Case studies

Moss Bay and Salterbeck, Cumbria: Resident-led enquiry on Employment

Resident-led enquiry goal

The goal of the NRP in the Cumbrian Neighbourhood for Learning (NfL) was to enhance the employment prospects for local people. The neighbourhood system players brought together in the NRP wanted to engage major local employers (such as those involved in the Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster – BECBC – which is the key employer forum for the area, and in the Local Enterprise Partnership), and policy makers (such as the Department for Work and Pensions) to look for collaborative solutions on the employment-related issues faced by local residents.

To inform their endeavour, the local team of Resident Advisers, local authority practitioners, West Cumbria Works and the Academic Lead designed and carried out a resident-led enquiry that took place over a six-week period between March and April 2018.

a display showing topics to interviewing the public

The ‘Work’ Enquiry

Ten Resident Advisers took on the role of community peer researchers. They attended a series of planning and preparatory meetings in which the methods and approach to the enquiry were decided. The Academic Lead offered input and guidance on matters relating to the safe and ethical conduct of field research.

The enquiry consisted of a series of interviews with local residents conducted by the Resident Advisers, three focus groups, and reflective research diaries completed by the Resident Advisers. The research diaries provided a contemporaneous record of the Resident Advisers’ experiences of employment or job searching during the six weeks of the enquiry.

The enquiry generated nine hours of audio recordings of discussion about employment issues. The team analysed the research material and generated recommendations for practical actions to be presented to local employers as part of the dissemination process.

The findings and recommendations were presented, in a ‘critical friend’ meeting, to the representatives of key local employers, including Balfour Beatty, the Mace Group and social care agencies, to start the process of connecting with a wider business network, including major retailers and the leisure and tourism industry.

a community meeting


The ‘Work’ booklet and exhibition

Following on from the feedback from the ‘critical friend’ process, the team commissioned an artist, Len Grant who was working with other NfL teams in the NRP, to impart visual impact to the findings of the enquiry. A brief, concise and visually engaging way of conveying the findings of the enquiry would be an asset to engaging both with other residents in the area but also with employers and policymakers. The team wanted to create materials that would put the findings of the enquiry across in a striking manner and would communicate the local residents’ experience as a first step in taking collaborative action to address the issues raised.

The NfL team, comprising Resident Advisors, local authority officers and the Academic Lead, worked with the artist to edit and co-produce an illustrated booklet, titled ‘Work’, which presented, in a format combining drawings and first-person accounts, the findings of the enquiry into employment vulnerability as experienced in Moss Bay and Salterbeck. The artist created the illustrations after speaking with the team, interviewing the Resident Advisers about their experiences around employment and looking for work, and going through the qualitative information collected through the enquiry. The artist’s illustrations were also produced in a format suitable for exhibition.

Video clips of Resident Advisers’ talking about their experiences

Resident Advisers created video recordings talking about their involvement in the employment vulnerability inquiry. The videos complemented the ‘Work’ exhibition and booklet and were used as part of a suite of communication tools developed for the dissemination of research findings.

Engaging stakeholders

Putting the enquiry findings to work: engaging stakeholders

The visual materials were used by the team to put the concerns of local residents and their recommendations for change to local stakeholders which were seen as having the resources to effect change. The team planned and implemented a long series of dissemination activities.

1) NRP Learning Exchange Event on the topic of ‘Employment vulnerability’ held at the Pavilion, Avenham Park, Preston, on 31 January 2019

Residents, practitioners and researchers from the Cumbria neighbourhood team spoke about the causes of employment vulnerability and provided their insights into the practical challenges faced by local people. Roundtable discussions focused on ways to improve collaboration across sectors and improve systems-based thinking and policymaking. The event also showcased other projects from across the region including the Connecting Lancashire transport-to-employment initiative. The event was attended by more than forty people representing a range of organisations including: 1) the Department for Work and Pensions; 2) Local authorities (e.g. Allerdale Council and Lancashire County Council), including the Director of Public Health for Cumbria; 3) Social housing providers; 4) Work clubs, 5) Trade Unions (e.g. TUC), and, 6) the Co-op. Attendees also included residents from across CLAHRC NWC Neighbourhoods for Learning and residents, practitioners and researchers from the Cumbria Neighbourhood for Learning.

2) CLAHRC North West Coast Research and Innovation Awards – March 2019

Work undertaken in three NsfL (Stockbridge, Haslingden, Moss Bay and Salterbeck) was recognised at the above awards ceremony in March 2019, winning the award in the category ‘Research for Wellbeing’. Success in the CLAHRC Innovation Awards generated considerable media interest in the use of art and storytelling in health inequalities. The work featured in numerous local newspaper articles, newsletters and on several websites including KMBC, Forviva Housing Group, Cumbria County Council, CLAHRC NWC and Lancaster University. The work also featured on social media (Twitter and Facebook).

3) Stakeholder events in Moss Bay and Salterbeck

The NfL team presented the ‘Work’ exhibition at events in Moss Bay and Salterbeck to audiences including local residents, councillors, local authority practitioners and the Consultant in Public Health for Cumbria.

4) LARIA Conference Awards in Birmingham on May 14th 2019

Cumbria NfL were highly commended at the LARIA (Local Area Research and Intelligence Association) Conference Awards for their work on local employment. Local authority practitioners from Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council, two Resident Advisers and the Academic Lead attended the conference to accept the award on behalf of the Cumbria NfL team in front of an audience of local authority officers and academic researchers.

5) Cumbria Public Health Alliance Meeting

Cumbria Public Health Alliance has 25 members. It includes partners from across local government, the health service and the third sector. It oversees the development and implementation of the Public Health strategy for Cumbria as a whole and is responsible for developing, monitoring and regularly reviewing the County-wide implementation plan. The NfL team presented their work and the enquiry findings and recommendations. Alliance members, including local authority representatives and councillors, agreed to work with the Allerdale Work and Skills Group to address the policy issues raised.

6) Full Cumbria County Council Meeting

Exhibition and booklets were displayed to all eighty-four county councillors at a full council meeting in Kendal. The session was attended by the Director for Public Health for Cumbria. The Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive expressed their support for and commitment to the dissemination of the enquiry findings across the wider county. Practitioners from Cumbria County Council intended to continue with the dissemination strategy beyond the end of the CLAHRC.

7) CLAHRC NWC Discovery and Direction Event on 19th September 2019

The work of the NfL was presented in two themed spaces:

i) Enhancing neighbourhood resilience: co-producing local action on social determinants of health inequalities breakout zone

Representatives from the Neighbourhoods for Learning, including, residents, representatives from local authority partners, third sector organisations and research leads, used posters, exhibitions, booklets, and animation resources (co-produced in the neighbourhoods), to share the work they have been doing to improve the wider determinants of health inequalities, during this event. There was considerable interest in the participatory enquiry work and the resources developed from these research activities and the innovative approach to resident recruitment and involvement (the Community Research and Engagement Network).

ii) Public Involvement and Health Inequalities zone.

The Golden Thread zone celebrated the feats of CLAHRC NWC embedding a focus on health equity and public involvement. Using interactive quizzes and resources, participants could learn about our innovative models. They heard first-hand from our Public Advisers about how they have contributed to develop and sustain a “golden thread culture” through the organisation and its portfolio of activities.

8) Community Celebration Event on 30th September 2019

The purpose of this event was to acknowledge the contribution of all ten Resident Advisers with each receiving a certificate of thanks for their contributions to the NRP. This event was a further opportunity to present the findings of the enquiry to the local community at Moss Bay and Salterbeck. Local practitioners expressed their keen interest in being involved in ARC (the successor programme to the CLAHRC) and submitted an expression of interest.

moss bay infographic

Influencing action for change

Influencing action for change

Contributing to the Allerdale Council Work and Skills (W&S) Group

Officers from Allerdale Council set up the Allerdale Work and Skills (W&S) Group. The findings from the NRP helped to inform and aided the setting up of the W&S group. The W&S Group brought together key partners from all sectors as a forum for improving inter-sectoral approaches to employment for the area. The W&S Group would meet quarterly and work in collaboration with the Cumbria NfL group beyond the end of the NRP.

Challenging Department for Work and Pensions policies

The findings of the enquiry included the negative consequences of punitive conditionality policies on unemployment support for local residents. Presented with these findings, representatives of the DWP accepted that there was a need to improve information about the availability of financial support for childcare for people looking for work.

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