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People with experience of homelessness are being given jobs in the NHS to help others

Two people who were previously homeless have been employed as healthcare social workers at a local NHS trust as part of new efforts to break down barriers into work.

People with lived experience of homelessness are being offered jobs in the NHS as part of a new pilot project designed to break down the barriers of getting a job.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) has become the first NHS trust in England to recruit two healthcare social workers who were previously homeless under the new Access to Employment programme.

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In total, seven NHS trusts across the country are participating in the new scheme, which aims to understand the systemic and individual reasons people are turned away from work.

“Many people felt having experience of being homeless meant there were barriers to them getting a job,” said Jan Rutherford, a social worker involved in the project. “The training helped to encourage and empower attendees and make them feel like they were employable.

“The experience has brought me to tears. It’s all down to the successful individuals. They had the ability, they just hadn’t been given the opportunity and we’ve been able to provide that.”

The trust worked with Groundswell, a UK charity creating solutions to end homelessness, on a training course that looked at people’s past experience and transferable skills.

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The course was open to people in stable positions, who no longer had issues with accommodation but had previously experienced homelessness.

After two months of training, CNTW offered two people posts on its homelessness team and a community treatment team within the trust.

The pair will work with people to find solutions to their problems, including helping to protect vulnerable people from harm or abuse and supporting people to live independently.

Anne-Marie Lamb, CNTW’s senior nurse international recruitment and relocation support, said: “For CNTW to be the first trust to get to this stage of the pilot is a massive achievement. The work has instilled hope and shows that everyone has an opportunity.

“It normalises people with lived experience and shows that just because you have been homeless doesn’t mean you can’t move forward.”

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The pilot project is part of an NHS England programme to give organisations the chance to reflect on current employment practices for people with lived experiences in a bid to reduce barriers to employment.

That meant opening the door to people who have lived experiences of many of the issues the trust is trying to treat, bringing knowledge and empathy to the roles.

Rutherford added: “They’re both really passionate and looking forward to forging their careers. To have healthcare support workers with lived experience and real empathy will bring such value to the teams.”

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