Thames Reach
Friday 17 November 2017
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Service user trainees employed through the GROW scheme were required to provide references covering three years, as with all Thames Reach employees.

Why obtain references for trainees with experience of homelessness?

References must be obtained for trainees in order to confirm their suitability for the post.

If the reference is not from an employer but from, for example a key worker, it will still act as confirmation of the candidate’s suitability. If there are elements of concern about a candidate, these can be highlighted and picked up from any reference.

Reference procedure for trainees

For every permanent and fixed term contract of more than 3 months, including trainees’ contracts, Thames Reach requires references which cover the last three years. In some instances this may mean that more than two references are required. Explanations must also be sought for any gaps in a candidate’s reference history.

If ex-service users are not be able to provide employment references for the last 3 years, relevant references from service providers and educational institutions can be accepted, subject to the ability of Thames Reach to diligently assess the candidate’s employability.

Relevant references from earlier than the last 3 years can also be taken into account.

Thames Reach’s Reference policy can be downloaded from the Changing policies page.

Lessons learnt

In practice, obtaining references for the last 3 years for trainees with an experience of homelessness has not always been easy. However, we managed to obtain suitable references for all our GROW trainees.

  1. When recruiting trainees you should:

    • Plan to allow more time to request and receive references
    • Be clear from the outset what your requirements are, for example at Thames Reach this is explained in the application form and guidance notes
    • Be available to discuss references with trainees because they often feel they do not have any suitable referees until you discuss who is appropriate with them.
  2. It is also important to double check periods that trainees say references cover. Sometimes when the references are received the periods do not link together, or the reference does not cover all of the indicated period. If you wait until you receive the reference to find this out, this may delay the process.

  3. You may not always be able to obtain references for the required period. For example, if a trainee has not been in contact with anyone during a period of homelessness, it will be difficult to obtain a reference for this period. At Thames Reach an explanation would be sought and recorded for this gap and a decision on the suitability of the trainee in light of this would be made. This would not necessarily be a barrier to employment but would need to be considered following the normal process and alongside any references which could be obtained.

  4. Do not expect employment references for the last 3 years for all trainees. Be flexible without deviating from your reference policy. All employees at Thames Reach are recruited following the same over-riding procedures outlined in our recruitment manual.