Final Report by Chris Walsh (Chief Exec – Wise Age ) on Resourcing Older People’s Employment Support ( ROPES) Project, delivered by Wise Age Ltd, funded by Trust for London.
This is the end of the 2016 – 2018 ROPES project contract which was generously funded by Trust for London (TfL). It is also the culmination of 2 year’s previous contracted work funded by TFL in 2014-2015. This is my Chief Exec’s summary of the project and should be read in conjunction with our Independent Evaluator’s report on the project.
The aim of the ROPES programme was to run a ‘Training the Trainers’ programme to help develop the awareness, expertise and ability to deliver support by London Voluntary and community organisations, in the fields of Age and Employment support to over 50s needing employment and self-employment.
This programme has proved to be a great success as we have been able to actively train and support over 80 voluntary and community sector organisations and individuals that including organisations from every borough that the programme targeted. They were given 3 days of training, covering all aspects of the situation and barriers facing older people; the ageist myths that employers hold; plus the benefits that older workers bring and the benefits that age diversity brings to employers. We provided templates that each beneficiary organisation could use and customise to help them evaluate, register, update and monitor client progress. We then used and passed on our 20 years of experience in working with older people needing employability training and support and explained the specific and necessary requirements that older learners need, offering templates for delivering training and support.
In addition, we covered best practice examples from around the UK and in Europe both with age-friendly businesses and in helping older people back to work, plus facilitated learners in carrying out local research into the Employment and unemployment situation by age in their boroughs and in lobbying councils for change to help older people in their area.
We received positive feedback from the vast majority of our beneficiaries.
To continue accessing this information and support we set up a ROPES special members-only section of our website which features 5 different elements of our library allowing people to use and access all this online support.
We also continued our support after the training to include newsletters, regular network meetings plus 121 support.
The other area of practical follow up work we did was to encourage local partnerships between beneficiary organisations and facilitated organisations applying for funding and setting up consortia.
As a result of our work there has been greater community and voluntary sector awareness around issues of older working age, the incidence of institutional ageism and ways to overcome these barriers.
There have been a number of organisations, including Housing Associations and smaller specialist agencies who have now got contracts to deliver DWP contracts for those over 50s, both at regional funding levels for specific boroughs and also for larger pan-regional ESF funded 50+ support for DWP clients that was led by Redbridge CVS.
We have been able, through ROPES, to research and develop best practice examples in order to produce 2 brochures around Age and Employment – one for Unemployed Seniors and the other for employers. These booklets are being used to help other CVS advisors and unemployed over 50s access best practices to help older job seekers find employment or self-employment. The Employers booklet is being used as part of wider campaigns to educate and persuade employers of the benefits of retaining and employing over 50s employees and why an age-diverse workforce improves their business performance. These booklets in pdf format have now been sent to all ROPES members and are available to be downloaded by site visitors. In addition, as part of our ROPES legacy programme, we have printed off and are disseminating both brochures, which have received positive responses from both senior clients and C&VS agencies
We believe that as a result of this project we have been able to build a network of knowledgeable organisations and individuals able to help older people out of poverty and into employment and in the process overcome social isolation, as well as help the CVS to engage with the DWP and other agencies in a way that is effective for older people.
The indirect impact has been to help hundreds of over 50s Londoners who are out of work into employment or self-employment (50% of our Wise Age clients have been helped to work as opposed to the UK average for the 50+ of 15%). This has been a result of ROPES beneficiary organisations both obtaining contracts for the local DWP 50+ employment support contracts, local borough 50+ programmes and being sub-contractors for wider ESF 50+ and allied programmes. The over 50s have been a key demographic in wider employment support programmes aimed at single parents, BAME and women unemployed clients and in particular Carers and ex- carers (as 50% of all carers in England are aged 50- 65). The members of our ROPES network helped others along the road to employment, through volunteering and in so doing reduce their social isolation, loneliness and poverty.
All of the research, presentations, best practice examples and templates for over 50s, employers and advisors have now been transferred from our Wise Age members-only section to the home page of our www.wiseage.org.uk website ( to be found under Seniors, Employers and Advisors and Researchers sections).
We also held a final conference in 2018 around the issues of age and Employment – focusing on the situation in London. This was attended by DWP reps who were interested in our research, work and approach, which has further strengthened our relationship with the DWP who increasingly recognise the importance of supporting older unemployed seniors, especially those who are long term unemployed.
In addition, we have followed up this work, along with ROPES colleagues, to promote the key issues and recommendations that older job seekers and those that work with them to decision-makers in London, in particular the Mayor of London. We are working with the Mayor’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team to help ensure that their EDI strategy incorporates the needs, demands and ideas of older Londoners, including those that relate to employment. This is an ongoing exercise in which Wise Age and partners are actively engaged and are working to incorporate an Employment and Skills set of recommendations and concerns within the wider project of helping the GLA to make London an Age-Friendly city.
The ongoing challenges that face us include the decline of the voluntary sector. This has meant that some of the organisations we helped and who were ROPES members have since stopped operating, due largely to the lack of funding for the Community and Voluntary sector; further compounded by the massive cuts that local government has faced over the last 8 years, which in turn led to the reduction of grants and contracts available to the CVS. In addition, some of the people who were working on relevant older people’s employment support contracts for member organisations were let go as there was insufficient funding to continue their contracts. As the workload has increased for the Community and Voluntary sector while people and resources have declined it has led to a greater amount of pressure on existing staff and resources so that the primary basis for ongoing collaboration has had to be focused on trying to find new funding opportunities and contracts. However, at local levels the relationships built up between members have been positive – especially between larger CVS organisations, such as Housing Associations, local Age UK borough branches and branches of national charities ( such as MIND) and smaller local specialist agencies ( who deal at a local level or around a particular client demographic such as Women Refugees, and Somali Pensioners).
Wise Age has also tried to involve local ROPES partners in other age-related and employment projects in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Lewisham.
There is now a growing realisation that older working-age people have a lot to offer, that age diversity really does increase employers’ profitability, productivity and staff morale and retention. As London faces a future with fewer numbers of young EU people coming to work, the importance of older Londoners joining the workforce and being re-skilled and retrained to work in a more flexible way and be able to support younger members of the workforce is being seen as a key feature in the future workforce and HR development by companies of all sizes and in all sectors.
We thank Trust for London for their ongoing support and hope that our legacy will continue to help build the awareness of the importance of older working-age people, of age diversity and as a result, lead to even older Londoners being employed in jobs they are good at and enjoy doing.