By Daniel Hunter
With labour market statistics later today (Wednesday) expected to show continuing high long-term unemployment, a new CBI report examines the Government’s Work Programme one year on from its launch. The report sets out targeted actions to ensure the programme fulfils its potential to support people back into work.
Work in Progress argues the Work Programme represents a good deal for jobseekers, employers and the taxpayer, but that further evolution of the scheme is required.
The CBI calls for everyone to get behind the programme. National governments, local authorities and providers must work more closely together to ensure it delivers the best outcomes - getting as many of the long-term unemployed back into work as possible, supporting more employers and saving the taxpayer money in the process.
The report calls for action
· to make access to the scheme more straightforward for people who need it most;
· to support effective partnership working between Work Programme providers, local authorities, FE colleges and other services;
· to ensure providers and employers are better connected.
“Although the fundamentals of the Work Programme are strong, targeted action is needed to ensure it fulfils its potential," Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said.
“It has faced challenges over the last year, but we cannot let it be buffeted by events or become a target for political point scoring.
“With unemployment high, it’s essential that this scheme delivers for jobseekers, employers and the taxpayer.
“Access to the scheme needs to be improved, especially for those hardest to help, and partnerships strengthened across the board, including better connecting employers and providers in a local area.
“Everyone with a stake in the Work Programme’s success, including national governments, local authorities and providers, must strain every sinew to get behind this vital initiative, working more closely together to ensure it delivers the best results.”
The CBI sets out eight steps to ensure the Work Programme fulfils its potential. These practical recommendations can be put in place quickly and will make a difference now:
Step 1: Refine the referrals process to ensure the ‘hardest to help’ jobseekers are accessing the programme
· DWP should review the referral process for ESA Work Related Activity Group claimants to ensure they are accessing the programme as soon as they are capable of looking for employment
· Introduce a definite referral point to the programme at the three month mark for all jobseekers in the JSA Early Access Group
Step 2: Clarify how Universal Credit will impact on the programme
· DWP should publish a guidance note for providers on how Universal Credit will impact on the Work Programme by November 2012
Step 3: Put in place measures to encourage self-employment through the programme
· Jobseekers on the Work Programme should be allowed to access the New Enterprise Allowance
Step 4: Move further and faster to embed the programme in local areas
· Providers should be allowed to share comprehensive data with local authorities on performance and the jobseekers they support
Step 5: Take action to align the programme with the skills system
· The Skills Funding Agency should commit to funding training units for the duration of the Work Programme contract
· The Welsh and Scottish Administrations should allow Work Programme customers to access skills provision when on the programme
Step 6: Go further to join up the programme with services and funding for ex-offenders
· The reduction in re-offending top up should be extended to all Work Programme providers before 2015 if the pilots show it’s delivering results in the next two years
Step 7: Increase awareness about the programme on the frontline of public service delivery
· The Government and providers should work together to develop a strategy for raising awareness and understanding about the Work Programme amongst public service professionals
Step 8: Take action to increase employer engagement with the programme
· CBI, DWP and ERSA should work together to increase awareness amongst employers about the benefits of engaging with the Work Programme
· Jobcentre Plus should direct employers posting vacancies with them to the Work Programme providers operating in their area.
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