Why employment support should be strengths-based (2 min read)

Focusing on people’s strengths is one of five ways we can restore trust in employment support

The first feature of the new model of employment support is that it should be strengths-based. The way we see people — and the way we should encourage people to see themselves — is through their skills, personal qualities and assets. Recognising, or reminding yourself of, your best qualities restores hope. As I’ve written about before, hope that finding good work is possible is far more important than motivation. When the circumstances are right, and pay and conditions are fair, most people are intrinsically motivated to work. However, in the face of disappointment and discrimination, hope can erode.

Applying unsuccessfully for job after job, or struggling at work because you’re not getting appropriate support, can be exhausting and lonely. We’ve found that people who’ve been unemployed for a long time, in particular, can internalise societal stigma about what it means to be out of work with a health condition or disability. Some people feel useless and unwanted; “on the scrapheap” is a phrase we hate but hear all too often. Employment programmes that label people as “complex,” or which emphasise diagnostic tests of people’s barriers and supposed deficiencies, only reinforce these prejudices and self-limiting beliefs.

A good strengths-based programme, like our Building Better Opportunities and Working Win initiatives, does the opposite. By assuming the best of you, it helps you feel safe and seen for who you really are. When you sense that the person you’re engaging with appreciates you and believes in your potential — even when you doubt it yourself — you come away from every meeting feeling affirmed and wanting to repay their faith.

These aren’t my experiences. They’re the experiences of people like Neil, who was told he’d never work again due to a back condition. Neil found out about the Working Win trial through his physio and is now back in employment. It’s Paul’s experience, who battled back from the darkest of personal circumstances to find a job he loves, with support from Working Win. Paul is now planning to take his wife and four kids on their first holiday together.

Through Neil’s story and Paul’s story — and hundreds more like them — we’re no longer staring through the “benefit lens” at people with health conditions and disabilities. Instead, people are showing who they really are: courageous and resilient, using their skills, and the support of their loved ones and family, to make the life that they want and deserve. The achievements are theirs — our participants transform their own lives — but we’re immensely proud that we can be of service.

Read the full blog here

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