Skills training crucial to sustain Work Programme gains

18th September 2014

Responding to statistics which show a further improvement in sustained job outcomes from the Work Programme, Stephen Evans, Deputy Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“Work Programme providers have worked hard for this success in a difficult economic climate. Although they have found effective ways of helping many people, providers are finding it much more challenging to support others. In particular those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who, due to health problems and other long term issues, have much greater barriers to work than other participants.

“The proportion of participants claiming ESA will increase on the Work Programme, in part due to increased referrals of ESA claimants from Jobcentre Plus and because more Jobseekers Allowance claimants will find work before the point at which they are referred to the Programme. We are concerned that today’s encouraging figures will be difficult to maintain, despite an improving economic outlook, if providers don’t find approaches that lead to jobs for people claiming ESA.

“Skills provision, however, is a major part of the solution. This will not only give people the skills that employers need, but also help to build their self-confidence. Our new work to research how personal and social development provision helps people to find and remain in work will give further weight to the added value of learning. However, we believe more research is needed to explore the interface between skills support and other health and psychological interventions for people claiming ESA.

“Because skills deteriorate if they are not used, people claiming ESA, who may have been unemployed for some time, will need to refresh former skills as well as acquire new skills to find work in new occupations that fit around their health condition. To identify the level of resources required to meet this and other demands upon the skills system, our manifesto calls for an independent review of the UK’s long-term skills needs and funding issues.”