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To mark Employability Day 2020, we’re reflecting on how we’ve adapted to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic required businesses like ours to rapidly rethink the way we operate. From an organisation delivering most of its services through branches and offices, or in community settings up and down the country, we adapted and embraced remote working while maintaining delivery of all of our contracts. Within 3 days, all staff had successfully transitioned to homeworking, and our contact centre went fully remote. 

We wanted to share four ways that our teams have responded to the pandemic and its effects, to help meet the needs of our service users.

Digital innovation 

Our transition to remote working has been facilitated by increased digital engagement with service users. In addition to the use of phone and email, we introduced video chat and social media platforms to enable our service users to choose the communications channels that work for them. This has proven particularly important for participants’ interview preparation and collaborative working on applications and training programmes. And in Scotland, our local social media accounts have proven to be a valuable means of sharing updates on opportunities and labour market trends in the local area.

Supporting key sectors

While recruitment has fallen steeply overall since March, sectors such as healthcare, food retail, cleaning and logistics have been undertaking unprecedented levels of recruitment to meet demand associated with the pandemic. Our teams have supported their local strategic employer partners, as well as working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions through initiatives such as DWP Partners and Disability Confident.

In London, we have worked with major supermarkets to rapidly match the right participants to available roles, often working at pace. Successful examples of this include Rosanna and Sam from East London, who were supported into permanent positions at Tesco and Marks & Spencer respectively following successful remote interviews.

A point of contact for service users

Most of the individuals we support have a disability, health condition or significant barrier to employment. Thousands of our service users have been required to shield at home over recent months, and for many, our support has been invaluable in helping them overcome challenges associated with these difficult times. 

Our teams in every community have gone above and beyond to support individuals struggling with the impact of COVID-19. While employment support and skills development have remained our primary focus, we’ve recognised that the type of support we offer has to go further. We’re now conducting regular check-ins for those who need it; making referrals to mental health services for people dealing with stress and anxiety; signposting to local services for those worried about debt or housing; and, where needed, arranging food and medicine deliveries for those who cannot access basic supplies. 

This underlines the invaluable role that employment support organisations play, and our staff’s commitment to transforming the lives of those we support.

Supporting communities

We’re also encouraging our colleagues to play an active role in their local community, and have been overwhelmed by their response. In addition to their work helping service users, colleagues are running neighbourhood groups and food banks, as well as volunteering with the NHS and other local services to play their part during a time of great need.

This month, the Maximus Foundation UK announced £50,000 in donations to local organisations that are delivering vital services and struggling with the impact of the pandemic. All the charities were nominated by Maximus colleagues, and we know that many of them, such as Working Wardrobe and Andy’s Man Club, deliver support that is valued by our service users.

Our colleagues have shown great resilience and flexibility over the past few months. In the months ahead, employment support providers, including Maximus, will be required to step up once again to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic.

We’re ready for the challenge.