Evaluating RBLI’s LifeWorks

19 October 2016

Yesterday, I had the privilege of introducing the findings of L&W’s evaluation of the LifeWorks programme at its launch in the Houses of Parliament. LifeWorks is an award-winning employability support programme run by RBLI (Royal British Legion Industries), which has so far helped 600 long-term unemployed military veterans into work in the last 5 years. We know from our own work with the British Army how important it is for veterans to find and secure employment to make a positive transition to the community.

Before diving into the evaluation findings, it’s important to understand the profile of LifeWorks delegates. 76% have served in the Army and 91% are men. The majority are aged 40 years or over, and 40% are aged 50 years or over – so some may be facing barriers that older workers often face in the labour market. 4 out of 5 reported a health condition or disability. Medical discharge accounts for 7% of personnel leaving the Armed Forces each year and those with medical conditions are less likely to find employment within the first six months after leaving, so this is a really important group to reach. It also has implications for the economy, with unemployment as a result of poor transitions estimated to cost £21million.

Using evidence supplied by RBLI, we were able to look at delegates’ outcomes at 6 months and at 1 year. At 6 months, we found that three quarters of delegates had achieved positive career outcomes, with more than half securing employment. Others were in education or training, and some were volunteering. At 1 year, more than 4 out of 5 delegates had achieved positive career outcomes. Again, more than half were in employment, and by this stage around three quarters of these were in full-time employment.

We were keen to look at the sustainability of these outcomes, because we know that outcomes at the 1 year point may include forwards and backward flow between jobs. While we were only able to explore this with a small sample of delegates, we found that almost all of those in employment at 6 months had sustained this and were in still in employment at 1 year. The sustainability of outcomes is an area for further investigation, but these early indications are very encouraging.

These figures are particularly encouraging when we consider the profile of LifeWorks delegates and the challenges that organisations and initiatives have at meeting the needs of unemployed adults with health conditions and disabilities. In light of this, we recommend that the RBLI considers making LifeWorks available more widely, and not just to ex-Services personnel.

In the UK, while 80 per cent of people who are not disabled are in work, that figure is just 47 per cent for people with disabilities. The Government has made a commitment to halving this gap. Analysis by Learning and Work Institute suggests that this would take 200 years to achieve on current trends unless radical action is taken.

The commissioning of the new Work and Health Programme should provide an opportunity to innovate and make a difference – and we must build on the evidence of what works. Based on our recent research on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, we call for the Government to develop an employment datalab and a new ‘what works’ offer to encourage innovation and learning in employment services. We would like to see collaboration within and between sectors, and more support for testing and learning at the frontline and with partners. There is a lot to be learned from programmes like LifeWorks, which have had the flexibility to be creative and take a different approach. We believe it’s now time for the programme to be trialled in the wider community.