The peer review was hosted by the UK Department for Work and Pensions and attended by government representatives and independent expert from seven other European countries, as well as representatives from international organisations.
People who move from an income support benefit to work do not always stay employed for long. The international literature indicates that former welfare recipients:
- often struggle to retain employment,
- cycle between short-term jobs and welfare and
- can remain in low-paid situations for extended periods.
An important goal of employment policy is to assist people who have had lengthy spells of income support to return to work, remain employed and improve their skills and incomes over time.
In recent years there have been experiments in employment retention and advancement services targeted directly at ex-welfare and low-income groups in work. Most of the initiatives that were targeted at employed people no longer receiving any benefits did not have an impact, largely due to difficulties in maintaining contact with these clients. However, for employment services targeted at people in work, but still entitled to a partial benefit payment, positive impacts were found when:
- it was delivered before entry to work but encouraged jobseekers to apply for stable jobs, and
- when it was based on voluntary participation but in association with financial work initiatives.
Increasingly, there is also a notion that the present “work first” approach may be contributing to a labour market that acts against progression and productivity.
To tackle the obstacles to progression effectively, more work needs to be done to identify the factors which are holding back individuals. To do that we need to understand more about what characteristics are associated with higher and lower progression and whether progression is achieved through promotion or job-to-job moves. We also need to gain a better understanding of the role of employers in progression.
With this knowledge we can target interventions appropriately:
- providing more flexible support for (mostly female) carers and childcare or
- supporting firms to invest in new technology and training for their staff.