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Can More Be Done to Tackle Long Term Unemployment?

Posted: Sat 14 Feb 2015

While the unemployment rate in Britain has continued to decline over the past three months, the pace has now slowed significantly, raising new fears that the hiring spree is also starting to tail off.

The following is a report highlighting what more  can be done to help tackle long term unemployment? 

Although the number of available vacancies is decreasing, the growth is now more concentrated in full-time positions, rather than part time and zero hours contracts, and even pay is at last beginning to pick up.

Official figures showed that the number of people out of work declined by 58,000 in the three months to November 2014, driving the current unemployment rate down to 5.8%, with a record 30.8 million people now in work. The UK employment rate is at 73% – the same as the peak prior to the recession in early 2008. Vacancies also increased significantly in the last year, rising by 127,000 to 700,000 during 2014.

*September to November 2014

Long-term unemployment (those out of work for more than a year) also fell from September 2014 to November 2014, to 658,000; however, the number of unemployed young people (aged 16 to 24) increased significantly from 30,000 to 764,000, with 27% of unemployed 16-24 year olds being out of work for over 12 months.

Does this mean improved help and support for the long term unemployed?

The majority of figures show a decline in unemployment, which demonstrates that, to an extent, schemes like the government’s Work Programme appear to be working; in fact, the number of long term unemployed has fallen to the lowest level in 5 years.

These figures may appear to be promising, but a Local Government Association commissioned report shows that the drop in the number of people claiming benefits for unemployment can partially be attributed to 80,000 people that have just disappeared off the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) radar – people that are still not employed but were sanctioned, and stopped claiming job seekers allowance.

The Local Government Association (LGA) further stated that many of the hardest-to-reach and most vulnerable jobseekers, including young people and those with mental health issues, are not receiving government help to work with national schemes. The DWP responded by stating that the LGA is wrong to suggest that people are not getting the help they need.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The truth is that every day our Jobcentre advisers are helping people to come off benefits and in to work, and we now have record numbers of people in jobs. Our network of over 700 Jobcentres already work closely with local authorities and organisations on the ground, tailoring support to help as many local people into work as possible.”

Another reason cited for the reduction in long term unemployment figures is the success of local authority schemes, which have been acting as a ‘safety net’ where national work schemes have failed. These local schemes have been developed to support local people into work through advice and guidance, training, coaching and mentoring, and apprenticeships. Other incentives include helping people gain work experience at local businesses, job clubs and bringing in independent training and coaching companies to act as a stepping stone into larger companies to help people get back to work.

Local authority schemes are often more effective at finding work for those considered to be the hardest to help. These include people with multiple barriers to work such as poor health, housing, or criminal records, and young people without experience of work or job-ready skills. Local authority schemes are much better placed to help these people because of their partnerships with local businesses and connection with the community.

A new pilot scheme for the long term unemployed in London

A new pilot scheme costing £11 million that aims to help 4,000 people struggling to find work in the capital has been signed off by the Government, the Mayor of London, London Councils and Central London boroughs.

The scheme, named ‘Working Capital’ will run for five years and trial a new model to support London residents who areclaiming Employment Support Allowance but have left the national Work Programme after two years without finding long term employment.

This scheme is shifting away from national work schemes towards local authority schemes; every person supported by Working Capital will receive dedicated help from a multi-skilled caseworker who will use existing local council, health and voluntary sector services, but also be able to bring in specialist services such as mental health provision or specific skills training as and when needed. This will allow them to find out more about the problems their clients are facing, and help them develop a plan to get back to work.

By giving greater local control over employment support, Working Capital aims to deliver better outcomes for London’s long term unemployed, local employers, and the UK economy.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: “London’s economic recovery must benefit the entire city and that means we need to do our utmost to help every Londoner possible to get into work. This plan has the potential to do just that and I hope it can help strengthen the case for greater devolution of power to the capital.”

Should the pilot be successful, the Government has agreed that the approach could be rolled out further to different groups or areas across London. By allowing local authorities to use their connections with the local community and expertise, there is new hope for all long term unemployed people.

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