Good Work Camden
Helping residents to secure and sustain good work
Camden Council's 2025 vision is that jobs will pay people what they need to earn to live and businesses will provide jobs flexible for modern lives. Although unemployment has been decreasing, Camden borough has over eleven thousand council tenant households not in work. Meanwhile, there are growing numbers of people in work who are struggling to meet their outgoings.
Camden is passionate about supporting residents, so citizens are in good work now and in the future. Camden wanted to leverage the rich assets in their borough to widen the impact of the work of their partners and local support services. FutureGov was invited to take the lead in preparing the borough to grow a support system of services that can help residents in their job search.
The Good Work Camden project took a whole system view when considering improving employment outcomes across Camden by thinking about supporting people into good work, and ensuring they can remain in good work. This was achieved by working across the employment landscape and establishing local jobs hubs, working with employment support providers and employers. These aimed to take a human-centred approach and ensure the Camden job market is inclusive and accessible for all.
It was difficult for residents to know where to access support. Referral routes were unclear and residents wanted support to be easier to access and provided locally.
Camden wanted to extend their employment support via a neighbourhood approach by providing support around people in the place they live, with support that's bespoke to the lives they lead. To prepare Camden for this new approach and the development of a neighbourhood hub we focused on the following areas:
- consolidating what we know to build a neighbourhood profile
- research to develop the neighbourhood profile
- making connections and responding to individual needs
- extending reach to where the residents are looking for help
- developing pathways and ensuring the service can respond to long term resident needs
- integrating assets to develop the neighbourhood hub
- reflective learning to improve the service
- identifying the right outcomes and demonstrating that the service is responding to resident needs
- influencing change and bring about wider systemic change
- scaling up
Residents often found it hard to know where to go for employment support. Those who faced significant barriers to work, or were further from the labour market, were not always supported.
In a blended team, we built on existing collaboration and joint working amongst providers in the Employment and Skills Network (ESN). We wanted to ensure provision is reaching those who most need it, so Camden can offer residents a more coherent experience. We ran two ESN workshops, reshaped the existing ESN format and prioritised opportunity areas.
With the network, we also explored the question: how will we understand if we are on the right track? ESN members selected indicators for how they’ll measure if the network is on the right track. These ranged from the number and quality of relationships with employers to the number of residents in sustained employment in good work.
– workshop participant
The workshops have been useful in involving partners in helping create a single employment support strategy based on a shared set of principles. It was much needed, preventing advisors and other support staff from working too much in isolation.
Before Good Work Camden, there was not a centralised place for residents to find employment support. Residents who were active online were not finding support and many people did not know where to go. We ran one provider workshop and three rounds of resident interviews and test sessions (with nine total residents) to understand what information people need, are looking for and how different digital solutions could help.
We reviewed content to better understand services and information needs, which allowed us to identify our hypothesis and riskiest assumptions. We sketched digital concepts to test different propositions, content and assumptions which would inform design and better understand user needs. Finally, we started testing the concepts of a digital offer with three Camden residents and synthesised our initial learning.
There was no clear and consistent path for residents to move from employment support into good work. There were also not enough inclusive job opportunities that were suitable for local people who were further from work. Poor employment practices meant that people in low-paid roles couldn’t progress or recruitment was not inclusive.
We ran a literature review into interventions and ‘good work’ practices, selecting interventions and defining good work principles to then create a research plan and testing materials, conducting research via three workshops, 13 employer interviews and engaging with 20 employers to refine the most promising interventions.
Earn and grow
The welfare system is not designed for societal challenges or the needs of people in the 21st century. In June 2018, over seven thousand households lived below the poverty line in Camden, rising to over nine thousand in 2019. As of September 2019, over five thousand households in Camden were in-work poverty.
Camden wanted to design an intervention for residents for whom the ‘welfare and work relationship’ presented a fundamental challenge. The council was looking to create a financial support intervention that provides security, the option to be part of the community and contribute to the economy.
Our work in this area was informed by policy, service design and data:
- policy: we explored external examples of similar work and interventions for inspiration and learnings
- service design: we used a test and learn approach by engaging with residents to understand their experience. We tested intervention concepts to determine desirability before investing time and money in further development or implementation
- data: using our understanding of unemployment we layered Camden benefits data and LIFT data to segment different cohorts, prioritise our work and understand the different barriers
During this first phase of the Good Work Camden project, we provided the council with the following outcomes within each focus area, contributing to their vision of a human-centred approach to employment within the borough.
Collaboratively, we extended the employment support available in Camden through the development of a neighbourhood hub and job hub. The first neighbourhood hub is being delivered in Gospel Oak and the next focus is Regents Park.
A ‘local lead’ is involved in developing each neighbourhood hub. They understand the needs of residents, the current provision in the place, where there are gaps and growing a team and talent. The hub team connects to and bases themselves in the places that people who are looking to improve their work situation already go, such as schools and housing associations. They provide employment advice and support to residents, leaning on providers in the borough when necessary.
Working with the Employment and Skills Network, we prioritised opportunity areas and built a clear pathway for residents receiving employment support from providers. We then created an approach and plan to take these identified areas forward as a network:
- shared knowledge: how do providers collectively share their knowledge and experiences?
- referrals: develop a shared approach to referrals and support good quality handovers
- service standard: design and embed shared principles that reflect good practice in employment support
- digital offer (website): how can a website help simplify the process of finding and accessing support for residents and advisors?
Going forward, the network will work in self-directed teams around each of these opportunity areas. They'll meet to create forward plans for each, sharing back progress and outputs with the rest of the network.
We have given Camden four recommendations following research and testing surrounding a digital platform, advising that they conduct more testing with residents and providers to develop ideas and concepts around digital and how it connects with offline services and start to investigate and understand the backend and systems to support a digital offer. Ultimately, to better understand services and content needs via prototyping/testing but also data modelling.
Actioning these will allow Camden to continue to work towards helping residents find suitable employment services through the use of a digital platform.
Following our research in this area, we’ve provided Camden with four recommendations in getting residents into good work:
- conduct testing to understand the feasibility and viability of each of the interventions
- map the other levers that could be used to embed good work practice across Camden
- engage anchor institutions in this agenda to scope out their role
- fill in gaps in employers that we didn’t speak to
Earn and grow
We identified the following intervention concepts which we’re recommending Camden work towards testing and eventually piloting:
- the provision of free technology devices and/or data to enable people to access support and information they need
- the provision of free transport to increase access to employment opportunities and services
- a discretionary social fund to support single parents with unexpected costs. £500 was an example amount
- a package of relational and financial support for residents transitioning onto Universal Credit