The Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology asked the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) to provide independent advice on how the Work Programme (WP) might be operated differently in Wales in the future. The PPIW has worked closely with Dave Simmonds (Chief Executive of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion) to examine the literature and evidence in this area and provided recommendations for delivering the WP in Wales in the short and longer term.
The report found that, whilst improving, the performance of the WP in Wales has been lower than the UK average. There are also certain specificities that need to be considered when implementing the WP in Wales such as the higher proportion of Employment Support Allowance claimants referred in Wales than England and a higher proportion of those who are inactive for long-term health reasons (27.5% compared to 21%). A projected future surplus of low skilled workers and shortage of highly qualified people means that the future WP in Wales also needs to balance training, job search and general employability measures.
The report therefore recommends that the Welsh Government needs to take the lead on analysis, design and commissioning to ensure that the programme is tailored to needs in Wales. In the short term this means that the Welsh Government should assume responsibility for commissioning and management of the Work and Health Programme in Wales, working with Jobcentre Plus Wales. In the longer term the report argues that the employment support budget should be devolved to Wales.
In order to achieve long term success in this area an Employment and Skills Strategy also needs to be developed. The Strategy should provide a framework for new interventions to address long-term worklessness and set out how a programme designed and commissioned by the Welsh Government will improve job outcomes for workless people. Alongside this strategy there is a need for the Welsh Government to identify existing funds and activities that can be integrated or aligned with the WP.
In order for all of these aims to be achieved effectively the report argues that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will need to allow flexibility in the specifications of the Work and Health Programme in Wales.
To view the report, click here.