Full Employment

Learning and Work Institute think everyone should have the opportunity to find work, stay in work and build their careers - and receive effective support to do so


The Government aims for Britain to have the highest employment rate of any of the world's leading economies, but in our view full employment also means:

  • minimising long-term worklessness;
  • reducing employment gaps between disadvantaged groups and the rest of the population; and
  • ensuring that young people effectively transition from education into work

There is a considerable way to go. The employment rates for disabled people, for example, are currently 33 percentage points lower than those for non-disabled people, and this gap has remained stubbornly wide over the last two decades. Our Youth Jobs Index published last month also showed that while NEET rates are falling, 17% of 16 to 24 year olds spend at least 6 months out of education, employment or training (NEET) and 10% spend at least 12 months NEET.

Our Policy Asks

Learning and Work Institute argue that more needs to be done to ensure that everyone is able to access effective support to find and sustain work.

In particular, we advocate further action in three key areas:

(Please click an area to see more about our policy asks)

Increasing employment for people with health problems and disabilities. Nine in ten Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants are not currently accessing employment support and further action and support is needed to increase the numbers doing so. Employment support, such as the Work and Health Programme, needs to be adequately resourced with a structured approach to innovation to establish what works. Programmes should also have clear service standards and focus on sustained employment and earnings outcomes for their customers. We recently published a policy solution around this work.
Building the role of Jobcentre Plus. The roll out of Universal Credit provides an opportunity to re-envision the role of Jobcentre Plus. It needs to operate flexibly and collaboratively in a range of partnerships to support customers with a wider range of needs, underpinned by performance measures that reflect employment and earnings, access to benefits, and digital and financial inclusion. See our evidence to the Work and Pensions Enquiry.
Partnerships and devolution where this will improve outcomes. Effective local integration and alignment of services is crucial to successfully supporting people further from work with complex needs. The Government needs to set a clear national framework for Local Labour Market Agreements, setting out accountabilities, responsibilities, outcomes and resourcing, underpinned by clear national standards. This should also be underpinned by Invest to Save principles: using the savings from future benefit payments to adequately fund back-to-work services. See our Local People, Local Growth policy solution.

Our Work

Our work in this area focuses on understanding employment challenges; evaluating existing support and provision; and advising on policy and practice solutions. Our key themes are (please click on the link for more details):

Employment opportunities for people with health conditions and disabilities

We are evaluating a number of high-profile initiatives designed to improve employment support for people with disabilities and health conditions.  This includes:

  • the impact assessment for Working Well in Greater Manchester,
  • the evaluation of Working Capital in Central London and
  • the evaluation of the Solent Jobs Programme

Each of these comprise innovative ways of delivering support to long-term ESA claimants, designed and developed by local partners as part of devolution deals with central government.  We are also evaluating a DWP trial of different ways of delivering support to ESA WRAG claimants with an 18-24 month prognosis.

We have recently worked with the Local London partnership, providing advice on the commissioning of employment support for people with health conditions or long-term unemployed, and are currently working with Brighton and Hove City Council to make recommendations on increasing employment opportunities for disabled people.

Read our Fit for Purpose report, a project supported by 26 organisations that deliver employment services and support to disabled people, which set out a range of recommendations for how employment support could be improved for people with health conditions and impairments.

Young people and the transition from education to work

A key area of our work is youth labour markets and improving the transition from education to employment for young people.  We are evaluating a number of innovative pilots, including:

  • MyGo, the UK’s first dedicated youth employment centre, bringing together Jobcentre Plus, careers services and personalised employment support, as part of the Greater Ipswich City Deal;
  • the Liverpool Youth Employment Gateway (YEG), providing additional personalised support to young claimants across the Liverpool City Region; and
  • the Greater London Authority’s Youth Programme, focused on supporting young people with learning difficulties and disabilities; young offenders; and young people excluded from school.  Read our interim report from the evaluation

In May 2016, we published our research for Impetus PEF’s Youth Jobs index, an annual series of reports assessing the state of the school-to-work transition for disadvantaged young people.

We are also finalising our research for Warwickshire County Council, showcasing local authorities that have put in place successful youth transition partnerships.

Long-term unemployed people living in social housing

We are engaged in ongoing work to develop and test a model of employment support for the most disadvantaged social housing tenants, modelled on the Jobs-Plus programme, which was tested and shown to have positive impacts in the US.

We carried out design work for a Jobs-Plus programme in London for the Greater London Authority last year, and are now working with the Give Us A Chance (GUAC) consortium of housing associations to take forward a Jobs-Plus model for testing across the UK.

Read our report on Worklessness, welfare and social housing, an analysis for the National Housing Federation of the nature and characteristics of people out of work in social housing, and ‘what works’ in supporting them into employment.

The design of employment support and the effects of conditionality

We have a number of projects looking at the design of different elements of employment support.

Our On the Right Track project is drawing together evidence, as well as data and practice from the welfare-to-work industry, to investigate ‘what works’ in the design and delivery of assessment tools, in order to support frontline advisers in making decisions on access to appropriate support.

We are also evaluating a number of pilots that alter elements of conditionality, i.e. the obligations that must be fulfilled by job seekers in order to receive benefits.  This includes:

  • the Supervised Jobsearch Pilots, which tested the impact of a prolonged period of supervised job search activity for pre and post-Work Programme claimants;
  • the Welsh Government’s Skills Conditionality Pilot, which aimed to assess the labour market effects of mandating participation in essential skills training; and
  • the JSA Early Warning Sanctions trial, which provides a new ‘early warning system’ to give claimants about to be sanctioned an extra opportunity to provide evidence of good reason for not meeting their conditionality requirements.

We also recently completed an evidence review for the Scottish Government focusing on key parameters of employment programme design.  This will provide a resource for the Scottish Government and its stakeholders in designing the devolved successor to the Work Programme.

Welfare reform and changes to benefits

We have undertaken a number of studies of welfare reform.  For example we have investigated the impacts of welfare reform on individuals and communities, and made proposals for how services and support could be delivered to mitigate these impacts, for both the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Brighton and Hove City Council.

Currently we are working on a programme of research for the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor and evaluate trials of the Local Support Services Framework (LSSF), which is testing key elements of local authorities’ role in the provision of support services under Universal Credit.  The elements of support being trialled include:

  • triage - to identify vulnerability and claimants with complex needs;
  • digital inclusion;
  • financial inclusion;
  • finance models; and
  • partnership working.

Our evaluation of the Universal Support delivered locally trials, which sought to test new ways of identifying, engaging and supporting claimants with transitional budgeting or digital support needs under Universal Credit, will be published imminently.  We are now conducting research on the operation of the Incentive Driven Payment trials for UC full service and the implementation of the Post Office Card Account trial in South London.  The research will report on the effectiveness of the payment model, how claimants have experienced the journey through UC and to what extent UC policy outcomes are being achieved.


Kathryn Ray

Want to know more?

To find out more about any of the work mentioned on this page, or to join one of our networks, please contact:

Kathryn Ray, Head of Full Employment

Email: kathryn.ray@learningandwork.org.uk