In 2001 we conceived our pioneering programme the Full Employment Area, where we tested and developed our approach in working meaningfully with the ‘hidden’ unemployed.
This and our subsequent experimental initiatives helped us to understand the process of reaching and lifting individuals, families and communities out of systemic economic inactivity; and realise how supporting agencies needed to work more closely together around the needs of the individual. This work then shaped subsequent employability policy in Scotland and is now at the heart of reforms proposed by the Christie Commission.
Since 2003 we have delivered 12 neighbourhood based employment programmes and learned that working intensively in a neighbourhood produces transformational results.
Within these 12 neighbourhoods 5 data zones have come out of the 15% most deprived category .
Our Full Employment Area projects (FEA) demonstrated the potential of a holistic and person-centred model to raise employment levels and income in entire communities.
In our first project in Foxbar in Paisley, a deprived housing estate with a population of around 4,000 people, we supported 280 people into employment and a further 60 into training. In just over 3 years this increased the number of working age people in employment in the entire neighbourhood by around 6%, brought around £4.6 million in post-tax income into the area and created benefit savings of almost £6million.
The combined economic input of our 12 FEA projects is estimated at around £44million in additional post-tax income coming into these deprived areas and a benefits saving of £56million.
An independent evaluation carried out by the University of Glasgow TERU of the FEA in Muirhouse found that 52% of clients we supported had never engaged with another agency before.
Of the 2,861 residents aged 16 – 64 who were living in Muirhouse we contacted over half of them (55%) and 30% of them went on to register with the project
The evaluation showed that over the period February 2008 to November 2010, the numbers claiming out of work benefits increased across Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole (by 8.6% and 9% respectively), but in Muirhouse, the most deprived neighbourhood in Edinburgh, the numbers claiming benefits actually fell during this period.
We have now been in Muirhouse for six years and have supported almost 700 people into work in that time.
It is not enough to deal with employability issues in isolation. If neighbourhood activity was co-ordinated with health, housing allocations and community planning partners, we believe this would achieve sustained transformation and lift the entire neighbourhood out of deprivation.