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The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the sector body for the welfare to work sector, has today launched a report calling for ‘evolution not revolution’ in the design of future programmes for the long term unemployed. 

The report, unveiled at ERSA’s annual national conference in London, makes the case for a number of important new elements in future provision, while building on what is already working well in the Work Programme and other employment programmes.  

Key recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • Introducing an accurate jobseeker needs assessment from day one of unemployment to identify those who are likely to become long term unemployed. From this, all jobseekers would be allocated to one of defined number of employment streams.
  • Retaining payment by results for the majority of provision, but paying providers for achievements of milestones for those with disabilities or who are the very furthest from the labour market.   In addition ERSA is calling for a separate ring-fenced budget which could only be accessed to purchase from specialist organisations who would then be paid for ‘distance travelled’ measures. This is likely to be particularly helpful to the charity sector.
  • Making access to skills funding easier for the long term unemployed by ring-fencing a proportion of the Adult Skills Budget for their needs. 
  • Supporting subcontractors through measures including requiring the use of a standard Expression of Interest Form and standardising contract terms. 
  • Improving how performance is measured by reporting on numbers entering work as well as sustaining work, plus aligning measurement systems across Jobcentre Plus and outsourced providers.
  • Introducing minimum standards for commissioning including a duty to consult on programme design, comply with minimum commissioning timelines and publish assumptions underpinning targets and financial models.

These recommendations follow an extensive consultation process across both ERSA members and non members.  Feedback was obtained from over 90 organisations spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Introducing the report, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“Today’s welfare to work programmes build on many of the lessons from the past and are offering a good service to jobseekers.  However, there have also been challenges and it’s our duty to make sure future provision addresses these as well as building on what‘s worked well.  We are therefore highlighting measures which would build the capacity of service providers at all levels, plus ensure that sufficient resources are in place, while continuing to provide good value for the taxpayer”

The full report can be found here.