Professor Chris Whitty hails the success of inclusion programme
Professor Chris Whitty has highlighted the success of an employment inclusivity programme supported by University of Gloucestershire that has helped to tackle poverty and social inclusion.
The Going the Extra Mile (GEM) project, led by Gloucestershire County Council and managed by Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, supported people in Gloucestershire to move closer to employment, training and education opportunities through a unique person-centred approach involving a partnership between over 30 public, private and voluntary organisations from across the county.
The Monitoring and Evaluation of GEM, which played an important role in the programme’s success and subsequent legacy, was co-led by Leonie Burton, Head of Client Relations in the University’s Business Engagement Department, and Professor Paul Courtney from the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) based at the University.
The research team involved colleagues from the CCRI and academic schools from across the University.
Over a six-year period, 800 participants in the GEM project secured employment or self-employment, while 300 moved into education or training. Many more experienced positive, often life-changing improvements to their quality of life through a support and mentoring model.
GEM provided intensive one-to-one support to people with multiple complex needs, combined with an action plan personalised towards each person’s own goals, which placed a strong emphasis on building confidence, motivation and readiness to learn, while valuing participants’ individuality.
It led to the formation of the Employment and Skills Hub Outreach in Gloucestershire, which provides intensive one-to-one support to individuals who are economically inactive, helping them return to volunteering, education, training or employment.
Professor Whitty’s (pictured above) Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2023 – Health in an Ageing Society states: “The Gloucestershire Going the Extra Mile (GEM) project is an example of a unique public, voluntary and private sector partnership.
“It supported those who were vulnerable, disadvantaged or excluded from the mainstream economy and society in Gloucestershire to move closer or into education, employment, and developing skills.
“Reaching into communities, GEM supported over 2,000 participants, reduced isolation and developed an extensive and diverse partnership that built capacity and cohesion.
“GEM provided us with an evidence base which led to the formation of the Employment and Skills Hub Outreach project. Using a similar model, it provides intensive one-to-one support to individuals who are economically inactive, helping them return to volunteering, education, training or employment.”
Standout project for Gloucestershire
Funded through the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund, GEM was among the local Building Better Opportunities programmes that aimed to tackle poverty and promote social inclusion across the nation.
Leonie Burton said: “GEM was a standout project for Gloucestershire. It was a shining example of how partnership working across the Local Authority, University of Gloucestershire and the community and voluntary sector could achieve so much.
“The synergies across the partnership enabled people to develop skills, attain jobs and volunteering opportunities in a truly person-centred approach, giving help to many at the right time.
“Our work evaluating and monitoring the project over six years was a privilege and enabled the whole team to showcase the amazing work of the project in the county.’
Paul Courtney, Professor of Social Economy, said: “GEM succeeded because it fostered individual agency and resilience in its participants, through supporting, nurturing, guiding and coaching them to grow in confidence and achieve their goals.
“While such outcomes are profound for individuals, at a societal level they ultimately help to relieve pressure on health, social care and employment support systems – demonstrating not only the immense social value generated through person-centred approaches such as GEM, but also their value for money.”
Main image: left to right, Countryside and Community Research Institute Research Assistant, Fahimeh Malekinezhad, Professor Paul Courtney and Head of Client Relations, Leonie Burton
Image of Professor Whitty credit Wikimedia Commons