A programme designed to get unemployed people back into work has been praised for its work.

Careers management company Inspira launched The Key, a two-year project, in February 2017.

It was commissioned by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, using EU Social Investment Funding.

The initial programme was based on the model of an employer-led work academy, designed around identified job opportunities, equipping learners with the vocationally related skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by local employers.

The final evaluation, carried out by an independent consultant, praised the range of employers engaged and how the programme offered a direct benefit to them through reduced recruitment costs as they were able to access a work-ready pool of candidates who were carefully matched to opportunities.

It said it helped make dramatic improvements in confidence, self-esteem and hope and sense of direction for participants.

Due to its success, a similar programme began last year.

Mark Bowman, Inspira’s chief executive, said: “A lot of hard work went into the preparation, planning and delivery of this unique programme. The feedback we have received from participants, employers and stakeholders, is fantastic and we are very pleased to be able to continue delivering this life-changing programme for the next two years.

“We will continue to build upon the successes of the initial programme, such as reaching out to more employers and ensuring we are focusing on more priority groups such as women returners and lone parents.”

"On a personal note, I am particularly proud of our staff. The participants interviewed during the evaluation considered them the most important factor, saying staff genuinely cared about them and worked to help them with what they wanted to achieve rather than providing a one-size-fits-all programme.”

It was delivered across Cumbria and concentrated on areas with the greatest need, including Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle.