we learn from them, our path to achieving our life fulfilling dreams can only then become a reality.

What have you failed at?

I asked the children what types of failures have they experienced; with a little prompting….. I reassured them that “I fail at stuff all the time“!

  • I’ve failed to go to / get out of bed on time. (the kids liked the getting out of bed – I think everyone in assembly put their hands up)
  • I’ve failed in tests
  • I’ve failed to follow my heart
  • I’ve failed by procrastinating important things
  • I’ve failed at business
  • I’ve failed at sports
  • I’ve failed in music
  • I’ve failed in relationships

Imagine for a moment… if a sports person dedicated the hours, weeks, months  and blood sweat and tears to attain a podium spot only to miss out on a medal position.  Imagine an inventor who’s committed to the sleepless nights, endured the financial and family pressure to achieve a global phenomenon only to find they came up short and then quit on the spot.

We’ve all been there; our resolve has been tested to the point where all you want to do is bury your head in your hands and scream! I know it’s easier said than done BUT imagine how life changing and fulfilling it can be if we were to persevere through these moments of untold stress and NOT throw in the towel.

Why give up?

  • Sounds like too much hard work
  • Negative feedback – people telling you it’s no good, it won’t work
  • Too scared of failure / outcome
  • Tried it and it didn’t work

Kick Failure into shape

Don’t let failure be so debilitating that it pulls you down.  The very fact that you had the guts to get in to this arena puts you in another league and for that you should be commended.   You are simply discovering more ways of doing things wrong which is putting you closer to getting things right.

Failure

How to overcome failure

  • Analyse – Understand why you failed; you need to analyse this to help prevent you from going there again.  Have a notepad moment; write it down and visualise what the outcome would of been if you done it different
  • Acceptance– Sometimes we dwell far too much on what the outcome will be and this can paralyse our progress.  Accept the worst outcome and once you’ve conquered that mental fear, it becomes one less worry that can hinder your performance
  • Think positive– Turn the “I Can’t ” in to  “I Can”.  Planting that positive seed in your brain will foster positive outcomes
  • Proactive– Change your physical and mental mind-set; get off the couch and immerse yourself in opportunities.  Failure comes through effort
  • Disassociate– Separate the failure from your identity.  Your failures are not you. They’re just results that you can use to learn from and grow

Reflection

There are many who have ventured in to the battlegrounds of failure and those who have persevered and had guts to stick to what they believe have prevailed.  There is no denying it’s a true test on every physical and mental part of your body.  But remember that without failure success will remain forever elusive.

I would like to leave you with this quote: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all— in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K.Rowling

 


Originally published on Linked In on 7th March 2016

What is community resilience and how do you measure it?

By Kate Pierpoint, Deputy Chief Executive of Manor House Development Trust

Community resilience

There is no universally agreed definition of community resilience. However, it is broadly described as ‘the capacity of an individual or community to withstand and recover from adverse change’. The challenge in defining community resilience is deciding what we mean by change and what we mean by community.

Building community resilience is an important approach to tackling potentially harmful changes which affect whole communities, like natural disasters, climate change and economic uncertainty. It focuses on unlocking the power of communities to support themselves.

The Cabinet Office defines community resilience as communities harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency. The Big Lottery Fund defines community resilience in the context of climate change. Its ‘Communities Living Sustainably’ programme (from which the Trust’s PACT project is funded) works to help communities respond to the adverse affects of climate change and live and work sustainably. Carnegie UK Trust explores community resilience more widely, in terms of communities adapting to any kind of rapid change.

The ability of a community to be resilient to rapid change has important implications for the local community that Manor House Development Trust supports on the Woodberry Down estate, which is undergoing significant physical change through a 20 year Regeneration scheme. However, many of these changes also bring benefits. Therefore, the way the Trust defines community resilience needs to go beyond simply adapting to adverse change; to include embracing and maximising positive changes.

What makes a community resilient?

Community resilienceManor House Development Trust’s research suggests that community resilience is built through strengthening relationships, between people and organisations. It defines a resilient community as one with ‘high social capital’ and ‘access to local services’. By identifying the main risks affecting the Woodberry Down community, the Trust breaks the term down into economic, social and environmental resilience.

A surprising finding which later emerged was the importance of a ‘strong voluntary sector’ for community resilience; the idea that local ‘ownership’ of assets and services allows communities to sustain them and make them work better for local people.

1) Building social capital

Social capital is defined as the networks and relationships among people who live and work in a community. A community with high social capital; where residents have friends locally, trust each other and support one another; is more likely to be resilient to adversity (Ledogar, R. J. and Fleming, J. 2008).

Research divides social capital into four main features (Putnam R.D. 1993):

  1. The number and density of community networks
  2. The level of engagement of residents with community activities
  3. A sense of belonging and equality with other members of the community
  4. Trust in the community and a sense of obligation to help others along with a confidence that support will be returned

These four features have enabled the Trust to quantify to what extent its work is building social capital. For example, by offering opportunities for residents to engage with community activities in the long-term, a person is 6 times as likely to feel a greater sense of belonging. By piloting a Closer Neighbour scheme, groups of residents have continued to meet and check up on their neighbours beyond funding.

2) Increasing access to local services

Literature suggests that local services and infrastructure are vital for providing communities with the resources and expertise to be resilient during times of adverse change. These may include emergency services, to protect communities from environmental changes, like flooding. They may include training, jobs brokerage and energy advice services, to build the economic resilience of communities to fuel poverty and unemployment. They also include services like Befriending schemes and community centres, important for building social connections.

The Trust found that by offering energy advice to people on their doorsteps, fuel poor residents were saving on average £125 a year on their energy bills. 87% of participants felt they better understood where to get further energy, compared to only 37% before the project. By offering affordable access for groups to use a community centre (worth £25,000), the Trust has attracted over 25 new community services to the local area. These include cooking, gardening, vocational training, fitness activities, arts and crafts, bike repair and mother and baby classes.

3) Building a local voluntary sector

On the Woodberry Down estate, local people are more and more seeking opportunities to set up their own community groups and businesses. Being resident-led, this growing number of community groups is helping to build social relationships within the community, encouraging other people to participate.

The Trust’s research has shown that this growing level of ‘ownership’ is having a profound effect on those individuals, but also on the community as a whole, where residents have access to an increasing number of local services. This is critical to enhancing people’s capacity to take control of their health, wellbeing, gain employment and ultimately transform their lives. The Trust spoke to a number of the residents who are leading community groups to understand what inspires them to lead these groups.

One resident said “I went on a training programme, where I had to volunteer for 4 hours every week to support community groups on the estate. By the end, I got an NVQ in Health Promotion. But also, being involved with some great community groups, we didn’t want them to end so we just kept running them!”

This consultation has shown that by offering structured volunteering placements which complement training courses, the Trust is providing people the long-term support to not only volunteer with local community initiatives, but to take ownership of them.

In conclusion…

There is a huge amount of great research on this topic, with valuable tips on defining and measuring community resilience. However, when deciding how to measure your own impact, consultation is critical to understanding your community and the issues that affect it. In addition, the capacity of communities to make the most of positive changes should be considered. The Trust found that local ownership of assets and services plays a central role in building resilience on Woodberry Down, achieved by unlocking the power of people.

 


Originally published on http://www.mhdt.org.uk/our-impact/blog-march-2016/ 8th March 2016

How Good Are We At Doing ‘Good’?

By Kate Pierpoint, Deputy Chief Executive of Manor House Development Trust

mhdtAs we continue to face social and economic challenges, the need for value for money and maximised social impact continues to increase. The Social Value Act of 2012 has seen an acceleration of this trend. More recently, the demand for both financial and social return is reflected in the Government’s backing of Social Impact Bonds and injection of £20m a year (Autumn Statement 2015). As a result, public sector commissioners increasingly want to know how much value their investment creates and social reporting figures help them to decide where to put their money.

When you market your organisation as one that is making positive impact, you open yourself up to extra scrutiny. Expectations are high and those looking at your impact will often compare your results to other organisations as a way to see ‘how good you are at doing good’. Figures can often be skewed and this contest to demonstrate the greatest impact creates the need for larger and larger numbers and more and more sensational stories in order to stand out- especially so in an economic climate with heightened competition for funding and customers.

So even if we are good at achieving positive impact, social impact figures are not necessarily going to reflect that or get us noticed.

Tools like Social Return on Investment (designed by New Economics Foundation) have been designed to measure the efficiency of projects to generate impact. The ratio of £:£ tells you exactly how good your projects are at doing good. But even this data doesn’t tell us about the needs of those you are supporting; it can’t capture the value of change to an individual; and it doesn’t explain why your work is important and why other people should care about it. Figures don’t tell the full story; you have to look beyond the data.

The ‘so what?’ statement

What I am getting at is the ‘so what’ statement. Context is everything in social impact measurement. Whatever type of organisation you work for, it’s really important to tell a story that others can get behind; whether they are customers, investors, partners or your staff. For this reason, you have to really know who your audience is and what matters to them.

Tell the story

“We realise a lot of social enterprises don’t have the means to do full social impact reporting. They just need to clearly articulate what they’re doing”
Venturesome in The Guardian, 2012, ‘The growing importance of social impact reporting’

Audiences don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted, but they always have 30 minutes to hear a great story”
Sweetman, J., ‘The importance of social impact’

 

What we did

For 2 years, Manor House Development Trust has invested a great deal of time and money improving its impact measurement processes. As a ‘community development’ organisation, we found it difficult to articulate the impact we were having, in a way all of our stakeholders could understand. The concept of ‘Community’ means many different things to different people. It could be any size, any location (it doesn’t even need a location) and each of us probably belongs to many different ‘communities’. The word ‘Development’ in the context of community is also very difficult to describe, even though no one could deny its importance.

And this is what we were faced with as an organisation. How do we succinctly describe what it is we are trying to do, whilst also explaining these complex concepts? How do we tell the story, without it becoming a novel?

“We realised that even though we describe ourselves as a community development organisation,we don’t actually do community development”
Simon Donovan, Manor House Development Trust

The answer came from speaking to people, lots of people, about what changes we have brought about for them and why that was important; whether they were funders, service-users, staff or partners. And gradually, we began to use their language- piecing it all together. Key themes, priorities and commonalities emerged, which would then form the 5 Business Objectives of our new Business Plan.
hex-points

What this has allowed us to do is to tell a narrative that speaks to many different types of stakeholders. It follows through the journey explaining how a project (however small) contributes to a wider context and can create a legacy for the future. The narrative has also steered the branding of the organisation, where the language of our stakeholders is embedded in the Business Plan and all communications that flow from it. Crucially, the narrative provides a framework whereby all future impact can be captured and reported effectively. In other words, we know what our impact is before our projects even start.

So in answer to the question: How good are we at doing ‘good’?
In my view, we are only as good as the story we tell. 


Originally published on http://www.mhdt.org.uk/our-impact/blog-november/ 27th November 2015

 

One Million Journeys

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

So now we know that a new Work and Health Programme will replace the two current DWP employment programmes when they end in 2017.

Just a month after the Work & Pensions Committee recommended that DWP should ‘maintain, and ideally expand, a separate employment programme for disabled people’, the Government has instead announced that a single Work and Health Programme will be commissioned to support into work people with health conditions and disabilities, and job-seekers who have been unemployed for two years.

The government is clear that it wants to halve the disability employment gap. In other words, it wants to see a million more disabled people moving into work. We know now that this new programme will be one of the main vehicles tasked with achieving that goal.

Of course, by focusing on the disability employment gap, the government is acknowledging the reality of a distinct set of labour market disadvantages faced by people with complex support needs. It is asking the new programme not to hit and hope, but to identify these disadvantages and to fix them.

The challenge for DWP is now to commission the new programme in a way that ensures disability specialists are at the heart of delivery, not pushed to the edges, and to align the programme’s commercial drivers with the goal of securing sustained jobs and careers for people needing highly specialised support.

The challenge to the primes who will lead the new programme is to recognise early on that this isn’t Work Programme 2.0. This is a specialist programme, but one with the potential to be delivered on a much bigger scale than existing specialist provision. It is clear that there was a strong argument for retaining a separate specialist programme, but at least the emphasis of the new programme is right.

Gone is the flawed logic of having a ‘universal’ programme which was expected to cater for everybody. As the results showed, the mechanics of the Work Programme forced most providers into a standardised one size fits all model that focused on those closest to the labour market. By contrast, the message now is that the new programme is to be aimed by design at people with disabilities, with health conditions, with chaotic lifestyles and with multiple barriers to work. In truth, this is a quiet revolution. It’s one that we shouldn’t underestimate. And it’s one that is re-enforced by the decision to provide £115m for the Joint Work & Health Unit, including £40m for a health and work innovation fund to pilot new ways to join up health and employment systems.

The arguments put forward for a separate specialist programme had a clear logic. They were based on the understanding that helping someone who needs highly specialised support to gain a job and build a career is a wholly distinct profession to the carrot and stick business of prompting work-ready jobseekers to submit multiple CVs. This insight remains vital.

It’s why those primes with the financial muscle to lead bids for the new programme will need to ensure that resources intended to support work with the most vulnerable customers do reach the front line. And it’s why those primes will also need to put specialists at the heart of the process to craft and develop what will be a radically new programme.

That’s because those partnerships that do go on to make money from welfare to work services in the future will be the ones not simply bent on crashing cohorts into the first jobs they spy. Instead they will have sufficient expertise threaded through their supply chains, connected to supporting health and welfare systems, to support the right person into the right (often modified) job and then a career with employers who themselves are partners in the process.

As the new programme starts to takes shape, it will be important for everyone involved in the process to recognise the reality that there are one million individuals, at home, in college, outside the doctor’s consulting room or the therapist’s office, waiting to make one million separate journeys into work.

For now, we at Pluss await with interest details of the scale, design and commissioning of a programme that will need to provide the specialist support that each of those million journeys into work will require.

Pluss CEO responds to the recently published Work & Pensions Committee report on the Work Programme

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee have just published their report on the Work Programme after interviewing a series of expert witnesses and taking a mountain of evidence. Their report is clear-sighted, far-reaching, and unanimous.

The report makes clear that a mainstream, one size fits all Work Programme is not working well for people who need more intensive help. That’s why, as the Committee observes, nearly 70% of participants are completing  two years on the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. Condemning so many people with disabilities to live out two whole years of their lives on the Work Programme does no-one any favours, least of all the Exchequer.

But the central point is this – if the Government is serious about halving the disability employment gap, it must retain and significantly expand a specialist employment programme separate to the mainstream Work Programme. What’s more, the Committee are adamant that this specialist programme should be delivered exclusively by specialist disability organisations with the expertise to support disabled people.

Why? Because Work Choice, the current specialist programme, offers a clearly different kind of provision but is too small to make a big enough difference. For reasons of cost, the Government may be tempted to consolidate mainstream and specialist disability employment support into a single new programme. If the Government elects to go with a single programme, there are some stark challenges to avoid vanquishing all meaningful expertise from the sector.

Service fees intended to support work with the most vulnerable customers must not be gobbled up by hungry primes or heavily top-sliced as a tax on supply chains; they must reach specialist providers in full. As an integral part of the bidding process, primes must be forced to explain what the challenges are to each customer cohort across each CPA and how specialists will be used to meet these challenges. The commissioning process must include active dialogue with bidders to drill down into their levels of expertise and localised resources.

Under these circumstances, a single programme could deliver at least some of the benefits of a separate specialist approach. But let’s be clear, this is not the optimum solution, it’s a second best. The Work and Pensions Committee report goes further and says that a single programme would be a grave mistake.

For myself, I am certain that, over five years of costs and benefits, Government would gain considerably if they follow the unambiguous advice of the cross-party Committee.

Of course, the people who have most to gain are the one million people with a disability who will need to be supported into sustainable work if the disability employment gap is to be halved. These are the individuals who need the right support to find the right job first time, and the Work and Pensions Committee have now set out clearly for all of us the best way for this to be achieved.

 


PlussSquare_400x400Pluss is a certified social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

Good Money Week 18th – 24th October

By Isabelle De Grave, Charity Bank

 (originally posted on Charity Bank blog on 1st October 2015)

The most important week for the Good Money campaign is fast approaching. Here’s what it’s all about.

Good Money WeekGood Money Week, 18th – 24th October 2015, is an opportunity to ensure those you trust with your money are looking after it well and using it in ways that benefit society and protect the environment.

What’s the big deal?

“It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.”

Desmond Tutu’s take on the logic of investment without concern for our future wellbeing is hard to beat and even harder to contest. As it is, the money we invest, or deposit with a bank, isn’t always invested in ways that are good for people, communities and the environment. Look closely, and you’ll find that money flows to some pretty unsavoury destinations, the arms trade, fossil fuels, gambling to name a few.

So we nod in agreement with Archbishop Tutu and dream of a better world. Or, better still, we look for ways to build one. . .

What is Good Money Week all about?

Good Money Week is about discovering new ways to make money work the way we want it to, whether we want to save ethically, invest for social impact or spend our money in ways that won’t leave the planet worse off than we found it.

As the Good Money campaign puts it, “We’re facing big challenges in the UK and across the globe: extreme weather, social inequality, scarce resources and a rapidly growing population… The amount of money channeled into solving these problems – in the form of investment into projects or more responsible companies – helps ensure they won’t get worse and that our quality of life, and that of our children and grandchildren, will be protected.”

So here’s to fossil-free ISAs, ethical equity and savings that work for good! If Good Money is something you want to learn more about and support, pop along to some events during Good Money Week.

How you can get involved

  • Follow the money saved with an ethical bank. In support of Good Money Week, we’re following the money saved in Charity Bank’s ethical accounts to the charities and social enterprises they help support. You can sign up here.
  • Email or write to your MP and ask them to support Good Money Week.
  • Attend a Good Money Week event or organise your own.
  • Read up on the issues and find ‘good money’ options for your finances. Some useful sites include The Good Money Week website, Good With Money, Pioneers Post and the Charity Bank blog.
  • Tell friends, family, your community group, customers, the media and anyone else about Good Money Week using the Good Money toolkit (currently being updated with new resources for 2015).

As the Good Money Week campaign reminds us, ‘Money makes the world go round’ but ‘Good Money’ makes it go the right way.

*This article originally appeared on the Charity Bank blog on 1st October 2015: http://charitybank.org/news/good-money-week-is-approaching-dont-let-it-pass-you-by

Social Enterprise

If The Government Are Serious About Halving The Disability Employment Gap…

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

Credit to the Government for being so clear. They want to halve the disability employment gap. That’s the difference between the percentage of people with disabilities who are in work and that of the working age population as a whole.

Pretty much everyone agrees this would be a good thing – for the individuals themselves, for employers, for taxpayers, for all of us. Research by the Social Market Foundation indicates that achieving the goal would boost the economy by £13 billion.

But the ambition won’t be achieved by wishing for it. True, the imaginative Disability Confident campaign has captured headlines and made inroads. And much good work is being done to build the ‘presumption of employability’ for people with disabilities, although this remains a work in progress on both sides of the interviewer’s desk.

But these are only complementary activities. I believe that over the next decade our ability to reduce the disability employment gap will be largely dependent on a single factor. It’s this. What help will people get to make the journey? In other words, what will the programme that is required to do most of the heavy lifting look like?

It’s critical to recognise that helping into work someone with a learning disability or autism, or someone with profound and enduring mental ill-health or with multiple and complex support needs, is an entirely different industry to helping roomfuls of jobseekers close to the labour market to get a job.

At its heart, this question is about the challenge facing some people that ‘any job’ isn’t good enough. The greater the level or complexity of the disability or health need, the more precise the fit of the person, the job role, the support and the employer must be.

It isn’t that people with complex support needs can`t work – our experience at Pluss is that they make some of the most outstanding employees for the companies we support. But it’s important to recognise that, as we move along a spectrum of support needs from simple to complex, the pool of potentially suitable jobs and work settings steadily shrinks. At the same time, the need increases for a thorough technical understanding of how an individual’s support needs impact on both the navigation of labour market and the capacity to work well in a job.

A successful intervention therefore requires not just ‘any job’ but exactly the right job with the right employer in the right place with the right help both leading up to a job start and in-work.

As we have seen on the Work Programme, getting it wrong for this group of customers means that all too often the negative perceptions of employers (that people with disabilities can’t work, that they’re not as productive, that reasonable adjustments might be too much hassle) can get reinforced.

This need for an increasingly exact fit between person and job is why the Universal Job Match process is routinely unsuccessful, for example, for someone with autism or with severe and enduring mental ill-health. In our world, it’s rarely the case that an approximate job match is good enough.

I think this approach begins to explain some of the differences in programme performance. 52% of Work Choice starts between the 1st April 2014 and 30th September 2014 obtained a job outcome by 31st March 2015. In contrast, only 12% of ESA new claimants  and  only 5% of ‘ex-IB’ ESA participants on Work Programme get a job outcome after being on the programme for 2 years.

The procurement and commercial arrangements for Work Programme have exacerbated this challenge of working with ESA customers. The commercial drivers of the programme and the scale of contracts have ensured that specialist primes have been excluded from the programme. The use of non-specialists as primes, many of whom are also non-providers, has led to a one size fits all approach that works for some but clearly not for all.

Differential pricing was designed to be the tool to persuade the market to invest in support and expertise for those people whose disabilities placed them furthest from the market place. The market, left to its own devices, has failed this test.

It’s important to say that the Work Programme works well for a large number of people. It has established its credibility as a programme that is effective for those jobseekers without complex support needs for who a wide range of jobs and workplace settings are potentially suitable.

That’s what the replacement mainstream employment programme must be allowed to focus on.

But the greater or more complex a customer’s disabilities, the less effective will be a high volume programme delivered by primes that are driven by the commercial model to a one-size-fits-all approach and that have no in-depth disability specialism.

I believe the evident strengths of the current specialist Work Choice programme, and the comparably poor ESA performance data for the Work Programme, provide a strong evidence base to support the need for a specialist programme, commissioned in a way that ensures the inclusion of experts.

That is why a specialist disability employment programme led by specialist primes must be the cornerstone of the Government’s strategy.

When we know if that’s the plan, we’ll know how serious the Government is about halving the disability gap.

 


Pluss is a certified social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people  gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

Act like Amazon or save the Amazon?

By Isabelle De Grave, Charity Bank

We can choose to buy from, work for, and even set up companies that have a sense of purpose beyond profit. But how do we spot them?

In the digital age, the demand for information, often just a click or a ‘google’ away, is immense. At the same time public interest in the inner-workings of organisations, their ethics, standards and practices, is growing.

As a business, it’s not enough to simply say you’re ethical; you need to be able to prove it. Today there are a number of ways to do this, and companies are beginning to take notice.

The view from inside an ethical bank

From my vantage point, inside an ethical bank that lends its savers’ money to charities and social enterprises, I can see the potential for ethical business to grow. Charity Bank’s strong community – people who really care about where their money ends up – fuels my optimism, as do recent events…

The exposure of Amazon’s treatment of its employees, pushing people to their physical and mental limits in the name of production and profit, instantly provoked public outrage. It also sparked action, a petition on change.org to make Amazon UK pay their workers the Living Wage, along with the publication of an Amazon-free shopping guide.

Disenchantment with corporates

It must be sinking in. We care about how companies treat people, what sort of activities they’re invested in and how they affect the environment.

Anyone attuned to the current tone of Twitter and the blogosphere will recognise the growing public interest in the way businesses operate. The feeling towards companies which pay little or no attention to purpose and values is pure disenchantment, neatly captured by Dom Jackman, founder of Escape The City, in his blog “Dear Corporates: A quarter of a million of your workforce are escaping…”

The ball is in our court.

We can choose to buy from, work for, and even set up companies that have a sense of purpose beyond profit. But how do we spot them?

Here are some steps that Charity Bank has taken to point people towards its ethical credentials and a few other ways of identifying ‘good’ businesses. These are all credible signs that an organisation cares about its employees, society and the environment. Whether you’re someone who wants to check that a business is ‘walking the ethical talk’ or you’re a business owner, I’d recommend looking out for them.

  1. SE_Business_Identifier_RGBThe Social Enterprise Mark. If you invest at least 50% of your profits in a social mission, you may qualify for the Social Enterprise Mark. We became the first bank in the UK to earn the Mark making Charity Bank an independently certified social enterprise. See if you can apply.
  2. Living Wage accreditation. Companies that pay all employees the Living Wage can seek an independent certification and become an accredited Living Wage employer. We did this back in 2014.
  3. The B Corporation certificate. A growing number of businesses, including Charity Bank, are showing that they take their impacts on their employees, society and the environment seriously by applying to become a B Corporation, which provides an independent certification of ethical business.
  4. Measuring and sharing social and environmental impacts. This is something that’s core to our business of lending to charities and social enterprises. We share information about our loans on our website so that savers can see the impact their savings are having. See our approach here. There’s no standard approach to accounting for impact on society and the environment but there are some useful resources and initiatives. The Common Good Balance Sheet is worth a look.
  5. Using finance for good. If you’re a small business or a charity looking to put money away in a savings account, you could consider opening a savings account with Charity Bank, as a way of earning a fair return and boosting your organisation’s social impact by supporting the work of charities and social enterprises. And if you’re an individual looking to save with an ethical bank, this all helps to show you’re in the right place. You can check out our savings accounts here.

There are a few ethical banking options out there for businesses, charities and individuals. The space is maturing slowly but surely. As well as Charity Bank, there’s Triodos Bank, Ecology Building Society, Charities Aid Foundation and Unity Trust Bank.You can find ethical and mainstream banks ranked in the Good Shopping Guide’s ethical league tables and more on ethical finance and movements in a blog by Patrick Crawford, Charity Bank’s chief executive here.

As the Amazon storm calms, perhaps it’s time to reflect on our own power to redefine success in business. With the tools to raise standards of purpose, transparency and accountability at our fingertips, now is an exciting time.

*This article originally appeared on the Charity Bank blog: http://charitybank.org/news/act-like-amazon-or-save-the-amazon-the-ball-is-in-our-court

 


25% discount on Charity Bank loans for Mark Holders

IMG_2290To celebrate becoming the first UK bank to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark, Charity Bank has announced a partnership with Social Enterprise Mark CIC to offer Mark Holders a 25% reduction on their standard loan arrangement fee.

Please click here for full information

Important information

  • Quote CBL/SEM to claim your 25% discount. Charity Bank’s standard arrangement fee is usually 1% of the agreed loan but may be individually negotiated
  • The offer is available to all Social Enterprise Mark holders, which have not borrowed or submitted a formal enquiry or loan application about a Charity Bank loan in the past twelve months
  • All loan applications are subject to approval by Charity Bank and applications must be submitted by 31st May 2016.
To find out more about Charity Bank, visit: http://charitybank.org/charity-loans  or follow @charitybank