Developing positive change through the ‘Circle of Support’
By Faye Thomas, Chief Operating Officer at Kennedy Scott
Everyone has their own interests and strengths and their own set of skills to contribute to society. This belief is at the core of everything we do at Kennedy Scott, an organisation founded 28 years ago by Teresa Scott OBE.
Our mission is, and has always been, to support those with the most complex barriers to work to find great jobs and build successful careers. We are strong advocates of diversity within employment and believe that people combatting mental health issues, or living with disabilities such as autism, should have the same opportunities as everyone else to find an enjoyable job.
Kennedy Scott staff have a wealth of experience in dealing with candidates that are marginalised by society, something that has been refined and developed into our ‘Circle of Support’ initiative. Our innovative approach has even been credited as an industry exemplar and resulted in us being finalists for the ERSA Disability and Health Provider of the Year award last year.
Initially, the ‘Circle of Support’ approach was developed over years of ESF provision for hardest to help customers for which we were cited by Ofsted as an example of Best Practice. More recently the model evolved into our Work Choice Provision, but over the last two years it has been refined into our National DWP Specialist Employability Support (SES) Prime contract.
The rationale behind the ‘Circle of Support’ is that to adequately support customers with barriers to work, it is vital to include all key stakeholders in a customer’s journey to employment; the candidate, caseworker, the Employer Account Manager (EAM), the activity coordinator, the employer, and of course friends and family.
Before a ‘Circle of Support’ meeting is assembled, we offer clients a holistic and comprehensive bio psychosocial model to identify all barriers, aspirations, strengths and relevant support networks. The ‘Circle of Support’ meets a minimum of once a month, either in person, on teleconferences or through bilateral discussions. This approach allows candidates to benefit from a shared vision and shared responsibilities for progression whilst offering a sustainable network of support. The approach is multidisciplinary and personalized to each individual and offers an efficient approach to resourcing.
In this way, the ‘Circle of Support’ naturally responds to the contours of local demographics and needs, as we are able to include those community organisations which reflect the people they serve.
Take our candidate Callum, who is based in Amble, Northumberland. Callum, who has Asperger’s syndrome, joined Kennedy Scott’s DWP/European Social Funded Specialist Employment Support programme in July 2016. We assigned him a dedicated caseworker who utilised the ‘Circle of Support’ model, working not only with Callum and his family but also in tandem with the leader of his community support group.
Callum’s caseworker assisted him with personal development and work readiness through a number of different activities, including an exploration of job goals and the local job market, and arranging relevant training courses.
After deducing that Callum had a passion for castles and history, we supported him to apply for a position as a Food and Beverage Assistant at Alnwick castle. To Callum’s delight and after intensive interview preparation, he was offered the position. Callum, who struggled with confidence and self-esteem issues, had never had a paid job before so he was delighted with this achievement.
In the months that followed, Callum’s caseworker set up a schedule of contact with him and his employer, to ensure everything stayed on track. As a result of Callum’s enthusiasm and strong work ethic he was even offered the chance to be involved in history tours for the castle after just six months at Alnwick. Callum is still employed at Alnwick and I know he will prosper in his future career.
As Callum’s success shows, Kennedy Scott is successfully working towards our shared goal of improving employability access for all, through initiatives such as the ‘Circle of Support’. We have historic and current strong rates of performance and are dedicated to delivering the best possible service to those we seek to help. Consequently, we have performed consistently in terms of job outcomes and are performing 131% against target since January 2016.
With this success rate in the past couple of years and in light of our founder, Teresa Scott’s dedication and commitment to the cause and her recent OBE New Year’s honour, we very much look forward to developing and expanding our ‘Circle of Support’ model to help and support even more people into sustainable jobs in 2018, whatever their challenge or barriers to work.