Following a recent independent evaluation, Bridges, an employment outreach project operating throughout the Black Country, is able to report that every £1 of grant funding received by the project generates £4.09 worth of positive social impact for the local economy. The evaluation, undertaken by Enriched Consulting Ltd, further determined that the £8.6m worth of funding received to date has resulted in a £34.2m social return on investment (SROI) for the region, which equates to an overall return of 309%.

Offering a diverse range of tailored services and activities, including confidence-building and motivational workshops through to job search and application support, Bridges aims to reach into disadvantaged communities and help individuals who typically face multiple barriers to employment, enabling them to develop both the professional and personal skills that can lead to the attainment of self-sustainable futures. Since having launched in July 2016, more than 3,500 participants have signed up to the project, with over 1,000 of these having moved into employment, self-employment, education or training.

By placing emphasis upon collaborative working amongst specialist delivery partners, the project is able to offer holistic support services that meet the specific needs and requirements of individual participants. Notably, this includes those with a range of disabilities, sensory impairments or mental health issues, as well as those who are long-term unemployed or older members of the community. 

Bhanu Dhir, Managing Director of Steps To Work, commented: “As lead delivery partner, we are absolutely delighted with the findings of our recent independent evaluation, which highlights a significant social return on investment for Bridges. Projects such as this provide a vital support service to the most vulnerable members of our community, who often face multiple barriers to social inclusion, so it is great to see that our hard work is having such a positive impact and transforming lives throughout the region.

“Based on follow-up consultations we have had with our participants, Bridges has enabled them to positively enhance and develop their skills, whilst also helping them feel healthier in themselves and as though there are more opportunities now available to them. Conversely, employers tell me they have gained a better understanding of the potential skills and experience of local unemployed people who live right on their doorstep, so they feel more able and willing to tap into the rich vein of local hidden potential and untapped pools of talent.” 

Illustrating the tangible value and positive social impact that Bridges provides to individuals throughout the region, Marc joined as a participant after he had struggled to source sustainable employment opportunities since graduating with a degree in Music Business in 2010. Through the project, he was able to access voluntary placements with both a local community group and Citizen’s Advice, which allowed him to develop his existing skills whilst obtaining new ones. In particular, he enrolled onto a Level 2 Advice & Guidance distance learning course at Leicester College that has helped him to forge a career path that he has found to be thoroughly rewarding. Regarding his experience, Marc commented: “Bridges has helped me with my confidence and it has helped me to identify the skills that I have, providing me with the necessary support to improve them. I now feel more confident to go out into the world of work and know that I have something of value to offer employers.” 

Bridges is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. For more information about the project, please visit www.stepstowork.co.uk/bridges-about or contact us on 01922 627555.