Every day in the welfare to work Sector we do amazing things.  We work with people from all walks of life who, through many and varied reasons, find themselves in positions of difficulty in life. It is our role to raise aspiration, provide motivation and the support needed to overcome challenges in life that prevent individuals, whoever they are, securing the sustainable paid work that delivers social integration and financial independence.  That’s our role and we do it every single day.  It’s the reason why most of us work in the sector and it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.  Why then, are we allowing, and even worse adopting, a tone and language that serves to work against the transformational work we all do? 

The phrases “hardest to help” and “furthest from the labour market” are routinely used now to describe cohorts of people we are here to support and inspire. I attended a conference recently which even headlined the “hardest to help” label.   Where did such language come from?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that right across our sector the language seems to have become the norm.  And that’s not acceptable.  It is bizarre that when so much of what we do comes down to passion, belief and values that we have adopted such language.  How inspirational is it for jobseekers when they hear themselves labelled as the “hardest to help” – as if life wasn’t challenging enough!  No wonder some feel that the system is against them.  And how do we keep the passion and enthusiasm of our advisors going when we constantly remind them of the difficulties of working with our clients? 

This is a leadership issue for us.  It’s simply not right and our sector is better than this.    If we don’t possess a simple, clear, and enduring belief that with the right support and guidance any individual can achieve sustainable paid work, then we are defeated before we even start. We must change our language to be more positive – to be more aspirational for our service users, and ambitious for what we ourselves can achieve.  Our jobseekers and delivery teams must see this in the whites of our eyes.  It is our role to provide the inspiration, passion and belief that the sector has. 

We are better than the language we are using – so let’s change it.  No more “hardest to help”- just people with higher support needs.  No more “unemployable” – everyone is a prospective employee.  Let’s create an environment based on positivity and aspiration.  Let’s be clear in our ambition.  Either that, or start putting our hands in our pockets because the swear box will need to come out.

Gareth Parry, Chief Executive, Remploy

Any opinions represented within this blog are the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of ERSA.