My name is Jenn Platt and I work within the Welfare & Support Team. I am the first point of contact for working age residents of Housing Solutions who are looking to get back into work or would like to improve their employment situation. Their requirements could cover such areas as increasing hours, improving their skills through training or starting a new career. I also look after our Corporate Social Responsibility charity sponsor programme.
How I got where I am
Previously I managed the Customer Involvement team, ensuring residents have their say in how the organisation works at a strategic and operational level. I oversaw community events and sought opportunities where we could get feedback. From this hand on contact I recognised the need to help more of our residents to get back to work and it was apparent that it would be better value for money to focus on employment. I then became the Community Engagement Manager and moved towards employment support. With this change I also took on the management of HS Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. All our staff are keen to support our nominated charity via events and fundraisers and we all vote for a new charity every 2 years. Currently we are supporting Family Action Young Carers in Maidenhead until March 2020.
A typical day
There is a lot of variety in my role and its key to prioritise, as I only work 3 days a week. When I receive a referral for someone looking to get back into work, I start by arranging a 1-1 to discuss their previous experience, qualifications, life situation and aspirations around employment.
It can be quite daunting starting to job search and the level of support differs from person to person, so I must tailor the advice to their unique situation. Perhaps someone would like more training, so we need to investigate what they want to do and the potential financial help available to do a course. Others may need help with their job applications or may be reassured knowing they’re not alone and can be guided to look at relevant job searching sites
I have access to many organisations that can offer extra support so having met with the tenant I can arrange any referrals for extra support, e.g. meeting our internal benefits or UC officer. or, CV writing with National Careers Service. There are also a range of programmes for those with disabilities or those who have been out of work for over 6 months, have a previous conviction or are a lone parent. I also signpost to our Housing Solutions Job Club, which is held every Wednesday 10-12 at our office. I can also direct tenants to other local support groups such as the Grow Our Own job clubs on Mondays 9.30am-3.30pm at the Town Hall, the Job Centres, Adult Dyslexia Centre and Adult Learning IT lessons etc. With such a variety of help available I ensure that the individual knows where to start looking online. Sometimes I will provide a starter list of job searching sites that suits what they’re looking for.
Due to the way funding works for projects I have to keep an eye on what programmes are locally available to offer residents as some are age, postcode or gender dependent. I co-started the East Berkshire Employment Forum 3 years ago with a colleague at Slough Borough Council. This enables local employment support agencies to meet regularly to network, make referrals and run joint projects for the benefit of local people. This partnership means we can offer a holistic service.
Through these partnerships I’m able to plan and run events such as job fairs, training courses and start-up business programmes. To keep the impetus going I follow up with those who have attended the events, so they continue their supported employment journey into work. I catch up with all residents who I am in contact with for employment support frequently via email or a call with relevant job vacancies, training opportunities, employment events, etc.
What I love about what I do
I love having the opportunity to help change someone’s life for the better. Frequently people’s circumstances unexpectedly change and it can be traumatic. If I can help in some way to support a tenant help them gain stability or try a new direction, I feel that I’m making a difference. Interestingly, housing associations are the 2nd highest contributor to employment support nationally and it’s great to be such a significant part of this.
The issues affecting my work now
We’re enormously fortunate in RBWM and surrounding areas in terms of the amount and variety of employment support. The two areas that we need the most help in are
- Encouraging more employers to engage with us to help us get residents that ‘foot in the door’.
- Ensuring residents know that Housing Solutions offers such a wide variety of support services. Of course being part of larger initiatives like Communities that Work week can help to raise our profile locally.