Four individuals are standing in a room looking at the camera and smiling. The room is filled with boxes of donated food.

“The Covid-19 Employment Support Service has been a real life saver”

Posted on 1 March 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives over the last two years. For many people, it has impacted on their mental wellbeing and their employment status with businesses forced to close, making staff unemployed.

In response to these huge challenges, we launched the Covid-19 Employment Support Service in May 2021. Funded by Local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), our two Employment Specialists for the service cover Brighton and Hove, Worthing, Bognor, Crawley, and Gatwick.

The service offers employment support and guidance to people living with mental health challenges who have lost their jobs. Clients can access up to eight sessions to focus on education, voluntary work, and paid employment.

Support is also offered to those at immediate risk of losing their jobs or businesses to secure employment opportunities and our Employment Specialists can support individuals during the transition period into their new employment for up to three months to enable them to retain their positions.

Team Manager, Becky Burge, says,

“The Employment Specialists have worked hard to get the service off the ground. They started with no contacts and just a leaflet! The service has reached a lot of organisations within Sussex and we have received referrals from a number of sources including Foodbanks, GPs, the YMCA, homeless projects, and other local projects. We are very proud of what they have done and look forward to seeing what else they achieve before the contract ends in August.”

Seventy clients have been supported since the Covid-19 Employment Support Service began. Of these, twenty-three are now in paid employment and thirty-six have achieved the goals they set with their Employment Specialist. Nine clients have started volunteering and eight have decided to study something that will help them move towards paid employment.

Amy is an Employment Specialist who has been working for the service since September 2021,

“I support clients who have self-referred from organisations like foodbanks, charities, and social prescribing surgeries. Drop-in services are available and we are currently in the process of arranging a fortnightly day drop-in session where I will be based at Brighton Food Bank’s new premises, as well as securing a desk at Brighton Jobcentre.”

Working closely with self-referrals from Brighton Food Bank, she says,

“We have been successful in placing clients into paid or voluntary work, as well as being able to offer free training courses.

“Working in this role allows me to signpost and refer clients to additional support or services that are available. I thrive on making a difference to our community and I feel I am able to do this as an Employment Specialist within this service – not only by providing employment support but by being able to share information about organisations, services, and projects that members of the community might not be aware of.

“The best thing about the work I am doing is the difference I am making to clients’ lives! I love my position as I am able to utilise my 10+ years recruitment experience alongside my care support experience which has allowed me to provide the support needed to better clients’ well-being and quality of life.”

Mike Jourdain, Team Leader at Brighton Food Bank, says,

“We are so thankful for the support Southdown’s Covid-19 Employment Support Service gives to our clients. They are a real encouragement at a time when they may lack self-confidence and the skills to face the job market. Having someone to hold their hand throughout the process is amazing.

“This service has made a significant impact on our clients’ wellbeing and self-confidence and ultimately has and will remove the need for our clients to use the foodbank as they secure some financial stability in having a job. We see the relationship between our organisations as highly collaborative and as the need for the food bank services continues to rise, we see the need for the services offered by Southdown as vital.”

Team Members at Brighton Food Bank have been witnessing the benefits of this service too,

“The approach is so well considered and really helps walk clients through the process.”

Another Team Member adds,

“We’re so grateful for all you do in finding our clients’ work, training, volunteering opportunities, and so much more. Southdown’s Covid-19 Employment Support Service was so needed by our clients to help them move forward to financial security and wellbeing, as well improving their self-confidence and self-worth.

“Southdown has been a great additional source of help to our Food Bank clients who are wanting to improve their situation for the better. The service you offer has been a real lifesaver.”