Northfield Community Partnership: Supporting Jobseekers in Birmingham

23 Jun 2016

Northfield Community Partnership is a Online Centre that works with a variety of audiences in a deprived area of Birmingham. They receive a lot of referrals from Jobcentre Plus, who are often job seekers with complex needs. The Reboot UK project has allowed them to focus their efforts on the hardest to reach, engaging learners in their community with mental health needs.

As part of Reboot UK, Northfield Community Partnership have adapted their previous methods of delivery to reach new groups. Helen Morris, who runs the Reboot UK programme at the centre, explains: “We have links with a local organisation called Creative Support Ltd, a social care provider for people with learning disabilities and mental health needs. Some of the people they support suffer from severe anxiety, and find it hard to access new services that are unfamiliar.

“Creative Support have found that a lot of people are inclined to congregate at their day centre. It is great that people feel safe there, but it’s really important for them to access other services, not least because it helps people to build up their confidence by easing them out of their comfort zone.

“At first, we set up a referral route with Creative Support, but a lot of the clients simply didn’t show up. The step was too big for them to take on their own. So what we’ve been doing is going down there, talking to learners at Creative Support, and actually walking them back up to our IT classes in person. It sounds so simple, but it’s really solved the problem.

“The other week we had a girl come with us who usually only goes places with her support worker. She actually came to our centre on her own to learn about computers. It was great!”

Helen and the team have found that it’s all about reducing learners’ anxiety. Helen says: “Thanks to Reboot UK we have a lot more volunteers at the centre and this extra resource has helped us to engage with people long term. More volunteers means that the centre can offer consistent, one-to-one support for learners. Because of this, learners are more likely to come back, which means that they are supported to learn more. In the end that means we’re able to make a bigger difference to their lives.”

Northfield want learners learners to be able to come on a particular day, and know who they are going to see. Helen says: “Because they are able to book in with the same person they keep coming back. It’s that kind of consistency that learners like and really respond to. Because our support is predictable, they’re able to learn with the same person and develop a relationship with them. When they get to know each other, it becomes something different, a peer mentoring relationship. Learners feel reassured and are able to focus on what they’re doing rather than feeling intimidated by having to adapt to a new social dynamic each time they come. It allows them to pick up Learn My Way more easily.”

Reboot UK has been really beneficial for Northfield Community Partnership, allowing them give their clients the time and dedicated skills support that they need. Helen says: “Without the funding from Good Things Foundation as part of Reboot UK we wouldn’t have been able to develop our IT support in this way. A lot of learners want very specific things and we need to make sure they’re getting the right support from the right person.”

As a result they’ve seen numbers and progression steadily build. Helen says: “This is one of the biggest things we’ve got from Reboot UK, because it’s not only the clients that benefit, the volunteers and centre staff get a lot from it too.”

Volunteers come from all over, and include ex-clients of Northfield Community Partnership, university students, and job seekers. Helen explains: “One lad is Romanian, and studying computing at college. Another volunteer is a lady from Afghanistan who has a degree in computing. She’s volunteering because she wants to meet people and get more involved in her community. The volunteers are vital; in fact, we’ve just recommended one of our volunteers for a Young Volunteer Award.

“I’d definitely participate in a project like Reboot UK again and would recommend it to others. It’s given us the space to think about the individuals that we would like to engage, and to really build on our relationship with Creative Support to reach clients with mental health needs. Reboot UK has helped us to work to find ways to engage these clients, and pushed us to try new things, like collecting clients and walking them to the IT classes. It has helped us to focus on complex clients, and pushed us to recruit volunteers to meet their learning needs. It’s allowed us to explore different avenues and this experience will help us to engage with even more people in the future.”