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19 October 2023

NHS employment pilot shows promise for helping homeless people

King’s Business School’s Professor Ian Kessler has put forward expert recommendations for rolling out an NHS pilot supporting the recruitment of people with lived experience of homelessness.

Large NHS sign

Having conducted an extensive evaluation of an NHS England pilot that successfully helped homeless people gain employment in a select group of healthcare trusts across the country, Professor Kessler has suggested the pilot is a valuable model that other NHS Trusts could adopt.

In 2021, NHS England (NHSE), in partnership with independent sector organisations Groundswell, Pathway and the Royal Society for Public Health, launched a trial programme to facilitate access to employment in Health Care Support Workers (HCSW) roles for people with lived experience of homelessness.

The pilot involved five NHS Trusts from different regions and 22 participants with recent experience of homelessness took up the opportunity to take part.

The participants were asked to attend a three-day employment event, following which participants applied for an HCSW post in the respective trusts followed, by a job interview. At the end of the programme, 10 people were offered jobs across the five trusts.

“In terms of general policy and practice across the health and care domain, securing employment for people with lived experience of homelessness is a complex and crowded space,” said Professor Ian Kessler, Professor of Public Policy and Management. “People with lived experience of homelessness face multiple challenges in finding and maintaining employment.

“The job offer rate from the NHS England pilot is a testament to the support provided by and quality of the three-day pre-programme course. Even those attendees who were not offered jobs have benefited from being brought into the labour market, with the NHS Trusts signposting them to other opportunities and providing them with further support.

In his report, Access to Employment in NHS Health Care Support Worker Roles for People with Lived Experience of Homelessness: Programme Evaluation Final Report, Professor Kessler outlines a number of recommendations for how the initiative could be rolled out on a national level.

He says NHS Trusts should:

  • Deepen relations with voluntary and community sector organisations and local government in their area, to build on the experience gained from the programme and find ways to continue supporting the employment of people with lived experience of homelessness.
  • Provide broader support to job applicants with housing and health needs, including providing access to IT equipment for applicants and keeping in contact with the participants during the job offer and start date period.
  • Find ways to support the participants in employment, by having regular discussions and being understanding to their circumstances and needs.

Following the success of the trial, a toolkit will now be developed by the pilot partners with the aim of rolling out the programme across trusts in NHSE.

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Professor of Public Policy and Management