Black people in Lambeth are more likely to be unemployed and more likely to have poor health. The Black Thrive Employment Project funded by Guys’ and St. Thomas’ Charity (GSTC), is community led and focuses on improving employment outcomes for Black people with long-term physical and mental health conditions in Lambeth. The overall aim of the project is to ensure that Black people in Lambeth with long-term conditions are no less likely to be in employment than equivalent white people.
The employment project engages community members, statutory bodies and local organisations to collaborate in achieving justice through radical solutions. We will achieve this by funding and piloting solutions that take into account lived experience and focus on a systems-change approach.
What is the issue?
The project aims to change the employment and healthcare systems that prevent Black people in Lambeth from thriving. We see this issue as having three main components:
- Black people disproportionately bear the burden of long-term conditions in Lambeth
According to the GSTC “One to Many” report, more than 1 in 5 residents live with at least one long term health condition (LTC) and over 19,000 live with three or more. But how quickly people progress from one to many LTCs varies, with people living in areas with the highest levels of deprivation developing LTCs on average 10 years earlier than those living in the most affluent. People from Black communities in Lambeth experience a greater burden of long-term conditions than people from White groups and are often diagnosed years earlier than their white counterparts.
- Black people have a less positive experience of the labour market
Some forms of employment, including precarious work, low-paid work, dangerous work and workplaces in which a person has bad experiences, including facing discrimination and stigma, have an adverse effect on mental and physical health. On the other hand, good and meaningful work has a positive effect on health, resilience and wellbeing. Black people are less likely to be in employment and when they are, less likely to have good work.
- The health/work interplay has a disproportionately negative impact on Black people
Along with conditions such as diabetes and chronic pain, mental health plays an important role in rates of progression from one LTC to multiple. These conditions are often linked: for example, poor physical health may limit a person’s ability to work and/or place financial strain on an individual, leading to anxiety or depression.
The Black Thrive response
We believe that good work can change your life. We want Black people with long term health conditions to feel more supported by the employment system, in order to find meaningful employment. The Employment Project has three main goals:
- Improve our knowledge and understanding
Inequities for Black people have been known for several decades. If the employment and health systems have been acting on the basis of “evidence”, then more progress should have been made, unless there are some missing bits of knowledge and understanding. We intend to find out what these might be. We will be working with research partners, The Social Innovation Partnership and the McPin Foundation, to train up a team of community researchers to gather data and insights about the issues that lead to Black people having worse outcomes in relation to employment and long-term conditions.
- Pilot some new things
We will start to identify possible solutions to address the issues that emerge from existing research and data, as well as the insights gathered by our community researchers. We will pilot new delivery models and ways of working, ensuring that the Black perspective is taken into account.
Previous research suggests that there could be positive results from making the employment support offer more coherent and accessible, changing the aspects of the welfare benefits system that negatively impact disabled people, improving employers’ responses to long term conditions and measuring what matters most.
- Give the community power in deciding what to do
One of Black Thrive’s guiding principles is to place the community at the heart of addressing structural barriers that prevent Black people from thriving. We will work with communities to design the most meaningful and impactful way that resources or services can reach them.
Piloting solutions will be facilitated by a funding pot of £300k, which the new Black Thrive Employment Working Group will distribute. The Working Group, made up of community members and organisations, will use the data gathered, combined with their own lived and/or professional experience, to engage with the wider Black community and make grant-making and commissioning decisions.
How to get involved
Want to stay up to date with the project’s progress? Follow us directly on Twitter or search for the hashtag #BlackThriveEmployment. Alternatively, sign up to our newsletter here for monthly updates.
Are you an organisation providing employment support in Lambeth? We want to hear from you!