John Hitchin is on leave so Director, Laura Busfield takes on week notes.

White cherry blossom.

Restart planning, a bit more Restart planning and finally, some further Restart planning.

This week has been much like most of my other weeks since returning from maternity leave in January this year: all about Restart.

The DWPs Restart Programme is a £2.9 billion scheme of enhanced support for Universal Credit claimants who’ve been out of work for at least 12 months to find work in their local area.  The sheer size and scale of the programme is frightening and exciting all in one go.  As a supply chain partner in multiple supply chains, planning for a contract of this size can be a challenge, not only because of the short mobilisation timeline (9 weeks) but because of the vast differences in value of each supply chain contract and what that will do to the structure of our employment service delivery at Renaisi.  Factors like staffing structure, premises requirements and level of investment are just a few things that I’ve been grappling with this week. 

A big shout out to Renaisi’s Finance and Business Support Manager, Safe Wongsunopparat, who has spent most of this week on video calls with me working up various costs assumptions and cash flow forecasts so that whatever the outcome, we are as prepared and confident as we can be.  Like a lot of organisations in the employability sector at the moment, we now eagerly awaiting the outcome of the award in two weeks’ time. 

An extraordinary board meeting

On the 12th April Renaisi’s board will come together outside of our usual board meeting cycle, to review potential outcomes and implications of Restart.  I’ve been working on a presentation which provides them with as much information as possible around the key areas of risk involved in delivering a contract of this size.  While Renaisi’s service delivery has seen a huge amount of growth in recent years, the outcome of Restart has the potential for us to scale up much further.  There are obvious risks that comes with any payment-by-results contract but I want the board to feel assured that we have done the necessary planning and to be confident they have all the information they need to make decisions when we know the result.

Business development

Until we know if we’ll be delivering Restart and at what scale our business development strategy and priorities feel a little up in the air. 

I joined an ERSA event which looked at the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).  It was interesting to hear about the work that ERSA and member organisations are doing to influence and shape the Fund based on an understanding ‘what good looks like’.  There’s no doubt that it is going to be an important replacement for ESF funding, but with the absence of timelines and clarity around how UKSPF will operate how much of the ESF-shaped hole it can fill remains to be seen.

I had a productive meeting with Waltham Forest College to share ideas about how we might work in partnership to deliver an employability focussed ESOL service, attended an IEP Live Learn Lunch session on contract mobilisation, and reviewed some interesting tenders advertised by the GLA and The Mayor’s European Social Fund 2019-2023.  All in all there’s a lot of activity happening in the employability sector, and while much of it is uncertain, it feels like an exciting and important time.

When I’m not living and breathing Restart…..

I’ve been enjoying the light warm sunny evenings … Well, the two that we’ve had at least.  I have a 17-month-old little boy who just loves having me chase after him over the park while he tries to eat everything and anything he can find on the floor.  In telly news, I’m currently mourning the end of series 2 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, thankfully the US version is still going.  Like most other people in the country, I’m enjoying the new Line of Duty, although I do struggle with the weekly episodes.  I’m more of a binge watcher, especially when it’s hard to understand what’s going on anyway.  Finally, this week, I watched the new ‘Tina’ documentary on Sky Documentaries.  I didn’t really know too much about Tina Turner before watching it but, what a woman!  Heart-breaking and inspirational.