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.

See also ERSA’s work on the UKSPF

Restart Programme

The Restart programme is a government-administered employment support scheme, which gives Universal Credit claimants who have been out of work for between 12 to 18 months enhanced support to find jobs. Referrals are made over a 3-year period, and the scheme will target more than 1 million Universal Credit claimants who are seeking employment, but have no sustained earnings. The scheme will provide up to 12 months of tailored support for each participant. Early access can be considered on a case-by-case basis, where conversations with a work coach suggest this is the most appropriate route for the individual.

Restart is being delivered across England and Wales in 12 different Contract Package Areas (CPAs), with providers selected to join the framework in September 2020 following an open competition. The providers and their delivery partners, including specialist charities and small and medium-sized enterprises, will complement the work of Jobcentre Plus with extra expertise, investment, innovation and additional capacity for tailored support.

The programme formally began on 28 June 2021, and is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Formed in July 2021, The ReAct Partnership is an industry-led centre for action research and continuous improvement within the Restart Scheme. The Restart Scheme is a new programme which gives Universal Credit claimants who have been out of work for 12-18 months enhanced support to find jobs. The React Partnership will share and evaluate practice and evidence on “what works” in delivering the Restart Scheme to help improve performance and outcomes for participants, the long-term sustainability of job placements and the impact and value for money of employment services. Read more

Work and Health Programme: Job Entry Targeted Support (WHP: JETS)

The Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) programme is another new scheme launched in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is targeted at providing employment support for those jobseekers who have been out of work for at least three months (13 weeks). It has been designed as a light touch, personalised employment programme that provides support to eligible candidates for up to six months, and involves a number of providers (in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions) offering a range of support to individuals in the labour market, that includes providing specialist advice on how people can move into growing sectors; CV and interview coaching; assessment of employment support needs; and signposting to skills support and other specialised help and training.

The programme was formally launched in October 2020, and is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions.


The Kickstart Scheme is a government-administered job creation scheme, providing funding to create new jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

The programme is a response to the disproportionate impact on young people in the labour market of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who have lost their jobs and claimed Universal Credit in greater numbers than any other age group over the past year. The scheme began in November 2020, and is now closed to new applications from Employers, both directly and via a Kickstart gateway. Employers have until 31 March 2022 to fill their remaining Kickstart jobs and are asked to work with their local Jobcentres to support with promoting their Kickstart jobs and their recruitment processes. Employers should notify DWP as soon as possible to confirm when a young person has started in their Kickstart role.

The programme is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions. ERSA has a Kickstart Community Forum, read more here. 

The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA)

The NEA contracts ended, earlier than anticipated and as of 1 January 2022, was no longer accepting new participants. NEA was a programme to support entrepreneurial jobseekers into self-employment . Participants on the programme could receive a weekly allowance whilst trading and 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 was initially expanded to include Universal Credit claimants. More information can be found here.

New in 2020, the ERSA Enterprise Works Forum brings together organisations in a community of good practice, to influence, shape policy, commissioning and delivery around self employment, social enterprise and entrepreneurship!

The extension to the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) was introduced to support claimants through the unprecedented challenges that arose due to the pandemic. As the economy opens-up it is right that we focus our resources on getting jobseekers into work and progressing.

NEA is just one provision available for the self-employed with Start Up Loans ensuring that viable, early-stage businesses have access to up to £25,000 of loans and practical support they need in order to thrive.

Support for the self-employed is also built into Universal Credit, so claimants can receive financial support to supplement their earnings and they can receive regular support from Self-Employment Work Coaches, who will signpost entrepreneurs to tools and resources to develop the skills and experience they need.

Next Steps: DWP are continuing to work with stakeholders to understand how best to support our claimants including those pursuing, or wishing to pursue, self-employment.

The Start Up Loans scheme, run by the British Business Bank, delivers support to people that may have otherwise struggled to get through a commercial bank loan. The Business Support Helpline and Local Growth Hubs in England, alongside Business Wales and Fair Start Scotland offer support, advice and guidance to new and existing businesses.

Some of the other funded programmes ERSA members deliver

Intensive Personalised Employment Support (IPES)

Community Renewal Fund


Industry placements: T Levels

National Careers Service

Sector-based work academy programme (SWAP)


Free level 3 qualifications for eligible adults

Skills Bootcamps

The National Lottery Community Fund

Previous programmes

The Work Programme

The Work Programme closed its doors to referrals in April 2017, but will continued 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 was 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.  The last referrals to the programme were on June 2018 and final release of Work Choice statistics was published on 3 September 2020.

If you have a question or an update for this page, please get in touch with the team via policy@ersa.org.uk.