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The Talent Match Middlesbrough Legacy lives on

The five-year Talent Match Middlesbrough programme, funded by the Big Lottery, came to an end in December 2018. It removed barriers into employment and training for young people 18-24 years, who had been NEET for over 12 months……but the legacy lives on.

It is always sad when a project comes to an end, but the team is proud of what has been achieved and keen to promote what’s been left behind to help other young people in similar circumstances.

Job Centre Plus (JCP)

Young people told us that one of their biggest challenges was going to the Job Centre. They didn’t feel confident telling Work Coaches their problems because they thought they wouldn’t understand and could stop their money! But, if Work Coaches were not aware of individual barriers, they couldn’t help so was a catch 22 situation. Unfortunately, this often led to a negative experience and/or sanctioning which caused greater difficulties and sometimes meant that young people didn’t re-engage. JCP became tagged with a reputation which meant some individuals could not associate for fear of what they thought was inevitable.

TMM responded to this issue and persevered to build an alliance. This resulted in young people leading on the creation of the Requesting Adjustments to Claimant Commitment (RACC) form. It acts as a conversation starter between the Work Coach and young person, with or without an advocate, to help understand individual circumstances and identify support and development needs. Potentially, RACC can reduce expectations on the claimant to make their journey to employment more realistic. This form has now been adopted by Middlesbrough JCP’s and its use is currently being monitored. Your help is needed to promote and use this form to successfully embed this in their practice before it is rolled out nationally! You can download the RACC form here


Young people moving into work told us this was an alien environment where they had no idea of many things! MVDA’s Young Facilitators Canaan Hinson and Damian Richardson echoed this. Based on their own experiences they created an Employers Charter. Both young men have additional needs, but this charter will help any young person new to the world of work, as well as highlight information and support that would be helpful from an employer’s perspective. We would appreciate your support in raising awareness of this resource as well as any feedback from using it. You can download the Employers Charter here

Linking with SEND

The need to link more consistently with Middlesbrough's arrangements around special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been another significant area of learning for the TMM.

Some of the young people supported through the programme have diagnosed disabilities which are hidden such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, sight impairment etc. Although these young people may have had personal budgets, they told us they didn’t have support to get paid work, despite their hopes and aspirations to do so.

Many other young people presented with a range of undiagnosed conditions and life circumstances, were not identified for SEND support, and therefore experience significant challenges in their everyday lives. Their ongoing circumstances commonly result in a high level of mental health and anxiety symptoms, isolation and depression. Sadly, these young people didn’t have financial backup, and often presented as tired, hungry and desperate.

MVDA is committed to sharing the learning from TMM to improve strategic planning and practice. The link between statutory SEND and the voluntary and community sector definitely needs to be strengthened in order to drive positive change to develop more holistic and inclusive approaches. One of the ways we are championing this is by encouraging VCS groups and organisations to sign up to Middlesbrough Local Offer, encouraging more people with disabilities, vulnerabilities and complex needs, to engage in community activities. Our aim is to inform a range of improved outcomes so young people when preparing for adulthood transitions and considering post 16 education or employment options have better experiences.

Middlesbrough Council has a range of multi-agency SEND focused subgroups which come under the umbrella of a Strategic Preparation for Adulthood. It is agreed that we will attend these meetings to ensure the TMM legacy work will influence this work within their broader context.

Young People’s Voices

Throughout TMM, young people’s voices, based on real-life experience, have been at the forefront of shaping a range of services, decisions and priority areas. The principles behind our model of work have been so successful, we feel this in itself contributes to the TMM legacy.

TMM was independently evaluated by Adam Jeffrey, Chimera Consulting CEO & Founder. He quoted:

“Having evaluated 7 of the 21 Talent Match Partnerships across England, I would say Middlesbrough has done more than any other to put young people at the heart of the decision-making process. The strength of the Young People’s Panel and its influence in shaping project design and implementation is clearly evidenced in Middlesbrough. It is a credit to the partners for sticking with this approach throughout and for supporting young people in becoming influencers, not just beneficiaries”.

The Big Lottery also identified TMM Young People’s Panel as an exemplary piece of work in young people’s participation.

The European Commission also released a document in 2018, Activation Measures for Young People in Vulnerable Situations, featuring heavily the principles and good practice of the National Talent Match Programme (the only one in the UK) moving young people closer to employment. You can download this report


Pivotal to the success of the TMM programme was down to the locally based Youth Advocates. They offered long-term, tailored support to meet young people’s needs. They had the authority to remove barriers almost immediately in some cases due to having access to their own discretionary budgets. This was utilised for a range of things e.g. interview clothes, cheap mobile phone, transport costs, second-hand bikes etc. These sorts of items were invaluable and determined whether a young person could act on job offers immediately and strike while the ‘iron was hot’ or gave the young person time to doubt their capability and think of reasons why it wasn’t possible.

Having that one person, throughout their journey that wasn’t time-limited, to support the navigation through a myriad of hoops was the key to a young person’s progression. Not having to repeat their information, develop relationships with lots of people so they could be confident and honest, call when they needed to, meet where they felt comfortable, someone to pick them back up again and tell them truthfully how it was, became the difference between success and failure for those engaged in the programme. The Advocates continued their support even when young people became employed or accessed training if needed, to ensure that if the stabilisers did slightly wobble, they were there to tighten them back up and steady the way back onto the right path.

As we reflect on the learning and the legacy of TMM, we consider the one thing common to all these legacy areas… Young people being at the heart of change and development. We know this isn’t the easy option but the most effective option. We are currently in discussion with Middlesbrough local authority Commissioning, SEND and Voice of the Child departments to promote the good practice principles of young people’s voices driving change and anticipate continued developments in this area, driving TMM legacy and wider aspirations for Middlesbrough forward.

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