Extending the Future Jobs Fund
The Future Jobs Fund is to be extended to all long-term unemployed people, and there is to be extra support to help disabled people into jobs.
This welcome advance – which reflects intensive lobbying by the TUC and many others – was announced late this afternoon when the Department for Work and Pensions published Building Bridges to Work.
Building Bridges to Work sets out the government’s future employment policy and moves on from the hints in Budget 2010 to flesh out the extra support that the government is able to offer unemployed people, using the savings from lower than expected unemployment.
The key feature of the report is the announcement that, from April 2011, there will be a new Jobseekers Guarantee for everyone who reaches two years on JSA without getting a job. Beginning with “intensive caseworker support” the new initiative will guarantee claimants access to:
- The Future Jobs Fund (currently only offered to young people unemployed over 6 months and older people in unemployment ‘hotspots’)
- Work experience
Only those who turn down these options will be referred to a mandatory work experience course. This marks a welcome move away from the ‘workfare’ approach of the Work For Your Benefits pilots; it is also a sharp contrast with Conservative plans for a ‘Work Programme’ that would move all long-term unemployed people onto workfare.
Building Bridges to Work also announces that the government will be “sharply expanding” the budget for the highly successful Access to Work programme for disabled people, though it isn’t entirely clear whether this is in addition to the plan (already announced) to double the budget by 2013-14.
It also looks as though Future Jobs Fund jobs are going to be opened up to some Employment and Support Allowance claimants, with the document promising that the government will:
“go a step further by making the Future Jobs Fund available in areas with high levels of long-term dependency on incapacity benefits, which blights some of the country’s most disadvantaged areas. This will ensure that bidders can target areas that have a higher prevalence of long-term worklessness, providing much needed help to people who are furthest away from the labour market, including those with learning disabilities and severe mental health conditions.”
In addition today’s document announces that the Pathways to Work programme for ESA claimants will be replaced by a “more personalised” approach. Unfortunately Pathways to Work has not been as successful as the pilot programmes, but it is important that total spending on employment support for disabled people should not be cut: during a recession there is always a temptation to cut support for groups that are harder to help, to concentrate on people who are easier to help.