Following the Autumn Budget 2017 statement on 22nd November, ERSA highlights the 1.42 million people who are unemployed across the UK and calls on the Chancellor to rethink the government’s investment in vital employment support.

An independent report by the Westminster Policy Institute (WPI) for ERSA showed the government is planning to spend a massive 80% less on specialist employment support programmes from this year onwards. This dramatic decrease is a telling sign that unemployment is not a priority and that Universal Credit is now seen as the government’s main route for helping the majority of people into work. In addition, whilst welcoming the government’s announced changes to Universal Credit wait times, ERSA is clear the system needs further reform and that welfare reform alone is not enough to help people into good quality employment.

Not only does a reduction in employment support make no sense for unemployed people, it also makes no economic sense. The WPI research also indicated that, if the Work and Health Programme were doubled in size, it could mean wider savings of around £280 million to the Chancellor.

Concerns about the planned reduction in funding for contracted employment support have been echoed by the Work and Pensions Committee, which expressed concerns about the ‘manifold reduction’ in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents and raised doubts about the capacity of Jobcentre Plus to respond to the resulting increase in pressures.

Commenting, Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“1.42 million people are unemployed in the UK, yet the Chancellor has forgotten about supporting them in his Budget. The Government must reverse its 80% reduction in funding for specialist employment services and thus avoid the falling away of frontline expertise from charities and other employment support providers. Current decision making is perverse given the Conservative’s own manifesto pledge to help one million people with disabilities and health conditions into work.

‘We’re also concerned that there is nothing new to help the nearly 12 percent of young people who are unemployed.  With Brexit looming we need to invest in jobs and growth, yet for the first time in years we lack a nationwide programme to help struggling young people to move into work.”