Our aim is to make our mark on society by improving the social welfare support system – so the people who need help – and have been brave enough to reach out for it – get the right support first time round.

It’s hard to ask for help

It’s hard to ask for help at the best of times isn’t it – without feeling like a failure – and it can also be hard to know who to ask, so kudos to those who are brave enough to do it, but when they have made that first brave step, imagine if the target of their solace doesn’t have the answer, or suggests they talk to someone else instead (it was hard enough the first time) or, worse still, that they unwittingly give the wrong answer (although from our experience people are more likely to know when they don’t know, so they pass them on – the cycle continues).

The thing is, most social welfare problems can be solved more easily, and with a better, longer term resolution, if they’re resolved early. When the problem has festered it more often that not deepens in its complexity, broadens in its reach, and very quickly transforms into a vicious circle that manifests itself in crisis. Reaching out for help and not getting the right answer first time leads to personal challenges spiralling out of control, at some considerable speed.

Building the virtuous circle through employability support

Reaching out to offer the right support at the right time can serve to avert the risk of a vicious circle, and that can sometimes even start to build into a virtuous circle, enabling people to quickly resolve issues and start to build their lives. But as we stand today the social welfare support system has a long way to go before we can be confident that this will happen consistently – and even in any minor proportion. We can, however, change this. By recognising that we are part of the system – all of us, in one way or another, we can do our bit to make it work better. To encourage people to come forward sooner, and to make sure that their chosen source of help can deliver.

So what has this got to do with employability support?

A lot.

When people are out of work they are vulnerable in innumerable ways. If we can bolster the significant specialist knowledge that already exists in the employability sector with knowledge of social welfare support we can only serve to improve outcomes for the individual, for employability professionals and for the system. In practice this means bringing old knowledge up to date and, in some cases, reversing misinterpretation of the ‘facts’. By doing so we can build the confidence and the capability of the system so people get the right help, sooner, so they can move on to more positive times.

Welfare benefits is both an enabler and a barrier to employment. Many people claim benefits while they are working, and without them they wouldn’t be able to work. Benefits can also cause people to be further away from employment, most markedly because of fear that they will be worse off in work than while they are being supported by the state. By helping employability professionals to really understand welfare benefits – Universal Credit, PIP and legacy benefits – we can ensure that barriers to employment associated with welfare benefits are broken down at an earlier stage; with more welfare benefits knowledge existing ‘in the system’, we can more effectively collectively support vulnerable people to respond to, and avert crisis, and build the life stability they need for themselves and their families through access to employment.

That’s why we’re excited about our new-found affilation with the Institute of Employability Professionals. It just makes sense for us to work arm in arm, to make the system work, to work for everyone, to power the changes we need to be an inclusive and equal society.

Jayne Graham, Executive Director