The PSI Blog

How government can help people to keep jobs
Genevieve Knight

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that job-sustainability targets for the Work Programme have not been met. The government had set a target of 5.5 per cent of participants getting jobs and keeping them for six months, but figures released today suggest the actual figure achieve was 3.5 per cent. But there are lessons to be learned from other programmes about how these rates could be improved, writes PSI’s Genevieve Knight.

The Work Programme is an approach that rewards providers for achieving sustained jobs - that is, lasting at least six months - for mainstream jobseekers, with an initial attachment fee and then payments per additional sustainment month. Entrants to the Work Programme usually start with the contracted providers after a period out of work claiming benefit. This means that it is generally at least nine months before a young jobseeker (JSA claimant), is entitled to immediate entry into the Work Programme, and the provider can then first achieve a job outcome after they have had six months in work. The majority of jobseekers are aged over 25 years and it is 12 months before they enter the Work Programme. Hence, the majority of Work Programme entrants are into the progressive stages of longer term unemployment.

There are recent results for the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration project which shows promise for improving sustainability of work for the long-term unemployed. One of the unique aspects of ERA was post-employment support and advice to help retain jobs and advance in work, alongside work and training incentives. The ERA evaluation provides unusually rich, and robust long-term information on the employment retention and advancement experiences and highlights a number of key implementation challenges that future programmes, hoping to break the 'no-pay, low-pay' cycle and reduce poverty through work, would do well to address.

The ERA evaluation found that, for specific populations, gains can be achieved, even for some of the most disadvantaged jobseekers, and that those gains can be sustained over a five-year period. The group of long-term unemployed people (entrants had experienced 18 months of JSA claim), who, by far, had the worst 'outcomes' (that is, employment and earnings for the ERA group alone), and who many observers had expected might benefit the least from ERA, actually benefited the most.

See the ERA project page for more information.

Genevieve Knight is Quantitative Group Manager at PSI.

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