The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) welcomes today’s report by the Women and Equalities Committee calling on the Government to tackle inequalities in employment faced by UK Muslims, but warns that progress could be undermined if European spending is not replaced after the UK leaves the European Union.
ERSA, the membership body for the back to work sector, 75% of whose members are not for profit, has particularly welcomed recommendations in the report related to the importance of tailored employment support for Muslim jobseekers, which is often best delivered by specialist organisations in the heart of local communities. It warns that many such schemes are currently funded by European Social Fund (ESF) the future of which is uncertain in the light of UK’s Brexit vote. ESF, which funds programmes focused on issues such as employment, skills, financial inclusion and community cohesion, is currently worth over £500 million a year across the UK.
ERSA also welcomes the Committee’s agreement with ERSA’s Universal Credit recommendation. In future, the partners of those making a claim under Universal Credit will be subject to ‘conditionality’, meaning they may be required to take steps to increase the family income or, potentially, face a sanction. ERSA is concerned that this may disproportionately affect non working spouses from specific communities or with lower levels of English.
Speaking in response to the report, Kirsty McHugh, CEO of ERSA said,
‘Healthy communities are working communities. Muslim jobseekers must have access to high quality employment support – that means tailored schemes delivered in the heart of local communities, with strong links to a wide range of jobseekers. Much of this type of support tends to be funded by European Social Fund and thus may be in doubt in the future.
‘I am delighted that the Committee has picked up our concern about the household impacts of Universal Credit which see non-working spouses included in the conditionality regime for the first time. There is real concern that minority households may end up unfairly penalised if these new rules are not clearly explained.’
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Notes to Editors
1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the sector body for those delivering or with an interest in employment support services. ERSA’s membership spans the private, voluntary and public sectors and ranges from large multi-nationals through to small specialist charities. It has over 230 members, over two thirds of which are not for profit.
2. The Work and Pensions Select Committee release is available here and the report is available online at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmworpen/549/54902.htm
3. ERSA is able to set up interviews with jobseekers who have found work and providers of employment support services. Case studies of projects and jobseekers supporting Muslim communities are available on ERSA’s website. Interviews with ERSA’s Chief Executive Kirsty McHugh are available on request.