The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) welcomes today’s report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee which highlights the unrealistic expectations being placed on Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to fulfil the Government’s ambitions to halve the disability employment gap, and achieve full employment. Following ERSA’s oral and written contributions, the report also reflects strong concerns about the impact of regressive cuts to contracted specialist employment support.

As the membership body for the employment support sector, ERSA supports the Committee’s findings that the current direction of government policy and resource raises significant challenges to delivering the appropriate level of specialist advice and support required for an increasingly diverse range of jobseekers.

Equally, ERSA knows from its frontline members that MPs are right to draw attention to the considerable cuts to specialist employment support funding from 2017. The report estimates that spending is set to be halved – however, independent research from ERSA, commissioned from WPI Economics, has found that Government spending on employment support programmes is expected to fall by 80% from 2017-18. This will place additional strain on JCP which, as today’s report highlights, already faces insurmountable challenges.

Speaking in response to the report, Kirsty McHugh, CEO of ERSA said,

“We strongly echo the Committee’s concerns about the capacity of Jobcentre Plus to meet its aims for full employment and halving the disability employment gap. Government expectations of the service are simply too high and fail to recognise the levels of need among the long term unemployed or the amount of change needed in many jobcentres.

“In particular, we welcome the report’s concern about the significant cuts to the specialist employment support budget. The Committee estimates that spending on disability support alone is set to halve; our figures suggest the cuts are even greater. This regressive step is likely to hurt the employment prospects for over one million people with disabilities and health conditions who want to, and could, work with the right support.”