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Two agencies based in the city of Kortrijk have participated in the INTERREG IVA ‘2 Seas’ project SucceS developing new approaches to foster effective access to employment for people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The project is an outreach initiative designed to help those over 16 who are most excluded from the labour market: low skilled, long term unemployed, low income... by providing individual support, building capacity and concrete opportunity to re-engage with the social and economic life of their community.

Executive summary

The case focuses on the experience of the Belgian city of Kortrijk as a partner in the INTERREG IVA ‘2 Mers Seas Zeeën’ project SucceS. The project, aimed at improving quality of life and social inclusion by reducing unemployment levels, is the result of cross-border exchange and co-operation between five agencies operating in the UK, France and Belgium – Medway Council in Kent, the NGO Community Connections in Great Yarmouth, the Maison de l’Initiative in Grande Synthe and the Public Centre for Social Welfare and NGO Mentor vzw in Kortrijk. Disadvantaged neighbourhoods in all partner areas have experienced significant increases in unemployment over recent years, in some cases a doubling in joblessness. Existing support structures designed to bring people into work have been largely ineffectual in reversing this trend in the case of population groups facing most difficulties. The SucceS project explores alternative ways of reaching out to specific individuals and groups living in such communities – young people, the long-term unemployed, migrant families, women and single mothers – to improve their connection with the labour market. It works on three fundamental aspects: improving physical and social mobility, building soft skills while tackling the adverse personal circumstances that form barriers to employment, and developing vocational skills and qualifications.

In Kortrijk two local partners joined forces to develop, test and implement a package of actions designed jointly by the project group. The Public Centre for Social Welfare extended its pattern of activity to identify priority neighbourhoods and potential clients, to organise house visits and social events (coffee talk sessions, sport, introduction to computers etc.), to mobilise existing community workers and networks (using district houses, soup distributions etc.), and to establish low-threshold information desks in the community. Concrete contact initiatives of this type were used to recruit clients for coaching, training and capacity building modules organised by Mentor vzw, who also developed an opinion game to involve target groups in the production of a guide called 10 Steps to Work, designed to help people in the same situation as themselves. This booklet is already an output of the project, translated for use in each partner area.

Ultimately mentoring prepares participants for voluntary work, work placement, an apprenticeship or further vocational training. This proactive outreach method represents an innovative step for the partner organisations, and ERDF funding has generated a new dynamic in the communities concerned, allowing a person and time intensive approach to be adopted. This important catalyst effect will be translated into a restructuring of practices and service delivery models at the local level once the funding period is over, based on making better use of neighbourhood organisations, local networks, public and private partners, volunteers and individuals to ensure continuity of approach.

Developing experience and methods through transnational exchange adds a lot of value in addressing this critical issue, where the emphasis is on building up employability rather than creating jobs – within the longer-term perspective of improving competitiveness and social cohesion.

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Technical information

Name

Tackling the unemployment trap

Member State and Region

UK, France, Belgium

Medway (UK), Great Yarmouth (UK), Grande Synthe (Fr), Arr. Kortrijk (BE)

Duration of project

43 months (02.2010 – 06.2013)

Funding

Total budget: 2 711 722 € - ERDF contribution: 1 355 861 €

Cohesion Policy Objective

Competitiveness

Territorial cooperation

Managing Authority

Région Nord-Pas de Calais - F-59555 LILLE Cedex

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CCI nr of OP

2007CB163PO038 INTERREG IVA ‘ 2 Mers Seas Zeeën’

Cross-border Cooperation Programme: France-England-Flanders-Netherlands

Contact

Rachael Fulford, SucceS Project

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Hanne Denoo, OCMW Kortrijk

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Web

http://www.interreg4a-2mers.eu/en/ (EN, FR, NL)

Keywords

Education and training, life long learning, Social Inclusion, Regional cooperation

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