Both Sandwell and Wolverhampton have set up local anchor institutions networks while networks in Walsall and Dudley are currently in development.

The Black Country wide Anchor Institutions Network was created in April 2022 and is formed by representatives from:

With plans to expand the network to include other public organisations. There is initial interest in joining the network from Environment Agency, West Midlands Fire Service, Network Rail, E-On and Green Square Accord.

The Network will support major Black Country-wide and West Midlands-wide employers to deliver positive economic, health, social, and environmental outcomes locally.  Critically, this will amplify the work of, and underpin the success of, individual local authority anchor networks.

Key partners

Diagram showing the joint working between three partners; CLES who provide expert project support and have local experience, Black Country ICS who provided the funding and health expertise, and Black Country Consortium who provide local intelligence, know

*Diagram showing the joint working between three partners; CLES who provide expert project support and have local experience, Black Country ICS who provided the funding and health expertise, and Economics Intelligence Unit who provide local intelligence, knowledge and project support.

During the year we have been looking at a number of areas we would like the network to take forward including:

  • Developing procurement and supply chain policies and practice to source goods and services locally within the Black Country.
  • Collect and collate data from member organisations to explore the relationship between economic growth and health inequalities in the Black Country.
  • Developing and piloting approaches to support Net Zero and address fuel poverty.
  • Employment - implementing initiatives and schemes across the Black Country to improve employment and skills.

Although all of these priorities are being taken forward by organisations across the Black Country, the work of the network is to consider what we can do to share learning and or coordinate these activities across the black country where it is feasible to do.

What is a Real Living Wage (RLW)?

The RLW is a movement lead by the Living Wage Foundation to try and put more money into the pockets of low paid workers and is a UK wage rate based on living costs.

RLW is currently £10.90 per hour across the UK and £11.95 in London, which compares to £10.18 per hour statutory minimum wage and £10.42 per hour statutory national living wage for 23-year olds and over. 

Low pay is a national problem with one in six UK employees earning below the Real Living Wage (RLW).  Low pay is also a gender issue with nearly one in five women in work earning below the RLW and similarly a race issue, with 16% of white employees earning below the RLW compared with 19% of employees from ethnic minority communities.  Against the backdrop of inflation increasing and rises in cost of living, the squeeze on low income employees is intensifying.

The Black Country Anchor Institutions Network (BCAIN) established in March 2022 is focusing on employment and employability as one of the key priorities and workstreams, in turn supporting the NHS around broader social and economic development.  This includes encouraging and supporting those anchor institutions who are part of BCAIN to become RLW accredited employers.  Below highlights the BCAIN anchors that currently pay the RLW and those that are RLW accredited.   

The Black Country ICB is committed to providing adequate wages for our employees, which is why we are working hard to gain Real Living Wage accreditation and encouraging our partners, who are not accredited, to do the same.

Over the Autumn 2023 the Black Country ICB will be running some Lunch and Learn sessions for employees and organisations across the Black Country ICS to join and find out more and ask questions about the Real Living Wage.

What social value is… 

Social value is a term used to describe the positive improvement an organisation delivers to society.  When we think about social value we have to think about the impact we are driving.   

The Shaw Trust provides a simple understanding of Social Value… “Social Value is about the wellbeing of current and future generations and covers three different areas – Social, Economic and Environmental” 

For the NHS this means we need to consider how our assets and resources can be used to provide greater benefit to our local citizens, communities and the environment within the goods and services we procure and commission. 

There are many things that are important and valuable to people and these will be different for each person, some examples might be… 

  • Sustainable transport 
  • Use of green suppliers 
  • Electronic rather than paper systems 
  • Support to increase earnings or access benefits 
  • New employment opportunities generated 
  • People prevented from becoming homeless 
  • Hospital admissions avoided 
  • Police incidents avoided 
  • Develop skills and confidence 
  • Increased safety 
  • Overcoming social isolation 
  • New relationships established 

And many, many more…. 

Social value also has clear connections with efforts to reduce health inequalities. Actions on social value can help to act on the social determinants of health – the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.   

Social value projects 

To begin to progress and embed Social Value throughout the Black Country ICB the Transformation and Partnerships directorate will be developing a Social Value Framework and policy.  

We will also be delivering workshops to ICB colleagues and facilitating a spend analysis across the ICS in goods and services to encourage more local and sustainable options. 

The NHS is committed to reducing its carbon emissions nationally with the target of... 

  • The NHS Carbon Footprint: for the emissions we control directly, net zero by 2040 
  • The NHS Carbon Footprint Plus: for the emissions we can influence, net zero by 2045. 

  You can find out more about the Black Country ICS’s Greener Black Country initiatives here.

Our local NHS Trusts are all working hard to reduce carbon admissions and moving towards net zero by 2040, you can find out more on how they plan to do this here: 

What is Retrofit? 

Reducing the energy used within an existing building by using new technology, materials or products is known as Retrofit, it helps to save energy costs on homes and buildings as well as fighting climate change. We know that being in cold and damp homes and buildings can cause health conditions and make existing health problems worse. 

The Black Country Anchor Institutions Network is working with training providers, local businesses, supply and demand chains and West Midlands Combined Authority to increase the energy efficiency in more homes and buildings across the Black Country. 

Maximise Good Local Employment​:

  • As an employer the Black Country ICB will support the health and wellbeing of our staff and ensure we are paying the national living wage to all staff.
  • Tackle unemployment challenges by filling skills gaps and encourage careers in health.  ​
  • Prioritise jobs for local people – currently 62% of NHS staff live and work in the Black Country, 38% live outside.
  • Offer open and accessible recruitment processes ensuring our communities understand how we recruit and the opportunities we have as employers.
  • Work with System partners to develop new apprenticeship/intern models across organisations and sectors.

Within the Black Country we have four places (Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell) who are all at varying stages of existing or new employment projects. Therefore, our plan within the Black Country is to have oversight of the projects bringing the four project teams together to provide a space to share good practice with each other across the Places and ensure consistency in monitoring and measuring the value of the initiatives.  With the four places running their own local employment programmes based on their local requirements, resources and partnership arrangements.

Several of our place-based employment initiatives are based around the ‘I CAN’ model, an employment programme ran by Birmingham and Solihull ICS which aims to reduce health inequalities whilst addressing the workforce challenges around recruitment and retention faced by the five local NHS Trusts.  It does this by supporting unemployed and young people in the area into NHS entry level jobs providing gainful employment and opportunities.


Dudley are making progress in establishing ‘Dudley I Can’, which will focus not only on NHS jobs but Council jobs also. Both the NHS and the council are recruiting coordinators for their programme, with the long-term goal to eventually expand it to different sectors across Dudley. In the short-term, there are Clinical Support Worker posts that will be utilised to trial the Dudley I Can model in 2023, with Dudley Council taking the lead on outreach and training provision.


In Walsall, a partnership between whg, Walsall College, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust was developed in 2020, through a programme called Work4Health. The programme targets NHS jobs at local people and communities with the most need in Walsall. As of April 2023, over 130 people have secured roles within Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust through this programme, with the majority being unemployed and from various ethnic backgrounds.

The team are currently looking at extending the reach of this programme by providing job opportunities in Adult Social Care.


Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust are working with Sandwell College, DWP and Sandwell Council to target entry-level NHS jobs at local people. They successfully completed their first SWAP (Sector-based Work Academy Programme) for Ward Service Officers in June 2023, with 14 job offers being made.  They ran their second SWAP in September 2023 for Healthcare Support Workers.  In addition, they are also running regular information sessions, job shops and their own employability programme 'Employability Essentials', with over 200 people currently registered with them.


The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) currently run a recruitment scheme in partnership with the Prince’s Trust within the NHS Futures services at RWT. You can read about the scheme on the NHS Employers website here.

The team also work in partnership with, Wolverhampton College and DWP to offer additional programmes with no age limit but marketed at those over 30. Last year (2022/2023) over 85 people moved into employment through the current programmes.

More information can be found on the RWT website here.

Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust:

The Thrive into Work service was setup as a randomised control trial in 2018 and following its success it was rolled out to eligible clients across the West Midlands and will continue until at least 2025 and hopefully longer.

As of April 2023 Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (BCHFT) offer two programmes under Thrive into Work:

1. Thrive into Work Neurodiversity Service (West Midlands wide)

2. Thrive into Work Dudley and Walsall

More information about the Thrive into Work programme (and other programmes) with eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the BCHFT) website here. 

There is also more information on the Black Country ICS website here.

BCHFT support people to not only find paid employment, but they also support people to retain a job they are currently in and at risk of losing-they might still be at work or on a period of sick leave. You can find out more about what they do on the BCHFT website here.

For more information on the Black Country Anchor Institutions Network, please email the Transformation and Inclusion team at