PACE customer journey: 2019
Qualitative study looking at the customer experience of individuals who have recently been made redundant.
Key Findings and Recommendations
This section looks at some of the key findings around the different approaches to redundancy support, it highlights the key influencing factors and what areas could be strengthened to improve support going forward.
Employer awareness and engagement
Where PACE Partnerships are aware of redundancies taking place, they have effective approaches for engaging with employers and working with them to deliver effective support. However, there are still many instances where PACE Partnerships are not aware of redundancies taking place. These are mostly smaller scale redundancies with under 20 employees affected. In other instances, employers are aware of PACE but choose not to engage with the services.
Voluntary sector awareness
Among our interviewees, several of those made redundant without recourse to PACE support worked for large voluntary sector organisations. The scale of redundancies is unlikely to be large enough to require an HR1 notification, which may mean that PACE teams are not made aware of them. However, the nature of funding and reliance on time-limited delivery contracts will mean that redundancies are an intrinsic part of the voluntary sector landscape. The lack of engagement with PACE among these organisations is perhaps surprising, given that many of them will work closely with the public sector and will receive public funding to some extent.
The first few weeks after someone finds out about redundancy are the hardest for them to deal with. The shock and emotional impact come alongside the need to consider the immediate practical impacts on finances, family and relationships. The earlier that PACE teams can engage with employers to support this process, the more likely it is that emotional impacts can be minimised, and positive outcomes maximised.
One of the positive elements of the private sector offer is that they can provide support to the employer even before redundancies are announced. While this can also happen with PACE, it is not usually the case. Providing the offer of earlier involvement to employers would help to improve support planning and lead to a better take-up of services. While it is recognised that provision of HR advice to employers falls outwith the scope of PACE, PACE teams should seek to engage as early as possible with employers.
Take-up of PACE support among individuals is limited by lack of awareness of the service generally. Where employers are not engaging directly with PACE services, individuals are less likely to find out about what services they are entitled to. Many people who did not engage with services feel they could have benefited from some of the support available. Awareness and referrals, even among other PACE Partner organisations such as DWP Jobcentres appear to be inconsistent.
There are also common misunderstandings that PACE support can only be delivered through employers and that the support is only available for larger scale redundancy scenarios.
A vague brand
Awareness of PACE is hampered by having a weak brand identity. The PACE identity comes across most strongly through the workplace presentation, but this is not the case for the other linked services. Many individuals we interviewed said they were not aware of PACE; even some who had accessed support. Even among individuals who had found out about PACE through their own self-directed searches, their recollection and awareness of the service and PACE brand was limited. This lack of clear identity is perhaps exacerbated by the partnership nature of the services, where individuals can access component services without any knowledge of PACE.
The Value of Advisers
Comparing the emotional experiences of PACE customers, Private sector customers and those not using any service, PACE customers tended to have a more positive experience. All PACE customers rated the support they received highly and felt more confident after engaging with the service. Through conversations with PACE customers, it is clear that the real benefit from engaging with PACE was the positive change in confidence and mental wellbeing. This was achieved to some extent through the practical support offered, but where PACE really adds value is the interaction between customers and advisers. Customers spoke of advisers who showed "empathy and a human kindness" and through interacting with advisers, they were more hopeful and positive about the future.
In comparison, those who used an alternative service did not feel the support they received was tailored to their needs or empathetic. And those who received no support from their employer would have appreciated and benefited from having someone they could speak to, during the redundancy process.
Time to reflect
The open-ended nature of PACE support has been highlighted as a positive feature that reduces the pressure on customers to make quick decisions. Those facing redundancy need time to come to terms with the news, deal with the immediate practical and financial concerns and reflect on their longer-term options. The knowledge that support will still be there for them once they have taken time to consider their needs is a significant reassurance. Most customers report that this approach is communicated clearly to them by Advisers; although there is still some confusion as to the ability to access support after they have left employment.
The 'open door' approach to support is one of the key differentiating features between PACE support and much of the private sector support encountered which is time-limited.
One important role of SDS PACE Advisers is to provide customers with advice that reflects the current realities of the labour market. This research has identified that those in senior roles facing redundancy are sometimes over-confident and unrealistic about how easy it will be to get a job. So, having guidance and advice through PACE has benefited individuals who would not have sought support if it had not been delivered to them at their workplace.
A more joined up service
PACE is a partnership approach to coordinating services, and not a service in itself; and this confuses individuals who might be accessing the services. For example, some individuals will access component services (Jobcentre, SDS, local authority employability) without necessarily associating this with PACE. This may be partly linked to the lack of awareness of PACE, and the weakness of the 'brand'. But there is also a need for the individual services involved to recognise the added value of PACE as an overarching coordinating structure.
Peer support networks
The customer experience of redundancy is a turbulent one that can see an individual experience a whole range of emotions in a very short space of time. Throughout the research, people spoke of a need to share stories and information, to talk to someone about their concerns, and also of a need to support other colleagues who are going through the same thing. We came across several instances where informal peer support among colleagues had helped individuals identify and share information about training and job opportunities.
Mixed reputation of the Jobcentre
It appears from this research that people are not fully aware of the support services potentially available through the Jobcentre and are also wary of using it. As a PACE Partner, the DWP Jobcentre should be an important route into the PACE service; particularly for individuals involved in smaller-scale redundancies who do not receive workplace PACE support. This negative perception of Jobcentres and a reluctance to use their services among certain groups suggests that there could be many potential PACE clients falling through the cracks.
A clear offer on emotional wellbeing
While there is generally no 'badged' mental wellbeing offer provided through PACE, there is information and signposting to potential sources of support. It is clear from our interviews that having access to one-to-one sessions with SDS PACE Advisers provides a degree of emotional support that is highly valued by customers. People appreciate being able to talk to someone who can provide them with practical help, giving them options and agency, which boosts their wellbeing. Knowing that they can draw on this support is also a boon to those who might otherwise feel stuck.
Notwithstanding this positive role in emotional wellbeing, sometimes individuals do require more support with mental health issues as they go through the redundancy process. Poor mental health can stop people from effectively engaging with support and impact on their longer-term prospects.
Follow-up and aftercare
It is important that customers feel they have support as they transition into a new job and that they can come back for further support if they need it. Customers have identified the importance of the 'open door' approach, and this is a clear advantage which PACE has over private sector services.
The Scottish Government and SDS PACE Team should consider how to improve awareness and publicise the positive benefits of PACE to employers (particularly SMEs). There may be a need to promote PACE specifically to the Voluntary sector through umbrella organisations such as SCVO.
There are also common misunderstandings that PACE support can only be delivered through employers and that the support is only available for larger scale redundancy scenarios. These need to be addressed through providing clear and consistent information to partners, and through wider marketing.
Making sure that the PACE Partners are clear about the overall PACE offer will enable them to provide a more coherent service to customers. In particular, DWP Jobcentre should review how it deals with those coming through redundancy and ensure a more standardised approach linked to PACE.
The Scottish Government and SDS PACE Team should consider the overall branding of the service. Having a clearer brand and marketing message (alongside strengthening partnership links) would help to ensure that people knew about what PACE does and associate this brand identity to the service offer.
Most customers report that the open-ended nature of support is communicated clearly to them by SDS PACE Advisers. However, there is still some confusion as to the ability to access support after they have left employment which could be addressed through marketing and partner communication.
PACE Partnerships should recognise and encourage the role of peer-led support as part of the broader offer. This is particularly important for larger-scale redundancies. Tailoring some training and support materials to enable this will help to expand support being offered.
Having a more clear and consistent approach to providing access to mental health support would ensure that individuals were able to make progress. Signposting people to mental health services isn't always enough, as individuals are often unwilling or unable to make the necessary call. The Scottish Government and PACE National team should explore ways of strengthening mental health support.
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