ERSA has today welcomed the latest Work and Pensions Committee report on back to work programmes, which has for the first time recognised that the Work Programme has produced results at least as good as previous programmes, but at greatly reduced cost. However, it has called on Government to make sure that future provision builds on this success and that the future financial settlement recognises the costs of supporting jobseekers with ever more complex needs.
The report, the second under the leadership of Committee Chair, Frank Field, comes at a critical time for the sector, with decision making about the shape and financing of future back to work programmes expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
The report echoes many of the points within ERSA’s own blueprint for future services, Evolution not Revolution’, including the need for additional government expenditure on jobseekers who are furthest from the labour market. In addition, ERSA backs calls from the Committee for earlier referral of jobseekers, rather than allowing them to stay on benefits without specialist support, and moving to an assessment process based on real jobseeker need rather than benefit type.
Other points supported by ERSA include:
- The need to integrate employment services with wider services, including health and skills, required by jobseekers
- Enabling more specialist providers, particularly of disability services, to play their part
- The introduction of an ‘innovation fund’ used to test and develop new approach to supporting jobseekers
Speaking in response to the report, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA, said:
“This report comes at a critical time. It’s hugely positive that the Committee has recognised the great work of the sector in helping the long term unemployed into work. However, the sector is working with jobseekers with ever greater barriers to work and thus the government has to ensure the next round of programmes not only builds on success, but also has the right financing in place.’