NIACE welcomes new Work Programme

10th June 2011

The government’s new Work Programme replaces many previous programmes for unemployed adults, with a single programme that will provide earlier, personalised support over a longer duration. The rewards should be higher for training providers for the achievement of sustained job outcomes and for supporting harder to reach adults.

Mark Ravenhall, NIACE Director for Policy and Impact, said:

“NIACE is pleased to support a programme that has the potential to lead to the engagement in learning for millions of adults who have least benefited so far. Our own research over many years shows that this work is very resource intensive. Recently we have also been working with a number of prime contractors in the development of volunteering programmes, based on our Community Learning Champions support programme where people in local communities are empowered to support each other.”

Rob Gray, NIACE Project Officer, added:

“Following this launch, NIACE’s main concern is for learning opportunities to be made accessible to all Work Programme participants. This is because we know that learning new skills enables people to apply for more sustained jobs, helping to protect against a return to unemployment and breaking the low pay, no pay cycle that affects so many people without level 2 skills. To ensure this happens, NIACE would like to see minimum standards or levels of provision set for learning provision within the Work Programme, especially for people with obvious basic skills and employability skills needs.”

Rather than setting minimum standards and levels of provision for learning, the DWP Work Programme Prospectus, currently states:

“Providers bidding to deliver the Work Programme will be free to provide any skills training that they deem appropriate based on local labour market conditions. Most Work Programme participants will also be eligible for other Government funded skills support as set out in Skills for Sustainable Growth, BIS 2010 and its parallel publication Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth, BIS, 2010.”

However, whether and to what extent learning opportunities are made available, seems to rest entirely with the Work Programme providers, as the prospectus also states:

“Ultimately, arrangements will need to be agreed with prime contractors as the Work Programme will be a ‘black box’ contract with no prescribed way of working. It will be for prime contractors to determine in discussion with partners, including Jobcentreplus, how they will work collaboratively to deliver the programme.”

NIACE therefore considers it vital that awareness is raised amongst Work Programme providers, of the value of both informal and formal learning for unemployed adults.