Posts

Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

Pluss Work and Health Programme Announcement

The Pluss Organisation CIC is delighted to have been awarded the Work and Health Programme contract for Southern England by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This result will allow Pluss to support an even greater number of people with health conditions and disabilities into sustainable work.

Pluss has a proud heritage of supporting people with health and disability needs and has developed a new model called ‘Opportunities Unlimited’ that will deliver a truly personalised service for job seekers. The key principle to their solution is that with the right support, most people can find work and build a career. They want to ensure that no-one is left behind.

Pluss expects that at least 85% of participants on the programme will have a health condition or disability. They have therefore developed a locally integrated supply chain of specialist providers who will deliver innovative services to jobseekers across the entire Southern region.

The Southern Contract Package Area (CPA) covers the following Jobcentre Plus districts:

  • Devon, Cornwall and Somerset
  • Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset
  • Avon, Severn and Thames (excluding Milton Keynes and Aylesbury)
  • Berkshire, Surrey, Brighton and West Sussex

The needs of customers will be diverse and our delivery is designed to reach isolated coastal towns, dispersed rural communities and urban hubs.

Pluss will also continue to raise the profile of the DWP’s Disability Confident campaign to help employers fill vacancies through a diverse workforce.

Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive at Pluss, said “Pluss is proud that our health and disability expertise and performance has been recognised by the Department for Work and Pensions. We are delighted to have secured this contract which enables us to work with individuals, stakeholders and employers across the Southern region. We believe people of all abilities should be inspired to achieve a career and this has underpinned our vision for over 45 years.”

Pluss will begin delivery of the Work and Health Programme in January 2018. The contract will help over 35,000 people across the Southern CPA into sustainable employment over the next seven years.

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

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.

Pluss logo

Ingeus and Pluss combine expertise in work, health and disability

IngeusPluss - Experts in...Ingeus and Social Enterprise Mark holder Pluss have announced a joint initiative to help people with disabilities and long-term health conditions into sustainable work.

The collaboration brings together Ingeus’ proven expertise in supporting jobseekers, including those with complex health conditions, with Pluss’ award-winning approach to helping people with disabilities back into work.

As experts in work, health, and disability support services, Ingeus and Pluss are bringing together their collective expertise and extensive experience working with employers to develop a new service offer for the Work and Health Programme and to help half the disability employment gap. Both organisations will also share their extensive experience of working with employers to open up job and career opportunities for all.

This new initiative will combine the specialisms and proven methodologies of both organisations to deliver a next-generation employment support programme. As performance-focused values-driven organisations, they have set up a joint project group and are developing a new locally integrated service blending support for employment, health conditions and disabilities.

Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer at Pluss says: “I am delighted that Pluss and Ingeus have come together to launch this ground-breaking initiative. We share a deep-rooted commitment to helping transform the lives of those facing difficulties in securing work through health or disability.  Pluss’ collaboration with Ingeus will increase our impact, enabling us to further support the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap.”

Jack Sawyer, Chief Executive Officer at Ingeus says: “It is a fantastic opportunity to be working with Pluss. Teams of both organisations are now working together to develop a next-generation employment programme that will lead the field and offer an effective evidence-based approach to tackling unemployment, health and disadvantage.”

Both Ingeus and Pluss will remain separate organisations, retaining full independent control of their contracts and service delivery.

Disability Confident

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

 

Pluss wins ERSA ‘Disability and Health’ Award

PlussSocial Enterprise Mark holder Pluss was recently named the winner of the Disability and Health Employment Award at the annual ERSA Employability Awards.

The Employability Awards, now in their fourth year, showcase and champion best practice from across the employment support sector, celebrating the hard work and achievements of those involved in supporting people into work. The Disability and Health Employment Award recognises a provider who has demonstrated exceptional commitment in supporting job-seekers with limiting disabilities and health conditions to achieve sustained employment.

Pluss was also highly commended in the IEP Professionalisation Award, which recognises the commitment of an individual, team or organisations to championing the professionalisation of the employment support sector.

To find out more about the awards, please visit the ERSA website.

Social Enterprise Mark holders working together to add social value

Social Enterprise Mark holders Cosmic and Pluss have worked closely together for several years, through project work, development of a new Pluss website and, most recently, the creation of a new video to showcase the outcomes for clients that Pluss have supported into finding employment.

The objective was to produce a video that created real emotions, which was achieved using a number of techniques, including using upbeat, optimistic music to create a positive atmosphere to the video, and showing the case study clients smiling and proactively interacting with others. Incorporating positive words from those that work with each of Pluss’ clients also added to the optimism of the video.

Cosmic filmed over several days at a variety of locations, to capture the stories of a number of Pluss’ clients and their employers, to produce a final video (shown below) that showcased their individual stories, difficulties and the positive outcomes of finding employment.

Feedback from Pluss was exceptionally positive – Geraldine Scott-Smith, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, said; “Quite simply, I love it. I think you have done an amazing job – you just seemed to get what I wanted and have been a pleasure to work with too.”

For more information on this project, please visit the Cosmic website.

Pluss logo

Pluss named as ‘Building Better Opportunities’ lead partner

Social Enterprise Mark holder Pluss has been successful with five stage one applications for the ‘Building Better Opportunities’ programme across South West England and West Yorkshire.

‘Building Better Opportunities’ is a project jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund. It focuses on promoting social inclusion, and driving local jobs and growth.

Pluss will now be working with local partners and stakeholders on stage two bids which, if successful, will allow them to maximise the impact of £21million in funding over three years to support people with disabilities, mental health issues, ex offenders, troubled families, and black, Asian and ethnic minority groups.
The five stage one areas are:

  • PlussCornwall and Isles of Scilly
  • South and East Cornwall
  • Devon, Plymouth and Torbay
  • Somerset
  • Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield

Pluss is currently a prime provider of services for the Department for Work and Pensions and aims to build its impact across South West England and West Yorkshire aligned to devolution.

Pluss Chief Executive, Steve Hawkins, said “Pluss is aiming to be the provider of choice to support thousands of disadvantaged people across the South West, West Yorkshire and neighbouring regions into sustainable employment.”

“Working with the Big Lottery Fund is a proud moment for Pluss and our partners. This result confirms that our partnership approach has the potential to deliver significant positive social change at a time when devolution means local areas are taking on more responsibilities for their own future.”

Successful outcomes at stage two will see delivery of these programmes begin in early 2017.

For more information please contact Geraldine Scott-Smith, Communications Manager, on 07766 367267 or via email.

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

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.

Events

Nothing Found

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria