Promoting Social Mobility at Clarence House with People into Work Scheme

In an esteemed visit to the Clarence House, hosted by Her Majesty Queen Camilla, in celebration of The Poppy Factory’s centenary, OCS was invited to join The Queen in celebrating the brilliant work of the Poppy Factory. Reflecting our collaborative efforts with the charity, we were granted two places—an exceptional gesture, considering most organisations receive only one. Present at the event were Toni-Marie Vaughan, Head of Social Mobility, and Tony Crilly, People Director for the UK & Ireland. 

The Poppy Factory, a prominent employment charity, focuses on reintegrating veterans into the workforce after their military service. The veterans they assist often face formidable challenges within the Armed Forces community, contending with complex mental and physical health conditions compounded by issues such as homelessness and addiction. 

OCS takes immense pride in its partnership with this significant organisation through the ‘People into Work’ program. Launched in 2019, this initiative has evolved through insights gathered from our operational teams, strategic partners, and candidates, allowing us to maximise our social value impact. 

Since its inception, the People into Work program has facilitated the employment of 176 individuals. By actively hiring people with various barriers to employment, the program empowers them and contributes to our work culture by promoting diverse experiences, fostering inclusivity, and championing diversity. 

We are profoundly honoured to have received an invitation to such a pivotal and momentous occasion. Our commitment to supporting The Poppy Factory’s work aligns with our dedication to advancing social mobility in the UK for our former servicemen. 

Groundhouse Giveback Scheme Raises £10,000 For Farmers in Need

Giving back to local communities

We have been working with the Capucas (COCAFCAL) Co-operative and donating £2 from every case of coffee we purchase, which then pays into a revolving fund that helps improve the living standards for the smaller coffee bean producers.

The needs of the farming community changes regularly, so the Giveback Programme allows the money to be invested in funds where it matters and is needed the most. The fund has been developed as support to small producers’ specific needs such as improvement of housing, shelters and production infrastructure – which will benefit both the producers and their families, with the aim of increasing the economic and productive income for the farmers of the Capucas.

From courses on growing vegetables to reduce food costs and improve health, to providing tools they need to harvest, as well as basic housing and infrastructure improvements, the fund helps with whatever the community needs.

This year our Groundhouse Give Back Programme has hit an amazing total of £10,000!

This money will positively impact improving living standards in the farming communities, from where we source some of our Blend 7 coffee. We are incredibly proud of our teams, they have been working extremely hard to promote our Groundhouse Coffee brand and have been serving nothing less than the best coffee.

“We decided to start a field school for the implementation of vegetables where more than 30+ Households have participated, including young people between 17 to 25 years and adults. This will benefit small producers, who lack suitable conditions to live in dignity and offer better spaces to their coffee in each harvest. It’s also being used for inputs, equipment, and first-hand tools such as mowers, pumps, inputs, etc. Thankyou Groundhouse, this money will change lives!”

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Capucas café

OCS receive social value commendation at ERSA Employability Awards 2023

OCS were honoured to receive a social value commendation at the ERSA Employability Awards 2023.

We always aim to be our best, delivering the best partnerships and best services every time. It takes a hard-working, knowledgeable and compassionate team to provide the services and initiatives at OCS and we are extremely proud of our commendation.

The ERSA Employability Awards celebrate best practice in the employment support sector and demonstrate the hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of jobseekers, communities and the wider workforce.

We were also thrilled to have been nominated by Ingeus for the ‘Employer Partnership of the Year Award’.

Unlocking potential: placing people into work with OCS

The nomination

We are committed to being a responsible employer and building a diverse and inclusive workforce reflective of the communities we serve. We have an established ‘Placing People into Work’ programme dedicated to changing lives by providing meaningful employment to people from vulnerable groups and pathways for development for all our colleagues.

Ingeus and OCS work closely together to develop and refine tailored recruitment processes for each contract. By tailoring the pre-selection process, we ensure that candidates are equipped with everything they need to help them succeed in work. This includes making sure candidates have the necessary documents, information and training ahead of being interviewed, and that support mechanisms are in place for new recruits once they are in work.

Ingeus is now supporting us to fill vacancies for Court Tribunal and Security Officers (CTSO) in London and Greater Manchester. Together we have developed and refined a recruitment process, established service level agreements, and are now delivering exceptional results. In the last such recruitment exercise there were 20 candidates put forward for interview who secured job offers.

To help prepare candidates for interview Ingeus works with OCS to:

  • Source candidates with the right skills and aptitudes for the role
  • Deliver employer information sessions
  • Fund participants Security Industry Association (SIA) licences
  • Deliver a bespoke 3-day CTSO routeway course (designed by OCS)
  • Arrange a visit to a local court
  • Prepare documents for the enhanced security vetting processes

All candidates who successfully complete the CTSO routeway course are put forward for interview.

In the first recruitment round, Ingeus Employer Account Manager Farwa spent several weeks calling 160 potential applicants to see whether the role would suit them. She narrowed the search down to 12 people who attended a three-day Routeway Course devised by Ingeus to explain the job in detail. Seven people were offered roles, four of whom are female.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the building – people were jumping up and down with delight after getting the jobs,” she recalls. “An established company had given them a chance and you couldn’t help but feel the emotion in the room.”

In undertaking this innovative and tailored approach to recruitment through Ingeus, we are attracting candidates who would not typically apply for our vacancies. In doing so we are challenging role stereotypes (gender, age, ethnicity etc.) and creating a stronger workforce which is more reflective of the communities we work within.

Stephen Kerr, Senior Regional Manager, OCS, said the partnership had been instrumental in supporting our drive to attract women and others currently under-represented in the security industry.

“Working with Ingeus on our social value recruitment process, we have been able to recruit talented people into our workforce who have unique experiences and abilities,” he said. “In our role at HM Courts and Tribunals Service, showing our customers genuine empathy in difficult circumstances is a key skill and our Ingeus recruits have that in abundance.”

Ann-Marie Conlon-Taylor, OCS Social Value Manager, HMCTS contract added: “Working with Ingeus helps us access people who have faced barriers to work, but who are being properly supported in a professional manner into employment. We were very impressed with the calibre of applicants put forward.”

OCS Foundation: People into Work programme

What is the People into Work programme?

People into Work is a unique UK programme, developed by the OCS Foundation, which aims to change individuals’ lives for the better by bringing sustainable employment opportunities to local individuals who have been in long-term unemployment, are ex-serving personnel, or face specific mental health or physical challenges.

Our people are the heart of everything we do as a business and our people-centred approach is what allows us to deliver not only the best practices and best experiences for our customers, but the best place of work for our employees.

The programme has already supported over 290 people with their own employment journey, and over 50 people have been brought into sustainable employment within OCS to date.

Jeffrey’s story

OCS helped Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Jeffrey Akrasi return to work. With support from The Forces Employment Charity, Jeffrey obtained the necessary qualifications and is now a Deputy Contract Manager at WLNT NHS Trust.

“I came into the West London contract on January 22nd after serving three tours in the army. I transitioned my employment into OCS from FEC, a well-known forces employment charity. I’m looking forward to remaining in the OCS family and working to the company’s values.”

Ann-Marie Conlon-Taylor – helping OCS deliver genuine social value

The career path of Ann-Marie Conlon-Taylor has, by her own admission, been a bit ‘squiggly’.

OCS’s Public Sector Social Value Manager has always taken the attitude that when opportunity knocks, you open the door – and that attitude, combined with a deeply ingrained belief that you need to have ‘people on your side’, has seen her help countless people into work over the past three decades.

“I want to enable people to fulfil their potential, and be the best they can be for themselves,” she says.

“That’s what drives me – that belief and the knowledge that we have some great talent out there just waiting to be given the opportunity.

“None of us were born into the roles that we do – we didn’t just appear and say, ‘Hi, I’m a CEO!’. We’re in the roles that we are because, somewhere along the way, someone gave us a break, believed in us, mentored us, and supported us.”

And that’s what Ann-Marie is focused on doing for others in her role at OCS.

The winding road

Before joining OCS in October 2022, however, Ann-Marie’s ‘squiggly’ career saw her work in recruitment and life coaching before teaching in further education.

Working in recruitment led her to engage with candidates who were very privileged and frequently highly paid, with no concept of what difficulties others in society may face.

Finding this soul-destroying, Ann-Marie began looking for a more fulfilling and rewarding career and began working for local councils as part of their adult education provision – especially supporting those in society who faced additional barriers and challenges, covering everything from language barriers, learning difficulties or the circumstances life threw at them.

“For example, with Milton Keynes Council, I did a lot of work with young mums, helping them understand their life hadn’t ended just because they’d become a parent, help them, get qualifications and get into work.”

This led Ann-Marie to work in partnership with Milton Keynes College – firstly on a project to help young mothers, and then with the National Offender Management System to help reduce reoffending.

“When you look at the factors that make people re-offend upon leaving prison, unemployment is one of the three key reasons,” she says.

This led Ann-Marie to work in the world of prisons and probation services, which, while tough and challenging, was, she says, one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

“I hadn’t had any exposure to people coming out of prison, so it was a whole new world for me, understanding the barriers they face, and what had led them to where they’d got to.

“Of course, some people absolutely deserve to be in prison and deserve to be locked away for a very long time. However, there are a lot of people in prison who, through life choices, or the hand that’s been dealt to them, have ended up in prison. When you get to hear their stories, you often think, ‘there but for the grace of God’ – things happen to people that are out of their control and shape the way they go on to behave.”

Benchmarking social impact

The projects helping people into employment after prison were a huge success, winning awards from the Ministry of Justice, and in 2016, at Milton Keynes College, Ann-Marie then found herself leading employer engagement, working with employers to develop employment opportunities for offenders, and creating a benchmarking system to enable all stakeholders to measure the impact.

“The college tendered for the Prison Education contract, and as part of that, we needed to help people better understand social value.

“This was six years after the Social Value Act was established, but the Act and the social value movement as a whole was still relatively unknown,” she explains.

After much thought and evolution, The Employment Academy was established, bringing businesses into prisons to co-deliver alongside tutors. Employers from hospitality to retail and warehousing were brought in to deliver education and training – and subsequent employment opportunities – and it was a resounding success, despite widespread doubts.

“It was an innovative approach, which wasn’t without its challenges or dangers,” she says.

“Governors and prison staff were saying, ‘this is never going to work’, but it evolved in a really good way.

“We worked with companies including Timpson, who are amazing to work with, Greggs, Boots, Greene King and RMF, who actually helped us get into HS2.”

The impact of helping offenders into employment

One of the moments that made Ann-Marie stop in her tracks to appreciate just how much of an impact they’d made was when Laing O’Rourke delivered an HS2 induction alongside course enabling candidates to gain their PTS (personal track safety) card and qualification in HMP Hewell Grange.

“We trained guys to the standards they needed for them to come in and deliver the induction,” she says.

“Men were released on ROTL (release on temporary licence) – which means they go back to the prison every night after work – until they were released. This enables them to be fully equipped to gain and sustain employment upon release, one of the key factors that reduce reoffending.

During Ann-Marie’s four years leading the project, more than 700 people had been helped into employment – something which has naturally made a long-term impression.

“Even the other day, I had a message from a guy I’d helped into employment from prison,” she says.

“He’d been in the academy through that got a job with Timpson – and he sent me a message to let me know he was now an area manager.”

Helping OCS deliver really social value

After 12 years in the prison system, during which Ann-Marie also developed volunteering pathways as well as ‘careers in custody’ for long-term high-security prisoners, it was time for a change – which is when she saw the opportunity with OCS.

During her time helping offenders into employment, Ann-Marie had worked closely with facilities management companies, so had a good understanding of the sector.

That, combined with the importance of social value in contracts, the work OCS delivers, and the guiding belief of the organisation that every human being deserves the right conditions and opportunity to thrive, convinced her this was the right next move for her ‘squiggly’ career path.

“Social value can and often counts for around 20% in contracts, and there are measurable KPIs we must deliver on, whereas previously it was ‘nice to have’,” she says.

It’s important that companies develop a workforce that is reflective of the communities they work within as well as adding value to the local communities by supporting them to improve their environment and develop skills that enable them to improve their lives and develop more vibrant local economies.

In her role here at OCS, Ann-Marie says while it’s still early days, momentum is building, with recruitment pathways being established and people successfully placed into work.

“We’re really starting to positively impact our social value, our customers’ social value and the communities we work with,” she says.

And you get the very real sense that, with Ann-Marie helping shape the future of OCS’s social value initiatives, the impact is only just beginning.

OCS supports Scottish Autism Charity with a sensory room for a local school

As part of its commitment to delivering social value within its communities, OCS were delighted to help Scottish Autism’s New Struan School, based in Alloa, create a new sensory room designed to help enrich the learning experience of its pupils. The project took around six months and was supported by OCS’ customer, SCTS (The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service), and its local supply chain.

The OCS team, some of whom have a personal connection with the charity, donated their time and resources, working closely with the school to ensure that the refurbishment of the existing sensory room best met the needs of the young people – this was done by creating an internal space with an external feel. Works included sensory flooring, a bespoke mural including user drawings, bespoke lighting, sound system, sensory equipment and a quiet corner. The new room will form an important part of the everyday experience for young people at New Struan, and the staff team are ‘delighted and excited’ by the new resource.

New Struan Head Teacher Lee-Anne McAulay said: “The partnership with OCS has been an absolute dream for us; the team entirely supported our vision, and nothing was too much to ask. We wanted to ensure that the sensory room would be part of the everyday sensory regulation for our young people and built into the curriculum. Too often, the perception of such resources is that they are somewhere for young people to be sent when they are struggling to regulate or distressed. We wanted a space to flip that expectation and make it integral to the school experience. I cannot overstate the benefit our young people will get from this calm, beautiful sensory space.”

Colin Rushforth, Account Director at OCS, added: “Scottish Autism is a charity which gives so much to the Scottish community and is close to my heart. With the support of our dedicated team and supply chain, we at OCS were delighted to help such a great cause and work with the fantastic staff at New Struan School.

“From the outset, our joint vision with Michael Laurie Architects and the New Struan staff was to create a bespoke space which would bring an outdoor feeling indoors. We feel the completed project reflects this. We hope the young people enjoy their new Sensory Room and look forward to supporting Scottish Autism in future projects.”

Wear Red and Show Racism The Red Card

Show Racism the Red Card is the UK’s leading anti-racism charity, and ‘Wear Red Day’ is their national day of action.

Wear Red Day is the UK’s largest anti-racism fundraiser, with over 444,000 people poised to take a stand this Friday. The day is about more than just a colour, it’s about creating unity, it’s about starting a discussion, and most of all, it’s about taking a stand against all forms of racism.

As part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we’re encouraging our colleagues to wear red on the 20th of October to combat racism. From socks to scrunchies, t-shirts to onesies, wear red to stand against discrimination.

Find out more about the day by watching the video below.

Show Racism the Red Card was established in January 1996, in collaboration with then ex-Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.

While playing for Newcastle in the 1990s, Shaka was at a petrol station near St James’ Park when he was confronted by a group of young people shouting racist abuse. After one of the group realised that they had been shouting at Shaka Hislop, the Newcastle United football player, they came over to ask for an autograph.

Over the years, the charity has grown and is recognised across the football industry with professional football players such as Harry Kane, Dele Ali, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire, Eni Aluko as well as England manager Gareth Southgate involved in their education programme.

Find out more about Shaka’s story and the amazing work Show Racism the Red Card does here.