The CBI has urged employers to give their support to the Government’s Work Programme.
The CBI’s plea to businesses comes one year after the launch of the government Work Programme and despite the controversy which the initiative has met in certain circles.
CBI argues that with high-levels of long term unemployment in the UK it is essential that businesses get behind the Work Programme and ensure that its core aim of getting people back into work is achieved.
CBI has launched a report, Work in Progress, to explain its view of the opportunities the Work Programme represents. CBI says that it offers “a good deal for jobseekers, employers and the taxpayer”. The business organisation does however, admit that further evolution of the scheme is required.
In particular CBI says that the scheme must become more accessible to those who need it most and that better collaboration is needed between Work Programme providers, local authorities, FE colleges and other services. This evolution is needed in order to ensure providers and employers are better connected.
Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director at CBI, said that although the fundamentals of the Work Programme are strong, targeted action is needed to ensure it fulfils its potential. “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,” she remarked.
The CBI has set out eight steps to ensure the Work Programme fulfils its potential. The organisation assures that these recommendations are pragmatic and can be put in place quickly to make an immediate difference to the UK’s employment profile and economic fortunes.
- 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. A definite referral point to the programme at the three month mark for all jobseekers in the JSA Early Access Group should be introduced.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.