Thames Reach
Monday 20 October 2014
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Benefits to the organisation

An organisation that employs service users has much to gain, not least a greater sense of unity, of ‘practicing what we preach’. But there are also financial and service-delivery benefits, and the development of a more knowledgeable, motivated and effective workforce.

Communications benefits

  • Employing homeless people gives those with no voice a voice – many homelessness organisations have ‘giving homeless people a voice’ as an organisational objective. Service user employees have influence over internal practices via staff consultation on the business plan, staff conferences, the line management structure and team meeting discussions.

  • Service user employees are potential spokespeople for the organisation, giving greater credibility to publicity, but also providing the media with interview subjects they often prefer to chief executives and communications staff. Media relations can be enhanced and campaigns more successful.

  • Employing service users demonstrates to partners, funders, staff, employers and the public that the organisation is sincere in its mission, providing a greater synergy between organisational practices and external messages. How can we ask businesses to employ homeless people when we won’t employ them ourselves? How can we ask the public to give people a second chance when our employment practices prevent us from doing so?

  • There are significant gains to an organisation’s reputation, both within the sector and more broadly.

Service-delivery benefits

  • Service users and staff within an organisation that employs service users have the benefit of positive and inspirational role models

  • Having greater numbers of service user employees can change the nature of key working, by focusing on what people can do rather than looking at the problems or issues they may have. This creates a positive, forward-looking atmosphere which  assists in raising staff expectations of what service users can achieve.

  • A common concern among agencies is that employing service users creates greater dependency, but those agencies with experience of employing service users find the opposite is true: the presence of service user employees reverses dependency by demonstrating financial self-sufficiency, self-worth, responsibility and ownership, direction and purpose

  • Agency staff gain enormous inspiration about their work from service user employees.

  • Working alongside former service users means that staff can gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the needs and issues facing service users and assist the organisation to engage with them

  • Service user employees are client focused and therefore assist services to stay focused on what’s really important.

  • Employing service users has an impact on organisational culture: it helps staff to see all service users’ potential and to view all clients as possible future colleagues; and provides an opportunity for teams to develop a more holistic and human approach

Human resource benefits

  • Employing service users results in a more diverse workforce - one that represents the community it works in and the service users it works for

  • Staff have an opportunity to see organisational goals in action, which is hugely motivating and rewarding. One attendee at the User Employment Seminar called this ‘psychological Viagra’. All teams find it rewarding, including backroom functions such as human resources

  • The routine practice of employing service users proves to all staff that you should never write anyone off

  • Employing service users is an effective way to transform an ‘us and them’ culture into an ‘us and us’ culture

  • By employing service users, we model the organisation’s mission internally

  • Organisations that employ service users gain hard-working, passionate, enthusiastic and committed workers. In the experience of the agencies that attended the seminar, user employees have an incredibly strong desire to prove themselves and provide a top-notch service.

  • Job satisfaction is gained by directly experiencing the fact that lives are being changed and futures are being built through the organisation’s and the individual’s efforts

  • Service user employees provide a resource of experience, knowledge and expertise that is invaluable at staff induction training. Who can better relay the causes of homelessness and introduce the organisation’s ethos and values?

  • User employees can also provide a unique skill-set and knowledge base for specific internal staff and service user training

Financial benefits

  • It makes sound economic sense to train and employ service users, as recruitment costs, such as agencies and advertising, are saved. It also means the organisation benefits from its investment in trainees.

  • Employing service users creates new business opportunities, such as paid peer review and audit services to other organisations, which are increasingly valued as a means of improving services

  • There are a number of new funding sources for employment projects, such as the £4 billion European Social Fund programme http://www.esf.gov.uk/, and the Learning and Skills Council’s co-funding with the ESF. http://www.lsc.gov.uk/providers/esf-procurement/

  • Supporting People assesses service user employment and equality and diversity criteria, so employing service users will help your organisation to secure their funding

  • Service user employees provide an organisation with a built-in means of monitoring and feedback, which helps develop greater clarity of focus in services. Their input helps ensure services are effective and focused on needs and are therefore far more efficient, thus meeting the expectations of funders