Sustainable, rewarding employment for all (I)

21 November 2016

Unemployment in the UK is at a record low. Whilst clearly positive, it is important that this headline rate does not mask changing labour market trends that may require a policy response: low-paid work, for example, has grown in the last year, particularly amongst part-time workers. Frictional unemployment may also increase in wake of the vote to leave the EU. This would intensify the challenge of supporting people into sustainable employment and helping them to progress once there – a priority for a Government whose focus is on those “just managing”.

Welfare-to-work providers have played a crucial role in increasing employment and supporting progression for some of the least advantaged in society, helping over half a million people into work just in the last five years. Under the Work and Health Programme, providers will continue to be a positive force driving employment and progression – but on a dramatically smaller scale.

Greater innovation will be needed to build evidence for the most effective interventions if stretched resources are to be used efficiently. Integration of employment provision with other public services, in particular health, is rightly a priority for the Department, and could deliver more efficient and effective support.  Devolution may better enable this, especially if it leads to pooled budgets, but evidence of local efficacy is needed.

Welfare-to-work services will be crucial to delivering the Government’s vision of a fairer society. Delivering excellence in an increasingly challenging policy environment will be no easy task.

Ben Dobson, Researcher, Reform

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