Richard Griffin works with health and social care employers and Health Education England North West London focusing on entry-level jobs and support worker development. He is also a senior research fellow at Kings College London Business School.
Across England, 10,000-young people leave care every year. Until recently, I hadn’t really thought about how, or why, NHS organisations should consider supporting care leavers into employment. A conference speaker then summed up the answer perfectly for me by saying “some of the best people who could work for you may not be in the places you are looking".
Thinking about this statement, I realised that by recruiting in partnership across North-West London, we’d be able to build a robust, local workforce supply for the future. This is also one of the key reasons that we’re seeking to work as a sector, rather than individual employers across the North-West London forum. Our collaboration includes Imperial College Hospital Trust, West London Mental Health and London North West Hospital Trust, along with general practices, local councils and others, to provide skills, work experience and employment opportunities for care leavers.
Supporting individuals, such as care leavers, into employment requires a different, more open approach to recruitment, and employment support and development. As one care leaver said: "I need the people around me to not only care that I was in employment and the work I was doing, I needed them to care about me, my life and my ability to learn". With this in mind, the North-West London forum is looking at ways to further support underrepresented groups such as care leavers, into employment.
There are principal areas that we have chosen to focus on to make recruitment into the NHS more accessible for this group of people. As a collaborative, we’ve been working together to make employment more inclusive. We’ve started to include additional support such as careers information, taster days, volunteering opportunities, traineeships, open recruitment and selection, and tailored support. We are also committed to making adjustments where necessary, such as adopting open recruitment processes, helping with transport costs, being clear about pay and conditions, and providing in-work support such as providing buddies for new employees.
We’ve also spent time focusing on better communication and engagement with care leavers, and other underrepresented groups, including people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), ex-offenders, recovering addicts, homeless people and veterans, as they represent a large pool of potential recruits. We know that sometimes there can be apprehension and negative perceptions around recruiting people from these groups, therefore we’ve done a lot of work around open and honest discussions to break down some of these barriers.
This gives them a real-life opportunity as in addition to providing an income, it also gives them self-esteem, purpose and confidence. It also gives employers opportunity to recruit a committed workforce from the local community, addressing skill shortages, reducing recruitment costs, improving retention, reducing absence and up-skilling the current workforce. It’s a win-win situation.
The NHS can struggle to recruit and retain staff particularly at entry-level - the very staff that spend most time face-to-face with patients and clients. It's time to throw open the doors to underrepresented groups like care leavers and welcome them into the NHS workforce.
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