ERSA welcomes the government response to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee report on The Work Programme in Wales. ERSA gave evidence, alongside providers, to the Committee ahead of the report publication last year.
The Government response which highlights data gathered by ERSA and employer engagement work ERSA is currently undertaking on a cross-border basis accepts many of the Select Committee’s recommendations while emphasising that Work Programme performance continues to improve across the UK. The response outlines that a cross-government working group has been established to consider the issue of restrictions on skills funding for those on the Work Programme in Wales. In addition the government refutes the Committees assertion that the Work Programme and the Jobs Growth Wales initiative are incompatible.
The government response:
- Outlines that increasing numbers of people are finding employment through the Work Programme both in Wales and across the UK and highlights that the Welsh labour market is strengthening and has comparable employment rates to many English regions including London.
- Highlights that work is ongoing to improve the performance of ESA groups and outlines the impact of the introduction of a 12 month plus prognosis group.
- Accepts the Committee’s recommendation regarding allowing Work Programme participants in Wales to access SFA skills funding and have asked the Welsh Government to review this decision to enable Work Programme participants to be able to access skills provision funded through the Welsh Government and allow mandation to their skills programmes where appropriate. A cross-government working group has been established to look at this issue.
- Refutes the Committee assertion that the Work Programme and Jobs Growth Wales are incompatible and rules out allowing opt-out of the Work Programme to access Jobs Growth Wales.
- Accepts the Committee’s recommendation that specific measures should be put in place to support lone parents and highlights that providers have already put these measures in place. The response also agrees that sharing the findings from the DWP Best Practice group, due to report in spring 2014, with providers would be beneficial.
- Outlines that work is ongoing to engage with employers both by providers on a local level and nationally through the department and ERSA. In addition the Best Practice group will also be considering some of these issues.