Forward’s Employment Services retain the matrix standard accreditation

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Nina Royle, Head of Quality and Compliance at Forward Trust, celebrates achieving the matrix standard, a symbol of Forward’s commitment to providing high quality employment services in prisons and in the community.

We are thrilled to announce that Forward’s Employment Services Directorate has successfully met the matrix standard, the Department for Education (DfE)’s benchmark for ensuring the delivery of high-quality information, advice, and guidance (IAG). This achievement means we can continue to display the matrix quality mark, a symbol of our commitment to providing first-rate services both in prisons and in the community, including our Adult Education Budget and Restart programmes.

Collaborating closely with our matrix assessor, we underwent a comprehensive assessment process, which involved two days of interviews with our dedicated staff, trustees, and learners/participants. The assessment encompassed a thorough review of our Strategic Plans, Self-Assessment Reports, and Quality Improvement Plans, resulting in the identification of strengths and areas for development.

We strongly believe in obtaining an independent evaluation of our services, incorporating valuable input from our participants. During the assessment, we had the opportunity to hear from many clients who expressed their appreciation for their involvement and the support they had received. One individual shared their personal journey, stating:

“This was the third service I’d been referred to. Staff here were way more friendly, understanding, made it easy to be honest. I was helped with a CV, interview clothes, interview preparation; they helped my confidence. The impact for me – a job! Two plus months into it now, and they keep in touch as they said they would”.

The report also acknowledged our strong partnerships with external agencies, including employers. Feedback from these partners demonstrated their enthusiasm for working with us, with comments such as:

“It’s really refreshing to have a partner who welcomes feedback”; “We’re very impressed with how they (Forward’s Employment Services) have worked on the contract”; “They took time to get to know us and the roles we have – result, right candidates”.

Our effective use of technology was recognised as a key strength. For example, learners/participants said they enjoy using Onefile, an e-portfolio platform to help manage their learning, and the Kudos Adult Directions Careers Platform, which offers careers guidance. Many of our IAG teams in prisons have been quick to utilise the digital Personal Learning Plans.

Staff say they feel supported with their training and continuing professional development (CPD) and we are committed to supporting them with this, including through the attainment of Level 4 qualifications in IAG or the Employability Practitioner Apprenticeship Standard. There are clear opportunities for staff members to develop their own practice, which raises the standard of quality provision and is seen as a positive by staff members.

Recognising the challenges our teams face while working with disadvantaged and challenging learner or participant groups, we with the rest of the organisation have recently introduced Wellbeing Days. These dedicated days provide valuable support for staff members’ mental health and self-care, an initiative that has been welcomed by colleagues.

Our teams are challenged and supported by managers who are available, accessible and visible, providing the necessary guidance and encouragement. This has been acknowledged by staff and by our commissioners. Regular observations of workplace practices, Quality Improvement Plans and structured one-to-ones with managers all help to shape and improve the quality of our services.

We are aware that are areas for further development and improvement, and we will be engaging with our Advisory Group and Trustee Board to explore effective strategies for addressing them. The matrix assessment has been a very positive experience. We and those interviewed have enjoyed the opportunity to showcase our strengths and reflect on areas to improve.

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

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