A happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2014.

2014 will be another year of change for the welfare to work industry, with bidding rounds for the Help to Work Scheme, results of the Northern Ireland welfare to work procurement and the announcement of successful bidders for the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts. Some new faces will join the industry. Anyone who has spent time working in the industry will be aware that in this sector many things change, and they change fast.  

While the industry evolves to meet these changes, and with election fever beginning and the political environment changing, ERSA will be working to smooth the way for its members, facilitating collaboration and providing a unified industry voice to the media, government and the public. This is extremely important at the moment, as there is strong interest in the sector from the general public, to high levels of ministerial interest, including from the Prime Minister.

ERSA will also be expanding its busy event schedule for 2014. With its existing Forums, (Human Resources; Offender Related Services; Supply Chain and Disability Employment) being joined by a Housing and Employment Forum, run jointly with the National Housing Federation. After the success of the ERSA training session on Universal Credit in 2013, we will be announcing even more training opportunities for 2014. ERSA will also be continuing detailed policy work that reflects the varied nature of the industry and its interests and will continue to act as the voice for the industry.

To recognise and celebrate the hard work and dedication of the industry, ERSA will be holding the second  ERSA Employability Awards in 2014, which I hope will see a large amount of entries again this year. Last year this was a much needed event for an industry that has a lot to brag about (but often lack the space to do so) from truly dedicated staff who feel passionate about the jobs they do, to being able to say that collectively we have helped change thousands of people‚Äôs lives. 

When people think of the welfare to work industry, it is often seen simply as an industry that supports people into employment. But this in no way covers the breadth of the sector. Ours is an industry that knows how to help someone write a CV; to encourage ex-offenders to develop their own business, includes employment advisers who have gathered a range of specialist knowledge such as housing law, as well as therapists and health professionals and the list goes on.

The sector is made up of so many different elements and this year we need to help show the public what welfare to work really means, as we navigate the challenges and evolution of the industry that is sure to take place over 2014. 

Myself and the ERSA team wish you well in 2014.