Mike Hedges AM says the LIFT scheme is more than just another employment programme
Probably the most difficult and most important task is to increase employment levels especially for long term unemployed living in workless households. For too many people not working has become a way of life for them and their families.
The LIFT Programme is a Welsh Government initiative, which operates in areas around Wales with high levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation. The scheme concentrates on a specific postcode area and people who have been out of work for at least 6 months and who live in a workless household.
I share the view of many others that LIFT should not simply be seen as yet another employment programme. It’s got to be about more than that, it has got to work for those for whom all other schemes have failed and many of whom have lost confidence and believe that they will never work again or who have never worked and do not expect to.
It is important that the resources in LIFT are used effectively to engage it with people from workless households who have been out of work for more than 6 months. This is where the key links to the other anti-poverty programmes such as community first are important as they can bring real engagement value.
It is all about targeting resources effectively in a way to take participants through an intensive process which can take people on a journey from complete disengagement caused in many cases by a history of rejection, through building confidence and skills development into employment.
The difference between LIFT and other anti-poverty programmes is that it takes participants through the process in an intensive but planned way. This is in line with keeping the participant engaged but also with a clear plan of where they are aiming to get to and how they are going to get there.
It is obvious that this kind of programme is limited in terms of number that it can support but if targeted correctly it can really make a difference to the lives of many participants from workless households. I have witnessed ‘large scale’ employment programmes which have on paper produced positive ‘outputs’ but have failed to deliver the real life ‘outcomes’ which LIFT seems to achieve. In this case it may be true that a smaller and more targeted project achieves a greater outcome in communities than a programme which is openly accessible where resources sometimes get spread too thinly to make a real difference.
Another key factor with LIFT has been the partnership that the Welsh Government has encouraged to be established with large employers. Lift teams are now in a position to engage residents and take them through a process of learning preparation which then leads on to work experience opportunities with large scale employers such as the Local Health Board (NHS) or national retail organisations like Boots. These are just two active organisations supporting the LIFT programme and providing valuable work experience placements for LIFT participants.
There are many examples where participants have gone through the process from start to finish and then have managed to secure employment with the employer who provided the work experience placement. I would like to illustrate this success with two clear examples from the LIFT programme in Swansea where participants were engaged, underwent skills development and training and then gained employment opportunities. One participant is now working in the NHS and the other work for a major building contractor. Both participants had not worked for a combined total of 20 years. These success stories are easy to relate to and highlight the value of the programme to individuals who have been unemployed for a very long time.
Since it commenced in April 2014, In the Swansea North West Cluster, the LIFT programme has currently helped 76 people into employment. The LIFT programme produces consistently high outcomes around work experience opportunities, qualifications gained and work related learning which are the key stepping stone to participants progressing into full time work and a better life.