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supporting welfare to work providers

Exit routes

Section image for Customer journey - man and woman following footprints on a journey

Don’t leave planning exit strategies until the last minute. You need to reassure and motivate your customers. Emphasise that moving on does not end their journey but presents them with new roads leading to fresh career opportunities and vocational development options.

The prospect of leaving can be both a daunting and stimulating time for customers. They may be:

  • nervous about leaving the supportive and familiar environment
  • uncertain about entering into the unknown
  • excited by the prospect of re-engaging with the world of work.

While many will progress to their chosen career option, some may leave without fulfilling their PDP. All your customers will need guidance on their next steps and should consider future support requirements.

Their transition can be assisted by an aftercare provision.

Career opportunities
Many customers focus on short-term career goals before planning their exit. Their main exit routes will be:

  • employment
  • volunteering
  • other specialist provision
  • education or vocational training
  • self-employment.

50+ customers who have been unemployed will be very cautious about the potential of repeating this negative experience. They may also be concerned about moving towards retirement age. This can hold them back from considering their next job / phase as a stepping stone to other goals and from improving their vocational mobility.

This case study describes how one customer nearing state pension age was helped to develop enough confidence to take on a volunteering role.

Case study 1: exit routes

The following information has been provided by an employability programme adviser specialising in working with unemployed people aged 50+.

It offers an insight into the background and interaction that can take place when helping a customer to develop and implement an exit strategy that is realistic for them.

Carol’s story
Carol was approaching 59 when she was referred to the employability service by a local Jobcentre Plus New Deal 50+ Plus adviser. Carol was a very private, single woman who had led a sheltered life and had no real personal support network. She had not worked outside the home for 18 years as she had been caring for both of her disabled parents. When both her parents went into a care home Carol was left with a very reduced income from the loss of benefits. She had very little self confidence, and little knowledge of the labour market and the support available to unemployed people.

Many years before she had worked as a clerical assistant for the local council but her skills were out of date and as she had no IT skills she was uncertain if a clerical job was a viable option. Her lack of engagement with the world of work meant she had a very poor understanding of the current working practices, the job market and modern recruitment methods.

The adviser’s insight
Her needs assessment revealed that for Carol a return to work was a very frightening and difficult prospect. She believed she had little to offer a prospective employer.

Her confidence and self esteem were very low and she was nervous when among groups of people. She needed a range of measures over a period of time to help her to lift her confidence and skill level sufficiently to be able to take positive steps towards actively seeking and securing sustainable employment.

Providing Carol with an opportunity to create a realistic personal development plan that would help her form choices on a career goal, address her development needs and make a progressive return to work was critical. Carol’s initial plan included:

  • using Adult Directions to help identify her skill set and possible career directions
  • using the empowerment tool Promicad to identify her personal skills and qualities
  • creating and regularly updating a CV that reflected her current and developing qualities and transferable skills
  • one-to-one mentoring support and information, advice and guidance sessions
  • achieving short course generic vocational qualifications (e.g. basic first aid / health and safety) to enhance her CV
  • gradual participation in peer group sessions and work experience to increase her confidence and development of effective working relationships
  • undertaking job search support and guided learning to develop pro-active approaches to seeking and applying for appropriate jobs.

As Carol progressed, she undertook a 13 week work experience programme through a local voluntary organisation, Active Care Team, which provided services for older people. This placement, in a very sheltered environment, gave her a sense of familiarity as it drew on her care experience. She found she enjoyed the challenge and her confidence improved.

During her progress reviews she reflected that she was nearing state pension age and indicated that she had made a choice about her future and her exit strategy. She decided ‘to retire’ when she turned 60 a few months later but not to return to her solitary life at home. Instead she planned to use her revived confidence and new skills to take up an unpaid care role a voluntary organisation.

Carol started as an official volunteer just prior to her 60th birthday.

It is important to help your 50+ customers recognise that skills shortages and shifts towards an ageing labour pool offer increased opportunities for workers of all ages to diversify or progress in their careers.

You can help them with their future plans by providing information on changes that can be made to jobs or the way people work, such as taking on less responsibility, moving sideways, working shorter hours and working flexibly.

See Useful links for specialist support.

Vocational development
Help your customers recognise that the modern world of work is constantly changing. Emphasise that everyone has to keep abreast of changes and needs to up-skill.

Many of your customers will have already identified skills gaps that they need to address once they are in employment. Their exit plan should include details of how and where they can carry out continuous professional development (CPD). The old New Deal 50+ training grant of £1,500 is currently still available (as at July 2010) to 50+ jobseekers once they move into employment.

Exit plans: addressing skills gaps

Exit plan information on addressing skills gaps and ongoing development can include details of:

  • relevant training and qualifications, including options under the Qualification Credit Framework
  • transferability of prior experience
  • employer-led programmes
  • short, focused skill development: for example, IT skills or self-presentation
  • skills in English and Maths which they may have previously got by without but which are a real barrier to getting another job
  • financial implications and subsidies.

Aftercare provision

Aftercare covering the first six months into work can support sustainable employment. If aftercare is included in your programme, it is important to explain to your customer that this is part of the service and is not a means of ‘checking up’ on them. Aftercare can offer both the customer and their new employer impartial advice and help with problem solving to aid retention during the probationary period.

This case study illustrates how one adviser provided aftercare to help a customer achieve her longer term employment goals.

Case study 2: exit routes (Reed in Partnership)


Although Margaret had plenty of work experience, the first thing she said to her adviser at Reed in Partnership when they met was that she felt her chances of getting a job at 60, and with a back problem, were slim. However, with the support of her adviser, she now works in a job she really likes, and which she initially felt would be beyond her reach.

From the outset Margaret really appreciated the chance to talk to her adviser about what she wanted to do, what she liked and what she didn’t like. This reflects what many supporting the unemployed find is a key to success, particularly when working with more mature customers - that is really showing customers that they are listened to, that they will not be pushed into anything they do not want to do and that their views really matter.

“My adviser didn’t just push me into anything. She really listened to what I wanted from a job and told me lots of things I never knew. In fact she wrote a CV for me, taught me how to do better in interviews and helped me look the part too.”

What Margaret really wanted to do was work as a checkout operator, something she had done back in the 1980s and which she enjoyed. However, things had changed over the years. She’d never put together a CV and was unfamiliar with common interview processes such as group assessment.

Getting a job wasn’t going to be that easy. Money was tight too. Margaret agreed that getting back to work as soon as possible was the right course of action and would be a real boost to her confidence, put money in her pocket and give her a reference which could be used to find the job she really wanted. She was therefore glad to be offered a job as a part time cleaner within a few weeks, having sailed through the interview.

However, the job of cleaner, while welcome, wasn’t something she wanted to do in the longer term. The adviser continued to work closely with Margaret to help her find a job she really wanted, trying to get a foot in the door with potential retail employers. Margaret was excited to be told by her adviser that a new store was opening near her home. And so with her new found skills and confidence, she successfully applied for the job of checkout operator. Margaret hasn’t looked back since. She now works five days a week, four hours a day.

As mentioned earlier, not all exit plans are related to employment itself and so aftercare should also be provided to support those with other exit goals.

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.