Guest contributors: Back on Track (Written 22 September 2020)
Back on Track
For those of you who might not know us, we’re one of Manchester’s longest standing local charities and were founded in 1977 to work with adults who are going through a process of recovery or rehabilitation. We have a learning centre in Ancoats where we provide training and support to over 700 people each year who experience problems with homelessness, drug and alcohol use, offending, and mental health.
One of the areas we focus on is developing employability skills and guiding people who are ready to re-join the workplace into suitable roles. Often, improving people’s feelings of self-worth is as important as building their capabilities, and we have schemes that introduce people to different sectors and jobs which they may not have considered or felt able to do.
Impact of Covid-19
Crisis situations, such as Covid-19, often intensify existing inequalities and unfortunately the parts of the UK which already see high levels of poverty and unemployment have been affected the worst. Unemployment has risen by 88% in Manchester from March-Aug, and our city-region now has over 145,000 people who are claiming Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance. This puts Manchester at number 10 in the country’s rankings for having a high unemployment rate of 6.7%. [ONS data, 2020].
As has been the same for everyone, the lockdown dramatically changed how our charity operates. We had to adapt our service to bring in safety measures, we ran an emergency food service, and we created a new remote offer:
“Outstanding support. No other service responded like this. The newsletter was a really good distraction and helped me to feel I was still part of a community.”
“It was the only support I had. Most days the only person I’d spoken to. The weekly calls have helped me stay well and in work.”
We are now back in our centre and it’s been amazing to welcome everyone again but things are far from being ‘normal’ yet… We are facing new challenges brought on by social isolation and an increase in competition for new job opportunities.
Good Employment Charter
We were one of the first employers to join the Good Employment Charter and are proud that Greater Manchester is leading the way to raise these standards. In the current circumstances - with mass redundancies, volatile job markets and so many competing demands - it feels more important than ever to bring attention to fair recruitment and employment practices.
Our concern (which we’re sure is shared by many different charities) is that the people we support will now face additional barriers to finding work and may struggle to get interviews as roles are receiving such high numbers of applicants. We would like to ask all organisations to commit to fair recruitment practices, such as ‘Ban the Box’, so that everyone can have an equal chance to apply and compete for jobs on their merits.
We ask members of the Good Employment Charter, to continue to follow and advocate for fair and inclusive recruitment. We need to see people’s assets first, so they are not defined by their histories or situations, and provide flexibility where we can. Being employed can give someone a positive new identity and provide them with financial independence which is often needed to maintain their recovery long term. If anything, Covid-19 has shown us how adaptable employers can be, and we hope that some organisations will see this as an opportunity to do things differently and lead with ethical approaches.
For anyone who is interested in fair recruitment, we can provide advice and training to businesses and HR teams around employing people from different backgrounds, particularly those with convictions. This includes an overview of the law, good practice and the disclosure process.
For more information, please visit our website or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back on Track
Back on Track is an independent charity that works with people facing disadvantage, enabling them to make positive changes that last. The centre offers courses and training opportunities, wellbeing activities, work experience, one to one guidance, and volunteering opportunities.
But most of all, it provides a community where people who have experienced problems in their lives can recover, learn, believe in themselves and build a better future.