Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire


Stoke Project Overview


The Connecting Choices, Big Lottery and ESF-funded project, started at the end of 2016 and aims to provide holistic support for disadvantaged people who are not in work within Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Staffordshire Moorlands. It is targeted in areas with high levels of multiple deprivation as well as more rural communities. This includes:

Stoke-on-Trent: Baddeley, Milton & Norton, Bentilee & Ubberley, Etruria & Hanley, Tunstall, Burslem Central, Burslem South, Meir North, Blurton West & Newstead, Abbey Hulton & Townsend

Newcastle-under-Lyme: Chesterton, Holditch, Keele, Silverdale & Parksite, Cross Heath, Town

Staffordshire Moorlands: Biddulph East, Cheadle (rural access issues), Leek North


The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to 6 of 8 Section nine: Publicity (v13.0 31 January 2019) communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.


The project will work with 2431 unemployed and economically inactive people aged 16+ who are at most risk of social exclusion to help them progress into training, education, volunteering and work. This may include individuals:

  • With health, mental health or learning difficulties;
  • Recovering from substance misuse problems;
  • Who are resident in large social housing schemes;
  • Who are carers;
  • That are NEET (young people not in employment, education or training);
  • With low skills or qualifications;
  • From ethnic minority groups;


The project aims to:

  • Improve social inclusion
  • Improve employability skills to enable people to take up employment
  • Improve the take up of vocational learning including apprenticeships
  • Increase levels of work experience and volunteering
  • Improve confidence and self-esteem
  • Improve levels of digital engagement to access services and employment opportunities
  • Improve financial capacity and money management skills
  • Improve access to childcare


To date the project has supported more than 1436 participants throughout North Staffordshire, Newcastle under Lyme and the Staffordshire Moorlands and has supported 110 participants to enter education to increase their skills in certain sectors, 180 participants have achieved employment and 45 participants have moved from being inactive to actively job seeking.  


Our Service winning Proposal


Connecting Choices Personal Coaches will offer an intensive, holistic service to meet individual needs through minimum fortnightly community-based coaching, support and review sessions, local group/project and online activities.


The following activities will be available based on the individual needs of participants:


Coaching: problem solving, decision-making, coping strategies and health condition management; resilience; employability skills; careers guidance to develop realistic job goals; CV creation/tailoring; employer expectations.


Training: communication, employability skills, workplace behaviours; access to accredited training to address skills gaps including Basic Skills, ESOL; discretionary budget for certificated training/development activity not available elsewhere to raise aspiration.


Digital skills sessions and workshops offered to all participants from hardest-to-help groups including NEETs, 50+, ethnic minority groups.


Job search: skills development 1:1/group workshops including peer supported Work Clubs; proactive job-matching.


Personal development: health & wellbeing 1:1/group sessions, including community sports, cycling/walking projects, substance misuse interventions.


Financial inclusion workshops and webinars: understanding/accessing credit; Better Off Calculation to ascertain viable hours/earnings and Universal Credit conditionality thresholds; gambling/debt advice; money management; access to support via National Debt line, Money Advice Service and local partners.


Self-employment: IAG via Ixion’s Develop/Grow Your Enterprise programmes.


Signposting/advocacy with existing services e.g. health, housing; use of our Childcare Database; making/attending appointments e.g. for substance misuse support, with joint working to boost confidence and engagement with local services.


Specialist support: specialist partners provide specialist interventions to breakdown most complex needs


Volunteering and work placements: to build skills including tasters to inform career guidance and supported placements with volunteer mentors, tailored to meet participant needs e.g. people with disabilities, ESOL needs, women.


Into-work transition: action planning and one month’s practical support to promote sustainability including childcare.


For the project to achieve this, we have a dedicated External Engagement team who have sourced referral routes and have supported our end to end partners with opportunities for results. They have engaged in networking events and forums and have promoted the service throughout North Staffordshire, Newcastle under Lyme and Staffordshire Moorlands, sourcing direct referral routes through key agencies such as the local job centres, social care teams, local Police and PCSO’s and other supporting agencies. They have also worked with the partners to source employment and education opportunities by arranging ring-fenced opportunities with key employers and building relationships with education and training providers to promote educational and training opportunities.


For further information, to join the programme or to recommend a participant please contact:

Joanne McKechnie: 07850 775035