Help wanted: Getting Britain back to work

Unemployment has spiked sharply as a result of the coronavirus crisis and associated social distancing restrictions. During March and April, 2.5 million individuals made claims for Universal Credit, with claims running at seven times their usual levels at their peak. The number of vacancies in the economy has fallen by three fifths, and it is likely that five years of employment growth has been wiped out in one month. The impacts have been uneven, with young people, women and the lower paid hardest hit.

The Government’s response, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, has helped to prevent this from being even worse. We now need to plan for a transition to a new normal. How do we gradually withdraw emergency support while social distancing measures are eased? How do we help people back to work quickly, and make sure those already long-term unemployed are not left even further behind? How do we help young people facing a disrupted education and tough jobs market? How do we tackle some of the underlying challenges we entered the crisis with?

This note sets out suggested key priorities, evidence and proposals for how government might design and deliver its employment and skills response to this downturn. It has been prepared with input from a range of contributors with expertise in these areas, and argues for five priorities:

  1. Targeted tapering of emergency support. Ensuring that the withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme between August and October minimises the risks of a damaging second spike of unemployment, and ensure support for workers that lose their jobs to quickly re-enter work.
  2. Rapid back to work support for those newly unemployed. To get people back to work quickly, we need to mobilise Jobcentre Plus work coaches, the recruitment industry and local and voluntary sector employment services to provide rapid support to the newly unemployed – delivered online initially, and working in partnership to deliver a coherent offer locally.
  3. Targeted support for the long-term unemployed. Based on the evidence of what has worked in the past, we need employment services that provide personalised support alongside access to training, volunteering and other specialist provision; working in partnership locally to align with and scale existing provision where possible.
  4. Education and employment promise for young people. We need to make sure everyone leaving education is guaranteed support to find work or a place in education or training, with a Jobs Guarantee for those out-of-work for a longer period of time.
  5. Building for the future. We should plan now to build more joined-up employment and skills support, and how to increase access to well paid, high quality work based on understanding the future of the labour market.

All of this requires a collaborative, partnership approach bring together employers, local and national government and civic society. Together, getting Britain back to work

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