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The Black Thrive Employment Project: Evaluating community led change to improve employment outcomes

What is this project?

This is an employment project, funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, and led by Black Thrive, which is an organisation that was created to work across the London Borough of Lambeth to achieve change so that black residents can thrive. The project has a primary focus of improving employment outcomes for Black people with long-term physical and mental health conditions in Lambeth. The project will run for two years and focuses on the changes needed within local systems to help people thrive – health, education, employment, local government – using a community-led approach. It will engage statutory bodies and local organisations to collaborate in achieving justice through radical solutions. The goal of the project is to ensure that Black people in Lambeth with long-term health conditions (LTCs) are no less likely to be in employment than anyone else, and particularly people from White groups. The project includes the allocation of grant funding to individuals and organisations. McPin are leading the project’s developmental evaluation. Working alongside Black Thrive, a Community Working Group, and other partners, we will explore and report lessons from each stage of the project. A key feature of the evaluation is working with community peer researchers: people from the local community bringing their expertise built upon Black heritage, and/or living with LTCs, and/or experiencing challenges in gaining and maintaining employment.

Why is this project important?

Black people disproportionately bear the burden of long-term conditions in Lambeth 

According to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity’s “One to Many” report, more than one in five residents in Lambeth live with at least one LTC and over 19,000 live with three or more. Research suggests that people who experience one LTC are at an increased risk of developing multiple LTCs. In addition, people living in areas with the highest levels of deprivation develop LTCs on average 10 years earlier than those living in the most affluent areas. People from Black communities in Lambeth experience a greater burden of LTCs than people from White groups.

Black people have a less positive experience of the labour market

Some forms of employment can have an adverse effect on mental and physical health. These include precarious work, low-paid work, dangerous work and workplaces in which a person experiences difficulties such as discrimination and stigma. On the other hand, good quality 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, they are less likely to have good quality work.

How are McPin and people with lived experience of mental health problems involved in the project?

There are several peer researchers from McPin involved in the Lambeth Employment Project. This includes peer researchers and community peer researchers, who use their lived experience and knowledge of mental health, to support the project. Our researchers conduct research in Lambeth and bring the voice of Black people with LTCs to meetings with the wider team and partners of the project, ensuring the work is appropriate and relevant for the community’s needs. The project started during the Covid-19 pandemic, thus revisiting how best to do this work is an important part of the evaluation programme.

What is the current status of the project? 

Our work on this project began in March 2020. For the first phase we carried out a rapid review of the literature to explore employment support models, with a specific focus on lessons for working with Black people in London. We were also involved in an interview project using a community research method about Covid-19, employment and race in partnership with The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP). From July 2020 we started the first of several cycles of developmental evaluation. Each cycle lasts 4 months, and uses mixed methods including surveys, in-depth interviews, reflections work among project staff and partners, and case stories from grant funded projects.

Where can I find more information?

If you would like more information on the project, please visit: https://employment.blackthrive.org.uk/

For more information on the developmental evaluation and any further queries about the project, contact Tanya by email: tanyamackay@mcpin.org.