After meeting a member of the Caring, Working, Living team at a workshop, Kamran a carer looking to return to paid work (Returner) decided to join the project. He looked at the Caring, Working, Living website and was encouraged by the support they offered to Returners.
Kamran had been a young and adult carer for his siblings, and as a result had to take time away from work at various stages over a 20-year period. His longest career break took place over the last several years as an ex-carer.
“…During this period, I've had to come to terms with the impact that my caring role has had on my well-being; this has included dealing with bereavement and grief, as well a loss in confidence and low self-esteem, which has also had a knock-on effect on my capacity to get back into work.”
He found it difficult to make the transition back into ‘everyday life’ after his caring responsibilities ended. Kamran decided to return to work after he recognised the skills he gained as a carer during a period of self-reflection.
“…I began to recognise that the skills, knowledge and experiences I had gained as a carer were of value, and that I did have something to offer beyond my caring role.”
Kamran then started to volunteer and became a trustee at a local carers charity. This gave him a renewed sense of purpose, confidence to start looking for jobs again and a clearer idea of the job he wants.
“I would advise any person who has taken a career break (carer / parent) to believe in themselves and to value the skills and experiences they have gained during their time away from work. There are many different routes back into work, including returnships and voluntary opportunities which can help you build your confidence.”
Returning to work can be a daunting and stressful experience for carers as they can face numerous barriers during the recruitment process. Kamran discussed barriers such as being judged for the gaps in your CV; employers overlooking the skills gained as a carer; and employers not taking carers’ needs into consideration when advertising job roles e.g. failing to promote flexible working options.
Caring, Working, Living Referral Process
Kamran was apprehensive about going through a referral process. He felt he needed confidence and belief to go through the process, and trust that he would get something positive from the project. In the past, when he had applied for similar programmes or jobs he felt like he had to jump through lots of hoops to be considered or felt he was being excluded from the recruitment process before it had started. This can be disheartening.
From the beginning Kamran felt positive about the Caring, Working, Living referral process as it was tailored towards the needs of returners. To be part of the project a Returner needs to fill out an eligibility form on their website. The Returner then receives an email letting them know if they are accepted on to the project, and a link to the referral form. The referral form includes questions about the support they want to receive; the job role and sector they are interested in returning to.
“…It was really good to know that I could approach the organisers whenever I needed any help during the application process, and I found that they would always come back to me quickly.”
Kamran discussed how the eligibility form was easy to fill in and how the referral form was not complicated or overwhelming. He felt the Caring, Working, Living team were helpful when it came to supporting him through the referral process and the guidance and information on the website was useful and clear. After filling in the eligibility form Kamran received a quick response on whether he was accepted onto the project.
Support Offered to Returners
Once accepted on the project Kamran was immediately able to receive the support offered by Caring, Working, Living. One way the project supports Returners is by sending information about local employment support and opportunities. Kamran has been encouraged and pleased with the amount of relevant information he has received from the Caring, Working, Living project.
“The organisers regularly send out training opportunities and links to other helpful organisations that are involved in the programme. Carers and Returners can also keep up-to-date with events and information on the project's Facebook page and the monthly bulletins.”
Caring, Working, Living also offer pre-employment events to Returners on the project such as coffee and chats; workplace visits; workshops and panels. Kamran has attended panel meetings and workshops whilst on the project. He has found these events to be positive and encouraging.
“…It's really encouraging to see people coming together from various organisations and sectors to try and develop plans that will help carers in the future. The organisers from the project make you feel really welcome at the events, and it's been an opportunity to meet other carers and share experiences… we are encouraged to speak; our collective voices are being heard and our lived experiences are valued – so this is a really good example of positive engagement and shows the value of this project.”
In a similar future project Kamran would like to see more employers and organisations from different sectors coming together to break down the barriers that Returners face when they want to get back to work.
“…employers need to recognise and understand that they may have to challenge their own organisational cultures – with regards to how they recruit, and making sure they have policies in place which encourage flexible working.”
He discusses how he would like to see employers working collaboratively with Returners to identify the matters that affect them the most and a chance to come up with potential solutions. The inclusion of Returners in the decision making process can lead to change in future policies and practice.
He also thinks a future project should look at how employers can nurture and develop the skills and qualities Returners have gained during their career break. These are transferable skills that employers need to value and make better use of.
“…I would also say that if you can access a returners programme, such as the GMCVO's Caring Working Living (CWL) Project, then you should take advantage of that opportunity and join up. The information – links to learning and training – that I have received from the CWL Project has certainly been very helpful, and has given me some hope about what I could potentially achieve in the future.”
For more information about Caring, Working, Living email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 277 1044.