Employment Support Programmes

Employment support providers deliver a range of employment programmes funded through central and local government departments, European Social Fund, social investment, donors as well as the self-funded, amongst others.

Mainstream provision

Work and Health Programme

The Work and Health Programme is due to begin at the end of 2017 / early 2018. It will be a new national employment support programme, very different to the Work Prorgamme since it will be around a quarter of the size and focused primarily on providing specialist support for people who volunteer onto the programme with health conditions or disabilities. There will also be early access for specific groups to volunteer onto the programme, such as prison leavers and people who are homeless. Additionally, the programme will support people who have been out of work for over two years on a mandatory basis. Government funding for the programme will be 130 million a year by 2019/2020.

As part of the Government's devolution agenda, Greater Manchester Combined Authorities and London Councils, will seperately commisison the Work and Health Programme. The initiatives will be called Working Well and Working Capital respectively.

The Work Programme

The Work Programme closed its doors to refferrals in April 2017, but will continue to support jobseekers already on the Programme up until March 2019. The Work Programme has been the mainstream employment programme for the long term unemployed. It is delivered by a range of organisations that span the private, voluntary and public sector. Organisations are given flexibility to tailor their support to meet the jobseeker’s individual needs, rather than having the services prescribed by Whitehall, this is described as a ‘black box’ approach. Most jobseekers were referred to the Work Programme on a mandatory basis after being unemployed for two years but certain groups have entered the programme sooner; this includes prison leavers who if claiming benefits would be referred to the Work Programme immediately on release from prison. The Work Programme is a payments by results programme. A report by European Economics released in September 2014 shows that the economic value of the Work Programme is likely to be around £18 billion. More information can be found here.

Work Choice

Work Choice is a voluntary programme delivered by organisations from the private, voluntary and public sector. The programme provides specialist support for those with a disability, impairment or health problem who want to work for 16 hours a week or more. The programme uses a three stage strategy; an assessment is followed by a personalised plan to help that individual into work. Finally, medium to long term support is provided to overcome barriers an individual may face to entering and sustaining employment. A full briefing on the programme can be found here.


European Social Fund is worth up to £500 million a year in England alone. ERSA is leaidng a campaign with the NCVO and LWI among others, to ensure that it is properly replaced post-Brexit. More details about the campaigncan be found here.

New Enterprise Allowance

New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is a programme to support entrepreneurial jobseekers into self-employment . Participants on the programme can receive a weekly allowance whilst trading and can apply for a loan to help with start-up costs. Organisations delivering NEA provide support to develop business plans, provide business mentoring and ongoing support in the early stages of trading. Following the success of the NEA scheme, it has been expanded to include Universal Credit claimants. More information can be found here.

Specialist Employability Support

Specialist Employability Support (SES) contracts started in September 2015 and the DWP anticipates that it will support 1,700 disabled people each year. The scheme aims to develop links with providers of other programmes as well as specialist voluntary organisations. SES is provided through six national contracts, four of which are for people with any disability, one which specialises in visual impairment and one in hearing impairment. Further details are available in the Written Ministerial Statement, made by then Disabilities Minister, Mark Harper.


Programmes in devolved administrations


Following the Smith Agreement, Scotland now has responsibility for its national employment support programmes. In April 2017, it launched two one-year interim programmes, Work Able and Work First Scotland. From 2018, the Scottish Government will be commissioning Fair Start Scotland. This will be a three year programme worth at least £96 millionand and completely voluntary for participants. The programme aims to  support a minimmum of 38,000 referrals over the three years including pre-work and in-work support. More details can be found here.

Northern Ireland

Steps 2 Success is the mainstream employment programme operating in Northern Ireland. It is mandatory for those who have been on Jobseeker's Allowance for two years and offers tailored support for jobseekers. The programme aims to support jobseekers to reach jobs goals through a ‘Progression to Employment Plan’, which works towards a sustainable employment goal.

Troubled Families

The 2015 Queens Speech outlined the government’s intention to extend the Troubled Families programme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Confirmation followed an announcement made in August 2014 that the payment by results programme, based on a multitude of performance measures, would reach out to more families across the UK. Latest figures released by Government show that 105,671 families with complex needs have received support from local authorities, saving the Exchequer an estimated £1.2bn.