Spotlight on ESF programme: Opportunity & Change

Opportunity and Change is a specialist employability project, and is part of the national Building Better Opportunities programme; jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. The project is led by Framework, a charitable organisation dedicated to delivering housing, health, employment support and care services to people with a diverse range of needs.

Opportunity and Change supports individuals with multiple and complex needs - some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in our local communities - to move closer towards employment, training and education. People with multiple and complex needs refers to individuals facing a number of complex problems at the same time. These problems often develop over many years, as a result of traumatic life experiences, are intersecting in nature, and include: homelessness, substance misuse, domestic abuse, mental ill health and/or being at risk of reoffending.

By mid-August 2019 Opportunity and Change had supported 899 individual ‘participants’ across the D2N2 region (Derby City, Derbyshire, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire), through a delivery partnership of fifteen community-based organisations. The majority of participants (76.8%) were facing either two (40.2%) or three (36.6%) complex problems when they first accessed the project. A total of 422 participants to date have made significant progress in addressing their complex needs since engaging with Opportunity and Change:

  • 76.4% said their mental health had improved
  • 79.6% said their housing situation had become more stable
  • 27.8% said their risk of re-offending had decreased
  • 44.1% said they have received help and support in relation to domestic abuse
  • 52.9% said their problematic substance misuse had become better managed.

Despite unemployment being the most common factor amongst those facing multiple disadvantage, many services that help and support this diverse and growing population are not equipped to deliver employment-related support. Opportunity and Change offers employability to those furthest away from the labour market alongside support to address their complex needs. By engaging in a person-centred and holistic range of one-to-one and group support, training and therapeutic interventions, Opportunity and Change participants are able to broaden their social networks, increase self-confidence and motivation, improve health and wellbeing, learn new skills, and increase their employability. Some of the unique provision that participants have benefitted from to date, includes:

  • Skills Plus for Change: a bespoke training package offering bite-sized learning around employment, personal development, wellbeing, and managing independent living
  • Equine Assisted Therapy: a 10 week therapeutic programme that teaches principles of self-care and helps participants to develop their self-awareness, self-esteem, assertiveness and motivation, through basic horsemanship, equine assisted learning and group-based reflection exercises
  • The Loudspeaker Programme: a series of 10 weekly workshops run by Nottingham Contemporary art gallery for female participants. Through engagement in group-based learning, creative making exercises, personal reflection and appreciation of contemporary art, Loudspeaker supports women to increase their self-esteem and self-awareness, and develop skills to make healthier life choices
  • Care Act Team: a dedicated team of social workers who engage with Opportunity and Change participants across D2N2 to ensure they have fair access to an eligibility assessment for provision under the Care Act (2015), and are allocated additional support and signposting, as appropriate.

Opportunity and Change was launched on 1st October 2016 with a budget of £4.5 million to deliver until September 2019. After a successful 2.5 years, in May 2019 the project was granted extension funding of £4.1 million to deliver until 30th June 2022. Through this substantial European Social Fund and National Lottery Community Fund investment, the Opportunity and Change partnership has been able to successfully support:

  • 63 participants into paid employment
  • 50 participants into education or training
  • 119 economically inactive participants have progressed into job searching or another form of work-related activity.

For more information on Opportunity and Change, visit their website.

Article uploaded 28/11/19

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