In advance of the Autumn Statement on 23rd November, ERSA, the voice of the employment support sector, calls on the Chancellor to rethink and rebalance the Government's investment in vital employment support.
In October, ERSA published ‘More than Words: Rethinking employment support for disabled jobseekers’, an independent report by WPI Economics showing the gap between Government rhetoric and reality in terms of support for jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions. The report highlights a planned 80% reduction in Government specialist employment support programmes from next year, announced by the previous Chancellor in last year's Autumn Statement.
The planned reduction in funding makes no business sense. Doubling the size of the Work and Health Programme (still less than 50% of current spend on support programmes) would give an extra 160,000 disabled people access to specialist employment support and would also mean wider savings of around £280 million to the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement.
Concerns about the planned reduction in funding for contracted employment support were echoed by MPs in last week's Work and Pensions Select Committee report into the future of Jobcentre Plus (JCP). The Committee expressed concern about the ‘manifold reduction’ in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents and raised doubts about the capacity of JCP to respond to the resulting increase in pressures.
Not only would maintaining effective levels of resource for employment support provide value for money, it would also signal that the Government is serious about its commitment to halve the disability employment gap - a target that would require well over 1.2 million more people with disabilities to enter work. The Government's Work and Health Green Paper, launched earlier this month, reaffirmed this commitment in words, but now the government needs to begin to make it a reality.
Commenting, Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:
“Next Wednesday, the Chancellor has a golden opportunity to reverse the misguided decision made in last year's Autumn Statement by reaffirming the Government’s commitment to supporting disabled jobseekers. Our research shows that the planned reduction of 80% in funding for specialist employment services means that 45,000 fewer disabled people will be supported for each remaining year of this Parliament. This is bad for the economy, for jobseekers and is no way to show any commitment to halving the disability employment gap.
“As MPs made clear last week in the Work and Pensions Select Committee report, the evidence suggests that these cuts will fail disabled jobseekers and place excessive pressure on job centres. In contrast, our research shows that doubling investment in the Work and Health Programme will bring Exchequer savings of around £280 million.
“If the Government is serious about halving the disability employment gap, it should take bold action by reversing the previous Chancellor's decision and investing in specialist support for jobseekers.”