How Well Services Meet Needs
This section identifies how effectively PACE and other redundancy support services met the needs of those going through the redundancy process.
Initial information/needs assessment
As outlined in the previous chapter, for most PACE customers, the PACE presentation is their first encounter with the PACE services. Most customers considered that the timing of PACE engagement was appropriate. It allowed employees to "calm down and accept the situation" and they were then ready to hear what PACE had to say. According to one individual PACE came in at the "perfect time". However, another customer said they would like to see PACE come in earlier as it "helps to prevent self-sabotage and help people create an action plan."
Overall, PACE customers reported that the presentation was a useful starting point and the information provided in the Positive Steps booklet was said to be "valuable" and "really useful". As one customer highlighted:
"It was good to get advice on the basic stuff, understanding how to sign on. Because the bills still need to be paid so (it told us) what we need to do." PACE customer, aged 35-44
Another PACE customer welcomed the support from the initial information session which covered some of the basic employability issues, job search tips and benefits advice. Although she didn't know what she wanted at the time, she welcomed the fact that the support was still available. Her adviser told her:
"When you're ready this is where you would find the information, and you can come back if you need to." PACE customer, aged 45-54
The most commonly identified concern of customers centred around finding a new job. Customers frequently spoke of needing help with their CV, both in terms of writing one and using social media to promote themselves. The level of support varied across the range of customers from wanting someone to sit down with them and help them write a CV, to needing someone to review a CV they currently had. PACE clients who engaged with the CV support said that it was useful to have someone review their CV, and that it was reassuring to know they were on the right track. For one customer this resulted in increased confidence:
"After the CV workshop I felt more confident about applying for jobs. It was good to have someone look over my CV as they pointed out a couple of things to change. My CV's better for it now and this is learning I can take forward." PACE customer, aged 35-44
For many of the PACE customers, help with their CV was all the support they felt they needed, as they felt more confident following this which helped them progress quickly along the journey.
While overall the support met their needs customers highlighted issues around the timing of group sessions and CV workshops, with one customer highlighting that they weren't able to access it because it was being delivered at set times, and that "this didn't work so well for people on shifts or people who were off that day." Another customer also noted an issue with the timing of the CV workshop and the Jobs Fair. He took part in the CV workshop the day before the Jobs Fair so didn't have enough time to amend his CV in time for the Fair.
PACE customers generally rated the one-to-one support and advice as the most valuable element of the PACE service. The value attached to it relates to the personalised nature of the support, and the feeling of being listened to, that helps build confidence and address the worry and stress of the situation. As described below:
"It's always good to know there's support out there … It helped me realise there were other possibilities. Just knowing what my options are is really helpful; for example, funding for re-training, sectors I could transfer skills to, and opportunities for business start-up."PACE Customer, aged 25-34
"Building confidence was a big thing for me, knowing where to look for support and resources especially as it had been a long time since I'd applied for a job. The one-to-one session was really useful, reassured me that I was on the right track, gave me useful pointers and explored some possible funding for qualifications. It was very useful. The ladies we met were very helpful, and had things not gone the way they did I would have accessed more support."PACE Customer, aged 45-54
All interviewees spoke of the emotional toll redundancy had taken on their professional and personal lives. And, as outlined earlier, emotional impacts start early in the redundancy process. This implies a need for this type of support from the outset. Customers feel that support for emotional wellbeing should be easy to access, as one customer summarised:
"When people are low they don't always want to go looking for support." PACE customer, aged 25-34
While, in most cases, direct support for mental wellbeing is not part of the PACE provision, the offer of one-to-one sessions with an Adviser can help in this respect. PACE customers were more likely to have reported positive experiences of engaging with Advisers, and that the encouragement and tailored support provided made a difference to their confidence and motivation. It seems that feeling that they are being supported through the process and being given some agency and options helps to build resilience that supports a more positive outlook.
As with other interviewees, there was a perception issue with accessing support through Jobcentres among some PACE customers. One PACE customer viewed it as a last resort, commenting that he hadn't approached the Jobcentre through a sense of pride, and he would "feel like a failure if he had to go to the Jobcentre." However, another PACE customer had registered the day after the redundancy notification and had found the Jobcentre to be extremely helpful.
"The Jobcentre's been absolutely brilliant. They've been really encouraging. The work coach I had has been great. She's just encouraged me through everything. Recommended jobs, emailed me every day about jobs." PACE customer, age 25-34
One interviewee reported that her new job opportunity came through a friend of a friend. Through her discussions with her SDS PACE Adviser, they told her that jobs can come through this way, and this gave her the confidence to approach people and make enquiries.
Starting a business
One of our interviewees had started a business after struggling to find work following her redundancy. She attributed this decision to the advice and guidance she received through PACE.
"It was actually PACE that gave me the idea about starting my own business. They did a lot of meetings with us to say you can do different things, don't feel stuck. So, it was them that put the idea into my head about doing something on my own." PACE customer, age 25-34
Users of private redundancy support
Customers who had accessed support through a private outplacement service had very mixed experiences of the service. One key aspect that differentiates this service is its time-limited nature, and this adds an additional pressure to those having to deal with redundancy. In one instance the support was only for four weeks, which provided a very limited window of opportunity to access support. Other interviewees were offered support for up to three months but did not take up this level of support. For example, one customer was left feeling unsatisfied with the quality of the support received and so decided not to take it further.
Customers of private sector redundancy services identified a similar need around employability support and CV skills to those getting support through PACE. However, there were mixed perceptions about the quality of the support received from their provider in this regard. From the four private service customers we interviewed, two had positive experiences and two had negative experiences. Some individuals found the quality of the materials on offer were very good, particularly the sessions on LinkedIn and Starting a Business which one customer said was "extremely useful and I got a lot out of this". One customer commented that the Starting a Business session "gave me the confidence and self-belief I needed to become self-employed."
Some customers really liked the format of the online materials. They liked the way it was packaged up, the website, and branding. Others found it condescending:
"It was so condescending. A little girl on the screen saying "tell me what kind of work you're looking for. I'll go and find the jobs". I was then emailed a barrage of jobs which weren't right for me, like engineering roles. It was so frustrating." Non-PACE customer, aged 45-54
Quality of Advisers
The main issue with private service customers (identified by those who had both a positive and negative experience) was the quality of the support available from the advisers. One felt that they were being 'treated like a number' and that the adviser was just going through the motions rather than making any genuine effort to move them into work:
"She told me that she'd reached her 10% target, and I thought I really don't want to hear that. I just felt what's the point in me sitting here trying to get this lady to understand and get her to help me."Non-PACE customer, aged 45-54
Another individual spoke of his disappointment as he didn't receive the quality of support he had expected, particularly as this was paid support. This individual is still currently looking for work and believes if he had had the support he needed at the time his situation would be different:
"They let me down, so I didn't take anything further from them. All I wanted was help with my CV, I could sell myself at an interview. I've got the confidence, I've got the ability. I know there's people out there who've been made redundant who lack confidence, that's not me. I just needed help with my CV, and they fell at the first hurdle." Non-PACE customer, aged 45-54
The same customer spoke about a time previously when he found himself unemployed for the first time. He went to SDS and an adviser sat with him, asked him questions there and then and together they developed a CV. Because of his previous positive experience with SDS, he had expected a similar service from the private sector provider:
"They (SDS Adviser) typed it out in front of me and I left with a beautiful, perfect CV. If the guy had done that there's no doubt I would have gone further with them. But I thought I'm not wasting my time with that. I'd been let down right away."
There is a common thread throughout the interviews about the poor quality of the advisers which impacted on their engagement and their perceptions of the support. It should be noted that these experiences were shared by individuals in more senior roles who previously worked in client facing roles and so may have different expectations about quality and customer care.
One private service customer spoke of online articles that were available through the portal, which outlined what to expect from redundancy. This was useful as it helped her to understand that what she was experiencing was perfectly normal. However, the issues with the quality of the personal support appear to undermine some of the other positive aspects. For example, one customer highlighted the impact the perceived lack of empathy from her adviser had had on her experience:
"I don't know that if I had had a better experience with them, that my situation would be different now but it may have made me feel better emotionally. Someone to talk to who understood what I was going through. But this wasn't available to me." Non-PACE customer, aged 45-54
Impact on outcomes
Interestingly, both private sector customers who had a negative experience declined further support and are still currently looking for employment (as at the time of interview). These outcomes were influenced by a lack of appropriate support, poor physical and mental health, and a lack of senior positions in the jobs market.