Pathway Star points the way for person-centred employment services

For people who are unemployed and struggling with mental illness, addiction, homelessness, family difficulties, trauma or other complex issues, the idea of finding a job can seem very far away. Traditional employment support often fails these people, and no wonder. If your life is upside down, classes in CV writing or job search can feel irrelevant, out of reach or even downright insulting.

That’s why “person-centred” support – a term widely used in care services – is becoming more widespread in employment services. A number of innovative programmes now offer bespoke one-to-one help for people with complex needs, with advocates focusing on helping individuals to overcome the specific challenges they face. It takes a high level of investment, but it’s increasingly seen as the best way to help vulnerable people take steps towards the world of work.

An outcomes tool for vulnerable people

The Pathway Star has been created for services and programmes like this. Launched this month by Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise, it’s an outcomes tool that helps guide keywork and conversations, with the focus on helping people move towards work rather than necessarily finding a job. Above all, it’s person-centred. It’s structured around the individual and the barriers they face to employment – things like stability at home, household finances, family and relationships and emotional well-being.

People who have been out of work for years may be facing multiple issues, from mental health problems to abuse. For a person with high anxiety, perhaps facing the threat of eviction, it’s hard to find the energy or motivation to attend an appointment, let alone take part in a group class – even if failing to turn up means losing benefits. Being required to search for work can add to an already huge burden of worries.

Using the Pathway Star, a worker can start with any area the person feels able to talk about. It’s completed collaboratively, and the person is free to place themselves on the scales, with the worker supporting, asking questions or challenging if that feels appropriate.

“It’s not a question of ticking boxes,” says Triangle director Sara Burns, who developed the Pathway Star in partnership with Liverpool Households into Work (HiW). “It’s a conversation, and as people get some of the support they desperately need, they’re more able to engage with it and see where they are now and how their lives can improve.” 

At the beginning of each of the Pathway Star’s eight scales, people are held back by issues such as poor health, poor housing, money problems or family culture, and are not able to talk about them. At the top of each scale they have been able to address the problem, with support, and while it may still be there, it no longer represents a barrier to work for that individual.

For service users, seeing their situation and their progress in a simple visual form can be powerful. “I got a surprise regarding my progress over the last few months,” said one person on the HiW pilot. “I’m pleased I’ve got some change in my life where I wanted help.”

Work Star™ or Pathway Star™?

Many employment support services already use the Work Star to support people to return to work or to find a job for the first time. It covers the traditional areas of employment support – skills and experience, aspiration and motivation, job search skills and the like, but also has two areas for drilling down into the person’s context – their health and well-being and the level of stability they have in their life.

“The Work Star is ideal for mainstream services or for people who need help with navigating job search or brushing up on skills,” says Juliet Kemp, Star implementation lead at Triangle.  “But if you’re a service working with people who are far from being job-ready and you’re offering in-depth, holistic support, take a look at the Pathway Star. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s a really persuasive tool in helping people to change.”

Triangle recently presented the Pathway Star at the British Association for Supported Employment’s annual conference, along with a workshop to demonstrate the benefits of using the tool. The Pathway Star and the Work Star are available to all organisations with a Star licence and full training can be given for workers and managers. Find out how to get started .

If you have any questions about our new Stars, any queries about the Pathway Star, or you would just like find out more about how the Stars can support your service users, keyworkers and organisation, please contact us on or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.