Which way now for employment support in Wales?


21 02 2024


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New research from Learning and Work Institute examines the future of employment support policy in Wales and identifies areas where the existing system can be improved to better assist people to find good quality work, particularly those facing barriers involving poor health and disability.

The research shows that if Wales matched the UK employment rate, around 28,000 extra people would be in work. Expanding employment opportunities in Wales helps families to move out of poverty, improves health and wellbeing outcomes, gives people more spending power and boosts demand in local economies. It also helps put Wales’ public finances, and therefore public services, on a stronger footing through increased tax receipts.

What is employment support?

Usually termed employment support, or sometimes employability or welfare-to-work support, these are interventions for people who need help finding or progressing in work. Employment support covers activities such individual coaching, employability courses, job clubs, careers advice and guidance, supported work placements and in-work support. Jobs hubs are another form of employment support. These are place-based initiatives which bring together employment support, skills, provision, and wrap-around services such as digital inclusion and wellbeing support.

In Wales, employment support is provided by a wide range of organisations, including Jobcentre Plus, programmes commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Welsh Government, councils, colleges, social landlords and a range of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations.

Key research findings:

▪The employment rate in Wales is lower than in England and Scotland, as a result of higher rates of economic inactivity.

▪ Poor health and disabilities are the main cause of economic inactivity in Wales, with 146,000 people or 7.7% of the working-age population economically inactive due to long-term health conditions or disabilities in Wales, compared with 5.5% in England and 6.9% in Scotland.

▪ Employment support also has a role to play in addressing job insecurity and in-work poverty and making Wales a fair work nation that is responsive to changing employment patterns.

▪ Looking forward, Wales will need more workers with digital and green skills and a larger social care workforce. However, jobs may be lost through AI and automation. Employment support has a role in helping people change career and enabling communities to be resilient to economic shocks.

The potential of a reformed employment support system in Wales:

The current employment support landscape is complex, with individuals having to navigate multiple programmes run by UK, Welsh and local governments and a significant number of agencies. Only one in ten out-of-work older people and disabled people in the UK get help to find work each year.

To address these issues, there needs to be a much closer partnership between the UK and Welsh Government. Learning and Work Institute is calling for a shared strategy to tackle economic inactivity. Drawing on international examples such as in Germany and the USA, the strategy should examine ways of working, including what is suitable for devolution to help drive stronger accountability and better outcomes.

Which way now for employment support in Wales?

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Executive Summary: Which way now for employment support in Wales?


Get in touch:

If you would like any further information about the research, please get in touch with Joshua Miles, Director for Wales and Jill Rutter, Head of Programme and Policy.
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