Jobcentres should face competition, says thinktank

Published on Monday, 21 July 2014 12:19
Written by Govtoday staff

Jobcentres are failing to help people find long-term work and should be restructured under new plans that will enable private companies and charities to compete with government providers to offer more personalised and specialist support to jobseekers.

A new report, Joined up Welfare, by leading thinktank Policy Exchange says that just over a third (36%) of people using jobcentres find sustained work. Many find themselves in and out of employment largely due to having barriers to work which are not fully dealt with.

There are, for example, 11.5 million people in Britain with a long-term health condition while up to 18% of the working age population has a mental health problem. An estimated 10,000 16-18 year olds leave care each year. The government's welfare reforms have improved matters, but there is still too much duplication and inefficiency in the system.

Quite often a jobseeker might suffer from a range of issues but the current welfare system fails to deal with overlapping problems from the beginning of the process. People are sometimes referred to a range of different services that operate independently of each other. For example, someone suffering from a lack of training, mental health issues and who has been out of work for a long period of time might receive support from six different providers. This is confusing and expensive.

The report says that the system is in urgent need of reform and proposes that the next logical direction of reform is a radical new structure centred around the specific needs of the individual.

  • Jobcentres should be completely overhauled. The employment services part should be mutualised and be allowed to compete with the private and voluntary sectors as well as other public bodies to provide specialist support for people looking to find work.
  • The remaining part of Jobcentre Plus should be expanded and rebranded as Citizen Support. It would effectively act as the primary and central hub for accessing government services, enabling advisers to identify an individual's specific barriers to work and suggest providers that could help meet that person's needs. The advisor would also show the success rate of each provider using comparison data to help the jobseeker make a more informed decision about which providers are most appropriate to help them.
  • Instead of the budget being allocated directly from central government to different providers as is currently the case, the money would be allocated to the individual claimant and then be funnelled to the provider of choice who is paid on the outcomes they achieve.
  • Unlike the current system, the provider of choice would act as an individual's 'caseholder' - a specific point of contact. That lead provider will then coordinate specialist support suited to that person's unique needs.

Guy Miscampbell, author of the report, said: "The way public services are currently structured means that often a jobseeker ends up being passed from pillar to post. This is confusing for the individual, creates barriers to help them into work and is expensive. Services have improved enormously, but there is still a lot more to do.

"What is needed is a radical overhaul of the system which puts the needs of the jobseeker first. The very word - jobcentre - comes with a stigma. Instead of attaching labels to people who are not in work we should reform the system to make it as easy as possible for individuals, who often have multiple problems, to work with an organisation that is best suited to helping them into work."

Responding to the report, Chris Goulden, head of poverty research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said: "Jobseekers often have a diverse, and complex, range of needs and circumstances. It's important for employment support to be attuned to these needs to give people their best chance of getting into sustainable, well-paid jobs that help them and their families out of poverty."

Source: Policy Exchange

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