There is much to be welcomed in the Department for Work and Pension’s White Paper ‘Building Britain’s Recovery’ that was published last month.
In particular, CFE is encouraged by the government’s proposed action to get people back into work to prevent the problems of previous recessions where long term unemployment persisted amongst certain groups and communities when the economy began to recover. The focus on young people through guaranteed offers of training and work supported by personal advice is commended, but will require the engagement and commitment of a large number of employers which is particularly challenging in an environment where there are fewer job opportunities across the board.
CFE also supports the government’s focus on progression in work, in particular the pledged support to help people stay in work, progress in work, balance their work with family responsibilities and accommodate work around health conditions and disabilities. CFE’s recent work around employment retention and progression in London on behalf of the London Development Agency, found that employment progression for individuals is dependent upon employers investing in skills training and offering progression opportunities. For example, there are a limited number of high paid jobs in sectors such as accommodation, food, wholesale and retail resulting in limited progression opportunities. In addition there are a significant number of people, especially women, part-time workers and those with disabilities, who have experienced long term labour market retention but low pay and progression prospects.
The focus on reforming entitlements and responsibilities around welfare and modernising employment services is welcomed by CFE, but there are a distinct set of challenges that are not fully addressed in the paper including:
As with most employment focused strategies, a significant responsibility falls upon employers to primarily recognise the political drivers for change, understand the role they need to play and then deliver their part of the bargain. In such difficult economic times, employers will be focused on shorter term sustainability issues affecting their businesses and will need additional support from government if they are to achieve the ambitions set out in this paper.
The challenge remains about how to involve both employers and employment and skills agencies in creating a universal service with universal pledges, whilst responding in a personalised way to the needs of different social groups and local communities.