From education to employment

Spring ‘Back to Work’ Budget 2023: What Has Been Announced?

spring budget

Returnerships, Skills Bootcamps and AI… Keep up to date with the latest developments for the FE Eco-System!

Spring has sprung, which means it is now time for the Chancellor’s spring statement!

This year’s Spring Statement is billed as the Back to Work budget . Over the weekend we had a few Treasury ‘teasers’ as to what could be announced in the budget.

From help with childcare costs for those on Universal Credit, to helping the economically inactive back into work, more on Skills Bootcamps and for over 50’s there was the mention of Returnerships that offer Skills Training that focuses on flexibility and takes previous experience into account, shortening the length of time someone will have to be in training. There was also a mention of Health and Disability White Paper that will be published on the day of the Budget outlining plans to scrap the Work Capability Assessment.

With a Spring Statement / Budget, nothing is actually in, until it is announced by the Chancellor from the dispatch box. So, let’s dive in and see what’s in store!

Check out this tweet from Tom Bewick which discusses some powerful statistics ahead of the impending Back to Work Budget:

Spring Statement and the Back to Work Budget announcements:

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt explains that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now thinks that the country will not enter a technical recession this year. The Chancellor explained he is striving for Prosperity with a purpose. Removing obstacles that stop employers investing and removing barriers that stop them recruiting.

There is a £10 Million fund over the next two years for the voluntary sector for the prevention of suicide, alongside a further £100 Million for the third sector to help hard to reach people and families. Northern Ireland: £40M to promote uptake of Further and Higher Education.

The Manchester Prize to encourage more AI innovation

The Chancellor explained that innovation in AI is to be targeted with an AI Sandbox to market and development of a Quantum Strategy with a £2.5B 2033 Quantum fund.

There will also be a new Manchester Prize of £1 Million to a person who team who develop the most ground breaking research in Artificial Intelligence. This is going to be called the Manchester Prize as a nod to the Manchester Baby or the first computer that was developed in Manchester.

Removing barriers to work

The Chancellor explained that he wanted to remove barriers to work, with two million inactive due to sickness or disability and over two million more disabled people out of work from 2013. This prompted the launch of a White Paper in Disability reform to help people back into work.

Jeremy Hunt also gave a mention to a programme suggested by the Centre for Social Justice called Universal Support, which is a new voluntary scheme of £4,000 per individual to help 50,000 people each year.

Over 50’s and Returnerships

There is economic inactivity in over 50’s of 3.5M of pre-retirement age, which is an increase of 320,000 – now the 23rd highest inactivity rate in OECD. The Chancellor explained that as a 56-year-old, he understands that older people are a wealth of talent and ability.

So there be an increase in DWP Mid Life MOT strategy, up from 8,000 to 40,000 per year. Skills bootcamps will be expanded by 8,000 places per year in 2024-25, up from 56,000 currently, reskilling people in important sectors such as construction and technology.

Returnerships will offer skills training that focuses on flexibility and takes previous experience into account, shortening the length of time they have to be in training. The Chancellor said Returnerships would be similar to Apprenticeships and would be alongside Bootcamps and have greater flexibilities and focus on taking into account previous experience.

What are Returnerships?

Returnerships are a new offer targeted at the over 50s, which bring together the government’s existing skills programmes, focusing on flexibility and previous experience to reduce training length. Returnerships will promote accelerated apprenticeships, Sector-Based Work Academy Programme placements and Skills Bootcamps to the over 50s.

This will support better access to re-training and allow workers of all ages to engage with the opportunities of a second career. This will be supported by £63 million for an additional 8,000 Skills Bootcamps places in 2024-25 in England, and 40,000 new Sector-Based Work Academy Programme placements across 2023-24 and 2024-25 in England and Scotland.

Universal Credit claimants

The Chancellor announced that they will be increasing work coach support and work search requirements for many Universal Credit (UC) claimants in order to move more people into work and onto higher earnings. In Particular:

  • Increasing the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET): the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET), the minimum amount a person can earn without being asked to meet regularly with their Work Coach, will be increased from the equivalent of 15 to 18 hours of earnings at the National Living Wage for an individual claimant. The couples AET, where a second member of a household may not be asked to look for work if their partner is working, will be removed entirely. These changes are expected to require over 100,000 additional claimants to meet more regularly with a Work Coach and take active steps to move into work or increase their earnings.
  • Expanding work search requirements: these changes are expected to encourage over 700,000 lead carers of children on Universal Credit to look for work or increase their hours and will receive additional Work Coach support to do so. Previously they would have had only limited requirements, or no requirements at all.
  • Strengthening the application of the Universal Credit sanctions regime: this includes additional training for Jobcentre Work Coaches to ensure they are applying sanctions effectively, including for claimants who do not look for or take up employment, and automating administrative elements of the sanctions process, including sending automated messages to claimants who fail to meet with their Work Coach, to reduce error rates and free up Work Coach time.
  • Extending the Youth Offer until 2028: this will maintain support to look for work for young people who are not in education, employment or training and therefore at greater risk of labour market scarring. We will also expand eligibility for the Youth Offer to support young people on UC who are not currently searching for work, including young parents and carers.
  • Expanding the Additional Jobcentre Support Pilot: the pilot, which is taking place in Jobcentres in England and Scotland, will test how intensive support for a period of two weeks can further support claimants, who remain unemployed after 13 and 26 weeks into their Universal Credit claim or on low earnings, into work. As part of this pilot, the government will also trial a scheme that rewards Jobcentre teams for meeting stretching targets for helping claimants into work.

Employability Support for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions

The Chancellor announced more details on supporting more people into work, such as those with disabilities or long term health conditions, particularly focussing on closing the disability employment gap, the difference between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people, which at 29.8 percentage points in 2022 is now at its widest point since 2018.

The Government are also introducing measures to further help those who are not working due to long-term sickness but want to, with a focus on cardiovascular disease, mental health and musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions as the leading causes.

  • The Health and Disability White Paper sets out the government’s plans to reform the welfare system and make it better meet the needs of disabled people in Great Britain. This includes removing the Work Capability Assessment (meaning claimants will now only have to do one health assessment rather than two) and supporting claimants to try work without fear of losing their financial support.
  • WorkWell Partnerships: we will pilot a new model in England for delivering integrated work and health support in local areas, linking JobCentres, health services and other local organisations to provide wraparound health support for jobseekers, benefits claimants and those at risk of falling out of work because of their health condition.
  • Universal Support programme: this will match disabled and sick people in England and Wales who want to work with existing job vacancies, and ensure they are supported to succeed.
  • Additional Work Coach time: this measure provides new funding to expand an existing programme that provides tailored Work Coach support to help disabled people find suitable work. This includes voluntary Work Coach support for individuals who have been found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity and do not currently see Work Coaches.
  • Employment support in health services: we are expanding the well-established and successful Individual Placement and Support scheme in England, which supports people with severe mental illness into employment. We are also introducing employment advisors in MSK services in England, helping individuals with MSK conditions to return to or remain in employment.
  • Scaling up Musculoskeletal (MSK) hubs: we will turn community hubs and leisure centres into MSK hubs which deliver evidence-based support for MSK conditions in England so more people can access treatment.
  • Expanding digital health resources: we are using digitisation to support management of long-term health conditions by: digitising the NHS Health Check to identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease; and introducing world-leading free access for digital resources for management of mental health and MSK conditions on the NHS website and NHS app, so that more people can easily and quickly access the support that is right for them.
  • Occupational health: we will expand the funding for the forthcoming small and medium-sized enterprise subsidy pilot for occupational health services and bring forward two new consultations on how best to increase occupational health across UK employers, covering potential regulatory options and tax incentives.

Employability support and Employing older workers

Older workers will be supported to work for longer and to return to work via the following changes:

  • Lifetime Allowance and Annual Allowance pension changes: currently, there are limits placed on the total tax-relieved pension savings an individual can make each year and over their lifetime. To incentivise highly skilled individuals such as NHS clinicians to remain in the labour market by reducing the risk of incurring significant pension tax charges, the government will raise the Annual Allowance, the annual limit on tax-relieved pension savings, from £40,000 to £60,000 from April 2023. This will mean that around 80% of NHS doctors will no longer face an unexpected tax charge, with respect to any accruals under the 2015 career-average NHS pension scheme.[1] The government will also remove the Lifetime Allowance charge, the maximum amount of tax-relieved pension savings an individual can have, before completely abolishing it in a future Finance Bill.
  • Increasing the Money Purchase Annual Allowance: once an individual flexibly accesses their defined contribution pension savings, the total tax-relieved pension savings they can make each year is restricted to the level of the Money Purchase Annual Allowance. To support those who have left the labour market to return and supplement their income or build up their retirement savings, the government will also increase the Money Purchase Annual Allowance from £4,000 to £10,000.
  • Enhanced midlife MOT: we are providing an enhanced digital midlife MOT offer and expanding the Job Centre Plus midlife MOT offer, which provides in-person financial planning and awareness session for UC claimants aged over 50.

More Education and Skills Announcements in the budget:

  • Skills Bootcamps: providing £34.4m funding for an additional 8,000 Skills Bootcamps placements in 24-25. This will provide opportunities for people to reskill in high value sectors such as construction and digital.
  • Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAPs): we are significantly expanding the number of placements for SWAPs by 40,000 over 23/24 and 24/25 with £28.8m new funding. This will provide those who are currently out of work with the training and work experience they need to get careers in high-demand sectors.

Employment support for Ukrainians: In an extension of the government’s support for Ukrainians fleeing the war who have arrived in the UK under the Ukraine Visa.

Changes to Universal Credit and Childcare will include:

  • Paying parents on Universal Credit childcare support up-front when they are moving into work or increasing their hours, rather than in arrears meaning low-income families will find it easier to afford and it will help remove a barrier that many face when thinking about going back to work.
  • Increasing the maximum amount parents on Universal Credit can receive in childcare support by several hundred pounds, making childcare more affordable for thousands of parents.
  • Alongside these changes, strengthened work search requirements are expected to encourage over 700,000 lead carers of children on Universal Credit to look for work or increase their hours and will receive additional Work Coach support to do so. Previously they would have had only limited requirements, or no requirements at all.
  • The Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET), the minimum amount a person can earn without being asked to meet regularly with their Work Coach, will be increased from the equivalent of 15 to 18 hours of earnings at the National Living Wage for an individual claimant. The couples AET, where a second member of a household may not be asked to look for work if their partner is working, will be removed entirely. This is expected to ask over 100,000 additional claimants to meet more regularly with a Work Coach and take active steps to move into work or increase their earnings.
  • Strengthening the application of the Universal Credit sanctions regime. This includes additional training for Jobcentre Work Coaches to ensure they are applying sanctions effectively, including for claimants who do not look for or take up employment, and automating administrative elements of the sanctions process, including sending automated messages to claimants who fail to meet with their Work Coach, to reduce error rates and free up Work Coach time.

Sector Response

Kate Shoesmith, Deputy Chief Executive of REC, said:

“The danger that labour and skills shortages could cost the UK economy up to £39 billion per year from 2024 – around the same as two Elizabeth lines – looks to have focussed minds in government ahead of this Budget.

“Moves towards a childcare system that help low- and middle-income parents and guardians get into and progress in work are long overdue and very welcome. With the number of new jobs adverts last month at a 14-month high, we need more of this kind of labour market activation support. The upfront payment for childcare for those on universal credit will certainly help.

“Reform to pensions tax will help a number of people but the winners from this reform are not the only group that need urgent help.

“This tight labour market isn’t going away and demand for staff has continued through the first quarter of 2023. Offering flexible skills training, by reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, is long overdue.

“Students preparing for the exam season face uncertainty about the future jobs market. The government needs to better equip them for the skills that are critical to our future, such as in green jobs and a green economic recovery.

“Many businesses want an immigration system that flexes to the needs of the economy. It is worth reflecting that people seeking refugee status are banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim. This is despite polling last year found that 81% of the public support the right to work for people seeking asylum in the UK.

“The announcements today go some way towards considering how we overcome labour shortages – but it needs to be at the very heart of the government’s growth strategy. And business must respond by putting people and staffing issues at the top of their agenda.”

Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:

“We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to investment zones in the Spring Budget and are optimistic about the pivotal role universities can play in supporting the government’s plans for economic growth in the country. Our universities are leading the way in supporting and working with SMEs across the country giving local businesses access to state-of-the-art facilities and support and skills, to grow and innovate, for example through University Enterprise Zones. This much needed investment will aid in deepening local ties between universities, SMEs, and support the upskilling of people in local communities. Universities UK (UUK) is keen to work with government on implementing its plans for investment zones around higher education institutions and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

“Through building collaborative hubs for skills development, universities can reach out to left behind areas and create opportunities and jobs for local people which supports the government’s levelling up agenda. Although this announcement is a step in the right direction, we continue to urge the government to further develop initiatives such as degree apprenticeships and the lifelong loan entitlement as we will need the skilled graduates to maximise the economic impact of the investment zones.”

Anthony Painter, the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) Policy Director, said:

“Supporting over-50s back to work, where possible, will be critical to plugging our chronic skills gap, returning to pre-pandemic employment levels, and building an economy which works for all generations. The ‘returnships’ are an important first step.

“The Chancellor must prioritise the skills our economy needs, including basic digital skills, the skills needed to succeed in the emerging green economy, and crucially, management and leadership skills. With one in three job postings directly related to leadership, we must couple older workers’ experience with the hard management skills needed to boost Britain’s productivity.

“The success of the approach will rely on managers changing their attitudes toward hiring older workers. Our research shows that just four out of 10 (41%) of managers are open to hiring people aged between 50 and 64 ‘to a large extent.’ We need businesses to shake off this stigma and embrace the opportunity to bring in a new wealth of talent.

“So the CMI is calling on the UK Government to introduce a ‘Help to Hire’ initiative to help small businesses recruit over-50s. Similar to the Government’s existing Help to Grow: Management scheme, the programme would subsidise leaders in small firms to undertake an intensive course covering everything from adopting digital technology to sourcing new potential markets. A ‘Help to Hire’ scheme would complement the newly-announced returnships for older workers.” 

Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, said:

On childcare provision:

“The Chancellor’s plans to extend free childcare support to parents with children aged one and two by 2025 are welcome, as are changes to Universal Credit to fund access to childcare support upfront.

“However, working parents and the childcare sector are already under immense pressure. With inflation in 2023 still in double digits, the reality is these measures will do little in the short-term to enable parents to return to work this year.

“This is particularly crucial for women. Work Foundation research has found mothers of young children were nearly three times more likely than fathers to experience severely insecure work, in large part due to unaffordable and inaccessible childcare forcing working mothers to make trade-offs that impact their working lives.

“And it remains to be seen whether the additional funding and flexibility for the sector will be enough to spur sufficient supply by 2025. We need to see a comprehensive childcare workforce and investment strategy, if the Chancellor’s ambitions are to be met.”

On further Universal Credit sanctions:

“The Chancellor’s decision to introduce further punitive sanctions into the UK’s welfare system is highly likely to backfire, with some of the most vulnerable households in the country paying the price.

“The UK welfare system is already damagingly punitive – of the 1.4 million people in the ‘Searching for Work’ Group of Universal Credit, one in twelve are already living under sanction.

“Yet there is little to no evidence that tougher sanctions for those out of work or working part-time is effective. Indeed, the evidence which does exist suggests the new sanctions announced today are highly likely to be counter-productive and harmful to many already struggling with the cost of living crisis.

“Before introducing any further welfare sanctions the Government should follow the instruction of the Information Commissioner and publish its own long overdue review into whether such measures are effective in encouraging people back in to sustained employment.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Today we heard the Chancellor announce £11 billion for defence and not a penny to address the teacher recruitment and retention crisis affecting our schools and colleges, or resolve the associated industrial action that is taking place as the Chancellor was speaking. The government appears to be inhabiting a parallel universe in which it seems utterly complacent about the pressure on schools, colleges and many other public services.

“Most schools and colleges are experiencing severe teacher shortages as a result of real-terms pay cuts since 2010 and increasing workload pressures.

“Postgraduate teacher recruitment is a disaster with the Department for Education missing its target for secondary teachers by 41% in 2022/23. The overall target for postgraduate teacher recruitment has been achieved only once since 2015/16 and this was during the abnormal circumstance of the Covid pandemic in 2020/21. Nearly one-third of teachers leave teaching within five years of qualifying and 40% within 10 years.

“Teachers are the lifeblood of the education system. What will it take for the government to take action to improve recruitment and retention?

“We welcome the additional investment in childcare announced in today’s Budget and will now look closely at the detail. We would urge the Department for Education to also look into how it supports high-quality educational provision as part of this commitment as this is key to closing attainment gaps between rich and poor.”

Professor Becky Francis CBE, Chief Executive of the EEF, said:

“The Chancellor has – quite rightly – recognised that parents are facing an affordability crisis when it comes to childcare. It will be welcome news to many that the 30 hours entitlement will be expanded to include one- and two-year-olds.

“Alongside affordability, we must also recognise that high-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make to promote positive outcomes later in life, particularly for children from socio-economically disadvantaged families.

“To do this, it’s crucial that early years settings are well-funded and have access the support and resources they need, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas. What’s more, any expansion to free early years care has to maintain a focus on the most disadvantaged children and make sure they have access to great early learning and development opportunities. Otherwise, there is a risk that we widen inequalities between disadvantaged children and their peers.

“Getting early education right – by recognising the important role that early years settings play in shaping outcomes, and making sure that the most disadvantaged children can access it – has huge potential for reducing education inequality.”

Tony Wilson, Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, said:

“There is a lot to welcome in today’s Budget and participation review. We called for investment and reform in how we support people who are out of work and to reduce the costs of work, and in both these areas the government has announced major and positive changes.  New ‘WorkWell Partnerships’ and a ‘Universal Support programme’ for those with health needs, reforms to childcare support and help for older people are all welcome reforms that could help to raise participation in work and reduce inequalities. The challenge now for government will be to take this forward at pace and in partnership.”

“However, we also called for a more coherent and joined up approach to how we work with employers and what we expect from them in return, and sadly the participation review has been all but silent on this. We need a much better approach to how we help employers to fill their jobs and make work better, but also to take forward the protections promised in the all-but-abandoned Employment Bill – in particular for insecure workers, pregnant women and those seeking more flexible work. So today feels like a missed opportunity to make work better, more secure and more rewarding.”

IPPR North Director Zoë Billingham said:

“Regional growth is key to national growth – and the chancellor hinted he understands this in today’s Budget, though fell short of truly ambitious action to shift the dial on regional inequality.

“The historic trailblazer devolution deals in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and an intention that others will follow are a huge step forward in empowering local leaders and communities. Through these, the chancellor could set the country on a path to an upgraded form of English devolution to unleash the potential of their areas.

“12 re-shaped investment zones are an improvement on their predecessors, but Canary Wharf is a strange model for the chancellor to point to because Tower Hamlets, where Canary Wharf is based, has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK. We need a better model than that. What’s more, it was supported by major transport and infrastructure investment – something denied to the North.

“Four years on from the promise of levelling up, with an election looming, today’s Budget was the government’s last chance to go big on regional inequality. As inequalities widen and key promises like investment in rail in the North remain broken, today’s announcements are but a shuffle forward. To speed up levelling up, we now need promises kept and ambitions to close inequalities raised even further.”

Andy Cook, Chief Executive at the Centre for Social Justice, said:

“Britain faces an epidemic of economic inactivity. CSJ research indicates that some 700,000 people are languishing on sickness benefits but would like to work. The post-Covid explosion in working-age welfare is costing the country a staggering £13 billion extra per annum. Even worse, it is a huge a waste of potential.

“Many of these people are suffering from a variety of physical and mental health problems that hold them back from seeking a job.

“Universal Support – the long forgotten “sister” to Universal Credit – was specifically designed to help those in this group who want to work get back into the workforce. The CSJ has long campaigned for the roll out of Universal Support and we are delighted that the Chancellor has now taken decisive action to begin that process. Delivered properly, Universal Support will help hundreds of thousands more people reap the financial, social and health benefits of work.”

“With CSJ calls to boost childcare support in Universal Credit also adopted, the Chancellor’s ‘back to work Budget’ certainly packs a punch.”

David Hughes, the Association of Colleges chief executive said:

“Once again college leaders will be rightly dismayed that the sector has been overlooked by the Chancellor and are wondering why Jeremy Hunt continues to ignore the central role colleges play in delivering the enterprising, highly skilled, high-growth country he wants to see. 

“While it is right that the early years sector will get a £288m uplift by 2023-24, it is plainly wrong that colleges get nothing. I wrote to the Education Secretary last month with a modest ask for £400m in urgent funding to support colleges to be able to pay their heating bills and to pay fair and competitive salaries to college teachers and support staff, the same need as in early years settings.

“With no funding forthcoming from Government, colleges will be eyeing their budgets and working out how to make ends meet without shutting courses or campuses which are still needed but no longer affordable. All these decisions mean that Mr Hunt’s four Es are doomed to failure.

“Colleges give people the skills they need to do the jobs our labour market is crying out for. Mr Hunt paints a picture of a bright future full of technological achievement but without skilled people getting the education and training they need now, and in the future, it will remain a fantasy. Why give tax relief for businesses to buy new technology without supporting people to get the skills they need to operate it?

“We are left hoping that Sir Michael Barber has recognised – in his work advising the Chancellor and the Education Secretary – this country cannot continue to have a world-class technical education and skills system without properly funding it. The past 12 years have witnessed a decimation in funding for education and skills for 16 to 18-year-olds and adults. There are now insufficient places available and those which remain are inadequately funded. Unless and until this is rectified, employers will continue to find it impossible to recruit the skilled people they need. “Further devolution in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester is a positive step to help them join up services but their ability to make a difference will be constrained by available funds. On a rare positive note, it is good to see that £11.5m has been set aside to support 10,000 Ukrainian nationals to access intensive English language courses and employment support, which colleges will play an important role in delivering.”

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Chancellor spoke about a high-wage and high-skills economy but did nothing to deliver it. The UK is still in the longest pay squeeze for more than 200 years. And our public services are still run-down and understaffed.

“There is no plan to get wages rising across the economy. Real wages will not return to 2008 levels until 2026. And the elephant in the room is the lack of funding for our public services and the pay rises needed to recruit and retain nurses, carers and teachers.

“We need a fully-funded workforce plan across our public services to recruit and retain key workers. And we need an investment plan to rebuild services – from fixing school buildings that are falling apart to restoring public health services.”

On proposals to expand free childcare provision, Paul said:

“The expansion of funded childcare is long overdue and follows years of union campaigning. But we are concerned that the funding promised today falls short of what’s needed.

“To fix childcare for good, childcare workers need better pay and conditions. Otherwise, it will be impossible to recruit and retain the staff needed. Ministers must boost pay in the sector and fund their promises properly, or families and staff will be badly let down.”

On the extension of the Energy Price Guarantee, Paul said:

“Families should never have faced a cliff-edge in their energy bills, so the extension of the guarantee will provide some relief. But millions of families will still face impossible choices following years of cuts to pay and social security that this budget did nothing to address.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“Investing in the education of this generation of children and young people, those hit so hard by Covid, is essential to economic recovery. Government, however, has turned its back on them.  There is a continued failure to make the investment in education that is needed.

“Schools still have lower real-terms per pupil funding than in 2010. This is an unprecedented squeeze on school finances. The Government have cut capital spending by £32.3bn since 2010, leaving schools in a state of disrepair with thousands in an extremely poor state.

“If we are to tackle the serious recruitment and retention problems and repair the damage to education, major changes are needed to the Government’s unjustified and dangerous austerity policies. Improving pay for ordinary people is not only essential to defending them against the impact of the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades – it is also essential to support spending power and economic growth. On today’s evidence, the Government clearly prefers austerity policies despite the damage they cause. 

“Teachers and support staff have suffered greatly from attacks on the public sector. Significant real-terms pay cuts since 2010 have directly contributed to the recruitment and retention crisis in education. Lower inflation tomorrow does nothing to repair the damage wreaked by rocketing inflation to date.

“The Government should be supporting and valuing our members for the vital job they do, but instead they undermine it. The Chancellor could raise huge amounts through fair wealth taxes, including equalising capital gains with income tax rates, and invest this in education for the good of the country as a whole. He chooses not to. These are political choices that will compound the damage to public services, including our education service. 

“The NEU’s demand for fully funded, above-inflation pay rises for teachers and support staff in schools and colleges is also supported by parents. They know that a Government which fails to invest properly in education also fails our young people and damages our economy. Today’s budget statement shows that this Government is ignoring the consequences of political choices it has made. The public will hold the Government to account for that damage. Gillian Keegan needs to start negotiating with us if we are to turn this ship around.

“Working parents in the UK face much higher childcare costs than families in Europe. Increasing affordability must not come at the expense of quality or the largely female childcare and early years workforce. The change to the cap for parents who are eligible for Universal Credit is a good step, which the NEU has recommended, but the sector overall has serious shortfalls in funding which undermine viability. We need the Government to fund all entitlements sufficiently, so parents do not have to pay high ‘top-up’ charges to cover costs.”

Rachelle Earwaker, Senior Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“The Chancellor has made some steps towards tackling some of the issues which have affected families on low incomes over recent years, but we have to be clear – the difficult years are far from over. It will take a much more fundamental shift for our economic and political system to provide the good jobs, social security system and homes that we all need.”

“Inflation may have stopped escalating, but with food prices rising at over 16 per cent this year and 2021-23 seeing the largest successive two year inflation increase since 1979-81, many families are seeing no evidence of the Chancellor’s reasons for optimism. Prices have not started to come down, nor does optimism offer comfort to the 7.2m families unable to afford essentials.

“The glaring omission from the speech of any action to tackle the housing crisis, despite the OBR forecasting a drop in housebuilding in the coming years and higher mortgage rates and soaring rents putting pressure on households, is short-sighted and means the Chancellor is ignoring a growing and serious economic challenge.” 

On participation in the labour market:

“This Budget has had a strong focus on boosting employment, and expanding free childcare to very young children and paying childcare costs up front for those on Universal Credit fixes some major problems for many working parents. To meet these aspirations it’s vital that the funding given will match the cost.

“More fundamental reform may be needed to make childcare affordable and available where it is needed, and many of those who have spent this winter making impossible choices between eating hot meals and heating their homes will be wondering if he has really done enough to give them a secure foundation.

“There are big problems with the Work Capability Assessment. It labels people, it doesn’t unlock support to access employment, and it’s not trusted by disabled people. So there are good reasons for change and we welcome proposals for universal support if it is designed in conjunction with those who will use it.

“But there are very concerning aspects in the plans set out today. Addressing these issues must not go hand in hand with an increase in sanctions, which we know are counter-productive, harmful to people’s finances and health, and drive people into destitution.

“To stand any chance of making a positive difference, any new approach to assessments must not lead to the erosion of financial support for disabled people and should be designed on the basis of enabling positive steps towards employment, in particular for the 2.2 million people not working with ill-health or a disability who say they would like to or expect to work again in the future.”

Simon Swan, CEO and founder of Hiring Hub, a recruitment marketplace, said:

“For too long, we’ve allowed spiralling childcare costs to stop parents – particularly mothers – from returning to work, with significant repercussions for businesses and our economy. It’s therefore a hugely welcome that the Chancellor has announced 30 hours of free childcare for one- and two-year-olds today.

“Speaking to businesses day-in-day-out, I see first-hand the recruitment challenges firms are currently facing. Widespread skills gaps are hampering entire industries and critical roles are being left empty for far too long; we cannot grow the economy without adequate people and skills.

“Until now, having a childcare system which effectively forced mainly women out of the workplace after maternity leave was an own goal in the Government’s skills policy and plan for economic recovery. Today’s announcement, while long overdue, will create a fairer system that supports parents in being able to return to work and will play an important role in battling the ongoing talent shortage.”

Ahmad Al Khatib, CEO of MarTech SaaS platform, Qudo:

“As a tech entrepreneur and founder of a London-based start-up, I was eagerly awaiting the 2023 Spring Budget announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today. However, I am disappointed not to see more measures announced to support the UK’s start-up and tech sectors, which is facing multiple challenges and uncertainties in the current climate.

“One of the biggest shocks for the tech industry was the collapse of SVB, one of the leading banks for start-ups and venture capital firms. This has created a sense of insecurity and distrust among many tech businesses and investors, who rely on SVB for their financial needs. The government and other banks need to step up their communication and reassurance efforts to restore confidence and stability in the system.

“Another major concern for me is the imminent closure of Tech Nation, a network that has been providing valuable resources and opportunities for ambitious tech entrepreneurs across the country for nearly a decade. Tech Nation has helped thousands of start-ups grow and scale their businesses, as well as showcase their potential on a global stage. Without Tech Nation’s support, many start-ups may struggle to access funding, talent, mentoring and markets.

“The tech sector is one of the most innovative and dynamic sectors in the UK economy, contributing over $1 trillion globally. It has also proven to be resilient and adaptable during the pandemic, creating solutions for various social and environmental problems. The government should recognise this potential and invest more in fostering a vibrant and diverse tech ecosystem.

“I believe that the government should also listen more to the voices and concerns of tech entrepreneurs and consumers, who are at the forefront of creating value and impact through technology. By engaging more with them, the government can better understand their needs and challenges, as well as their aspirations and visions for the future.

“I hope that future measures will reflect these points and demonstrate a greater commitment to supporting the UK’s tech sector in these difficult times.”

Jamie Anderson, Chief Revenue Officer, Emburse:

“The continuation of energy support schemes is the least the government can do, but it is still not enough when it comes to safeguarding the 78% of young people experiencing increased living costs, with many becoming increasingly isolated in attempts to make ends meet. With an excess of 8 million households affected by fuel poverty this year, the situation offers very little for those already living below the breadline. 

“Public finances continue to be fragile, and businesses must keep their foot on the peddle when it comes to valuable employee care. Emburse’s latest survey found almost half of young workers want a company-paid card for their expenses due to that cost of living. Leadership must listen and put meaningful policies in place that make a difference to worker’s lives. 

“Providing employees with company cards is also sensible given soaring cases of fraud, and businesses may be looking at millions of pounds of employee spend that shouldn’t be reimbursed due to poor spend management. Whilst businesses continue to brace against this economic maelstrom, internal errors can’t be overlooked, making it more important than ever for finance teams to gain access to deep-spend insights to future-proof and minimise wasteful spend. Leadership must assess and clearly communicate internal policies to ensure funds are allocated properly, to best service business needs and protect their workers.”

Mark Gray, UK Country Manager UK & Ireland, Universal Robots:

“Manufacturing in particular, is struggling from the effects of an ageing population, low levels of recruitment, and early retirement. This has resulted in a shrinking workforce and a skills gap. The UK needs to attract people back into this vital sector. One of the UK Government’s aims should be to give older workers a helping hand, by investing in collaborative automation.

“Roles in the manufacturing sector are typically manual and exert a lot of physical stress, curtailing the longevity of workers. Across multiple industries, automation and collaborative robotics can increase output and quality, enable flexible production and improve worker safety. These robots would work alongside people, not replace them, taking on the dull, dirty and dangerous work – allowing workers to focus on tasks better suited to their skills or experience.

“We need to do the same. The UK Government needs a better strategy for facilitating collaboration between workers and automation. This could be one vital route to encouraging older workers to re-join an industry desperately in need of their skills.”

Sarah Gilchriest, President of Circus Street, said: 

“The Budget makes it clear that the Government wants to get more people back into work and encourage people to retire later in life. While adjusting the tax on pensions will aid this goal, to make it truly achievable the UK has to completely revaluate its relationship with skills training. The reality is that many people in the workforce do not have the right skills to adapt to new technologies and ways of working. This has a direct impact on productivity, business resilience and innovation. This skills gap is even wider for many older people and those that have been out of the workforce for a number of years. 

“The announcement of ‘Returnships’ for older workers is welcome news but it must not repeat the mistakes of the Apprenticeship Levy which is currently heavily geared towards larger companies at the expense of SMEs – severely reducing its scope and impact. 

“Returnships and Apprenticeships are only small pieces of the puzzle. What we really need is a much more wide-ranging, long-term plan. Ideally, we need to bring the funding and reach of the Government, together with the needs of businesses, knowledge of academic institutions, and expertise of training specialists to create a national program that tackles every stage of an individual’s career. The top of the funnel issue needs to be addressed by getting more young people studying the right subject and skills before they enter the workforce. Those already working need to be equipped with the information and support to constantly upskill to adapt to new technology or reskill if their profession is becoming obsolete. 

“At the moment, there simply aren’t enough people with, for example, digital and data skills to enable British businesses to digitally transform and remain competitive on a global basis. The pandemic made it clear just how important these skills are to enable companies to quickly adapt to new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.  

“There are numerous pieces of research that show, without any ambiguity, the extraordinary return on investment skill training gives to businesses and the wider economy. The Government needs to view skills training as a necessity to transition the UK to a high-tech economy and fund it accordingly. For the price of an infrastructure project such as HS2 the UK could set up upskilling and reskilling academies for workers across the UK and provide every SMEs with a skills training budget. However, many businesses and people in Government still view skills training as a ‘nice to have’ or business perk. They do not understand that without continually modernising skills productivity will continue to fall and unemployment will rise as the skills gap holds back the economy.” 

Jonathan Moore, Education Consultant at SMART Technologies says:

“Jeremy Hunt’s announcement today of increased investment for services supporting children and parents is much welcome and much needed. In addition to the cost of living and energy bill support, it’s positive to see a reformed childcare scheme that better supports working parents and further investment in upskilling young people with special needs and disabilities.

“These investments will be vital in strengthening support for children, protecting student wellbeing and enhancing the UK’s education system. However, the sector remains in crisis and there is still little detail as to how the £2.3bn investment for this year will be spent, or how the government is reacting to teacher’s concerns. Teacher strikes are continuing throughout the UK, and the Government has not addressed these concerns in today’s budget. 

“Teachers are calling out for greater support – and not just in the form of salary rises, but also when it comes to resources, support staff and tools. We know teacher burnout is at an all time high, particularly in the SEN sector where teachers are truly at breaking point. Staff are calling out for their demands to be urgently addressed so they can provide excellent learning experiences for students, whilst also having the necessary tools and wellbeing support at hand.

“Investment in staff, technology, and tools that can ease workloads, and providing the necessary support will be crucial or we will only see burnout on the rise, more teachers leaving the profession, and the learning gap increasing as the disruption continues. 

“Education defines all our futures. Ultimately, failing to address the above will have huge impacts on students, teachers and broader school communities. and will only hinder the UK’s growth.”

Devolution deal support

GMColleges support the enhanced devolution deal announced by Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in today’s budget.  We look forward to working with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, the Combined Authority, and all partners to help turn the vision for an integrated skills and work system for the City Region into a reality.

Anna Dawe, Chair of GMColleges and Principal of Wigan & Leigh College, said

‘‘The new deal will build on the excellent partnerships in Greater Manchester and allow us to work together to further develop our quality technical education system, We will use this opportunity to build on our strong relationship with employers to create a highly skilled workforce with a curriculum that meets the need for the rapidly changing world of work. By working together we can ensure that all residents can access the learning they need to gain the skills required to take advantage of economic opportunities available within Greater Manchester and further afield’’.

High-quality skills vital to delivering Budget ambitions, says WorldSkills UK

Commenting on the Budget today (Wednesday), WorldSkills UK said high-quality skills would be vital in delivering on the Chancellor’s ambition for the UK to become a “science and tech superpower”, as well as his plans for growth and securing more inward investment.

WorldSkills UK CEO Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE said:

“The Chancellor’s ambitions to make us a science and tech superpower and lead the way in new industries are to be applauded. As the international arm of the UK skills systems, WorldSkills UK will use our unique knowledge of global best practice to raise training standards in new tech skills across the UK to meet rapidly changing economic needs.

“To truly unlock the potential of the workforce and deliver on the levelling up agenda, we will work with partners across the UK to deliver a high-quality skills base to help secure more inward investment to create jobs and drive growth in all our regions and nations.”

Dr Kerris Cooper, Senior Researcher at the Education Policy Institute, said:

“The Chancellor’s expansion of free childcare provision, to include 9-month-olds to 2-year-olds, as well as increasing the amount parents on universal credit can claim for childcare services, and making this available up front, will make childcare more affordable for working families, which is particularly important in the context of a cost-of-living crisis.  However, this targeted focus on working families leaves many disadvantaged children, who would likely benefit the
most from high quality early education, behind. Our own research has shown that around 40% of the GCSE attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is established by age 5. If we want to address these inequalities there needs to be a well-funded, high-quality offer for disadvantaged young children too, so that they are not left further behind as working families gain greater access to early education.

“The quality of early years provision must remain a priority for policymakers. We welcome the increase to the funding rate for free entitlement hours, it is vital that the funding government provides is adequate and does not leave providers having to continue to make up any shortfall in funding. Especially with the introduction of additional free entitlement hours, any funding shortfall risks worsening the staffing crisis the early years sector is currently facing, further undermining quality provision for children.

“While expanding free childcare provision and better supporting those claiming universal credit are positive developments that will benefit families, unintended consequences could result from increasing child: staff ratios. Increasing the number of children under supervision per staff member seriously risks undermining the quality of care and provision within England’s early years system. The Department for Education’s own evidence shows that among two-year-olds in private nurseries, a lower child: staff ratio is the strongest predictor of overall quality of settings and quality
of staff-child interactions.  

“Furthermore, evidence from the childcare sector suggests increasing the number of children per early years’ staff may worsen the recruitment and retention crisis, as well as negatively impact safety and safeguarding. Importantly, the changes are also unlikely to lead to reduced cost for parents.”

Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at EngineeringUK, comments

“We welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to make the UK a science and technology superpower and the ambitions of growing the economy, meeting our Net Zero targets, and unlocking the potential of every region.  We also welcome the acknowledgement that to achieve this, businesses, including engineering and technology businesses, urgently need a larger skills and workforce base, now and in the future.”

“However, the measures on childcare as well as the focus on those over 50 will not, on their own, solve the wider skills and workforce shortages in the engineering and technology sector in the long-term. We urgently need greater investment in and focus on STEM education, STEM teachers, careers provision and vocational pathways for young people.”

“Our Fit for the Future Inquiry into engineering and technology apprenticeships will be reporting later this year and we hope to work closely with the Treasury to explore how they can support growth across the engineering profession.” 

On extra funding for charity Gideon Salutin, SMF Researcher said:

“The Government’s announcement of an additional £120 million for the charity sector is a step in the right direction. These organisations fill many gaps in government services, particularly in isolated communities. By committing to new funding, the Chancellor has acknowledged the vital benefits charities provide for Britain’s economy and society.

“However, not all charities are alike – while some bigger charities have done relatively well through the challenges of the past few years, small charities, which constitute 80% of the UK’s voluntary sector, face particular difficulties. Over the past fifteen years, they have lost 27% of their collective income. The Chancellor should therefore be targeting new funds to small and local charities who are most in need, and establishing a long term commitment to deliver funds to small charities every year.

“In a report to be published next month, SMF will suggest new policies that build on today’s announcement.

On adult education and ‘returnerships’, SMF researcher Niamh O Regan, said:

“As both life expectancy and the pension age go up, people are inevitably going to be a part of the workforce for longer. Supporting adults to stay in the workforce, either by transitioning to a new career or reskilling in their current role is essential.

“With the changing needs of the economy and a skills shortage in many sectors (particularly those relating to achieving net zero), it is welcome that more people will have access to the supports that will help them develop both existing and second careers for the long term and ensure that valuable skills and experience are not lost from the workforce.”

Jack Kennedy, UK Economist, Indeed:

“With UK childcare costs among the highest in the 28-nation OECD and accounting for nearly a third (29%) of a family’s income, many parents have been forced to reduce their hours or leave work altogether; as a result the Chancellor’s promise of free childcare to one and two-year-olds may be welcome news and a beacon of hope to get back to work.”

“However, policy makers also need to consider the pressures already facing the childcare industry. There are serious gaps in the childcare workforce and retaining talent has long been an issue. Data from Indeed has found that relative interest in childcare sector roles is down 16% pre-pandemic, with 27% of childcare postings classified as ‘hard to fill’ whereby postings are open for longer than 60 days. Without a long-term, viable solution to these challenges, it will be difficult for the pledge to get firing on all cylinders.”

“Solutions to this aspect of the inactivity conundrum lie in providing working parents with greater flexibility and autonomy. To encourage working parents back into the workforce, businesses and institutes should offer them the flexibility required to truly succeed in their careers while managing their childcare commitments alongside.”

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said:

“Today’s Budget sends a number of positive signals to help promote investment in the areas needed to drive economic growth.

“It’s encouraging to see the announcement of Investment Zones with universities at their heart, alongside a package of tax relief measures to promote R&D and capital investment. There are sizeable commitments to priority technologies and sectors, like AI, Quantum, Carbon Capture and Life Sciences.

“However, within the context of huge investments in the US, EU and China, the UK needs to go harder and faster on growth plans in credible areas of strength to establish a leadership position on the global stage.”

James Bowen, director of policy for school and nursery leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“NAHT has been calling for an increase to hourly funding rates for some time. Today we have seen the detail in the budget and whilst any additional funding is welcome given the current challenges settings are facing, frankly the money announced today is a fraction of what is needed. Our members are also questioning where they will find the additional staff needed for an extension of the current childcare offer. There is a real danger that this could backfire for the government if it is not properly funded.”

Signe Norberg, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Aldersgate Group, said:

“With the welcome news that the economy is forecast to grow, it is vital that the UK Government uses this opportunity to secure sustainable, long-term economic growth by ensuring the country can take advantage of the economic opportunity presented by the transition to net zero. This must include investment in renewable energy to bring down consumer bills, support wider industrial decarbonisation, and generate reliable, low carbon energy. Funding for carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and the extension of the Climate Change Agreement scheme are welcome in this regard, but these commitments need to be further underpinned by a wider policy response, which drives investment towards low carbon and nature solutions and decarbonises the UK power sector by 2035.”

Signe Norberg added: “The UK Government must capture the opportunity offered by the Net Zero Strategy refresh and the response to the independent review into net zero, to urgently tackle some of the policy barriers which remain in areas such as planning, grid infrastructure and land use. The UK will need an economy-wide industrial strategy which focuses on driving industrial decarbonisation and developing new green industries that will position it as a world leader. The forthcoming update to the Green Finance Strategy should also deliver on the UK’s commitment to an ambitious green taxonomy that unlocks private investment in low carbon technologies and services and provides businesses with the certainty and confidence they need to invest.”

Signe Norberg concluded: “To maximise these benefits, it is critical to secure a comprehensive approach to skills development. The introduction of a Returnership scheme can support these efforts, but must be supported by additional measures to embed climate and nature sustainability in the curriculum, and provide further support for the current and future workforce. Ultimately, the Budget commitments today must work hand-in-hand with policy measures across the Government to deliver on net zero and nature restoration.”

Tiger Recruitment’s David Morel:

“For many parents, childcare costs are a barrier that stands in the way of them going back to work. Therefore, the childcare reforms announced by The Chancellor designed to support working parents and reduce childcare costs for families by nearly 60% are hugely positive. Hunt’s plans to encourage more experienced workers to return to the workplace through returnships and skills boot camps are also a move in the right direction. Anything that expands the pool of skilled talent available to employers can only be a good thing.

“However, will these measures help fix the talent shortfall businesses are experiencing in the UK? They are a nudge in the right direction but not enough. I would like to see a focus on bringing skilled workers back to the UK. Measures accessible to all employers and free of red tape would make the single biggest difference to current talent shortages.”

Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS, said:

“Once again Jeremy Hunt can be grateful that the Office for Budget Responsibility is more optimistic than the Bank of England. It handed him some room for manoeuvre. On the other hand his own poorly designed fiscal rule, which requires debt to be falling in the last year of the forecast, hemmed him in. He’s now meeting that target by an even smaller margin than previously – and even that requires the government to claim it will stick to an extremely tight set of post-election spending plans.

Looking for growth Mr Hunt pulled a whole range of policy levers. Overall these look like a sensible set of changes which could have the sort of marginal, but positive, impact which is perhaps as much as we can expect from measures in a single Budget.

The big expansion in the childcare offer to families with younger children, likely doubling spending on childcare, looks like it will take us close to completing a 25 year long journey during which a new arm of the welfare state has been created. It should help tens, but not hundreds, of thousands of parents into work – provided that it is appropriately funded.

In addition, the White Paper published alongside the Budget proposed some quite fundamental changes to the disability benefit system, in part to encourage work. Poorly designed pensions tax allowances were increased or scrapped in an effort to encourage a relatively small number of better-off workers to stay in the workforce a bit longer. These pension tax changes are unlikely to have a big effect on overall employment.

There are many benefits to allowing full expensing of investment against corporation tax, though it is not without drawbacks. But the fact that this change is temporary and was only announced now is most definitely not welcome. Today’s announcement is just the latest in a long line of changes and temporary tweaks. There’s no stability, no certainty, and no sense of a wider plan.

As expected, the energy price cap will remain at its current level for the next 3 months, so that an average bill will stay at £2,500 rather than rising to £3,000. There was some extra money to shore up the defence budget, alongside the extra cash for childcare. And surprise surprise, he found £6 billion to freeze fuel duties and maintain the supposedly temporary 5p-a-litre cut announced last year, despite a fall of around 40p a litre in the price of petrol over the last year. Yet we’re supposed to believe, wink wink nudge nudge, that the 5p cut will be reversed next year. Forgive me if I harbour some doubts. 

Just as notable was what Mr Hunt didn’t announce. There was no funding to be found to improve the pay offer to striking public sector workers, where £6 billion might have been enough to make an inflation-matching pay offer possible this coming year. That’s a political choice. Money for motorists, but not for nurses, doctors and teachers. And the big personal tax rises planned for next month, via the freezing of income tax thresholds, will still go ahead. That will mean an extra £500 in tax for basic rate taxpayers in 2023–24, and an extra £1,000 for higher rate taxpayers. These tax rises may be necessary from a fiscal point of view, but they are an important part of the reason why household incomes are still expected to fall more over the current two year period than at any point in living memory.

The bigger fiscal picture hasn’t changed enormously since the autumn. The OBR expects the economy to grow a bit faster in the short-term, and a bit slower in the medium-term, combining to produce an economy 0.6% larger in real-terms in 2027–28 than under the autumn forecast. The government remains on track to meet its relatively loose fiscal targets by only the barest of margins, despite a historically high tax burden and some extremely tight post-election numbers for spending on public services. Debt interest spending is forecast to remain well above what was forecast a year ago. And we are still in the midst of an enormously difficult period for households. We’re by no means out of the woods yet.”

J Bruce Cartwright CA, ICAS CEO says:

“It’s good news that the current economic dip isn’t as severe as many expected, but we still need a strong economy to support public sector aspirations as we look to new ways of working post covid. Business is pushing for growth, so we welcome the measures from government that help this. It does look at first glance as though the Chancellor has been in Father Christmas mode, as much as he can ever be. Measures to cut fuel duty, lowering the cost of a pint in a pub and maintaining the current energy price cap will all help struggling households.

Kerry Linley, founder and CEO at apprenticeship software company Rubitek, said:

“Whilst the introduction of this new over 50s “Returnerships” programme sounds broadly positive, the immediate question is how it will work in practice.”

“Functionality of the existing apprenticeship levy is already problematic, and its absence in the Budget announcement proves the government is yet to find a solution to problems surrounding it. For example, recent news of the levy being used to fund MBAs for high-earning executives raises an eyebrow as to whether Returnerships will fuel more of this kind of behaviour instead of bringing over-50s back into work.”

“Whilst the new scheme may be a boost to employers, who can now choose between upskilling young as well as “experienced” talent, there is a concern that young people could miss out. The purpose of apprenticeships has always been to equip young people with new skills, and it’s vital we do not lose sight of that.”

Failure to address existing problems with apprenticeships

 “As the UK experiences a serious labour market shortage, apprenticeships provide a huge opportunity to businesses of all shapes and sizes. In today’s Budget, the government has again failed to make necessary changes that are in the direct interest of young British talent and those who are working with them.”

“The announcement distracts from existing flaws in the existing apprenticeship system, creating challenges for training providers, employers and apprentices alike. The government has failed to address the alarming decline in apprenticeship completion rates. Over the last two academic years only 58 per cent of those enrolled completed, a huge decline from the 65 per cent seen in 2018/19.”

“It’s indicative of mounting pressure on the apprenticeship sector born from an outdated and inefficient government administrative system that puts a burden on training providers and employers. We are also lacking the guidance needed for training providers and employers as to how to ensure apprentices have a tailored, enriching learning experience that will support their development in the long term.”

Rachel Statham, IPPR associate director for work and the welfare state, said:    

“Today’s ‘back to work budget’ signalled a positive step change in the government’s childcare offer, recognising that a lack of affordable care is holding families and our economy back. But with England’s childcare sector already at breaking point, we need wholesale reform to deliver affordable, available, high-quality care to families everywhere. For now, significant questions on funding, quality and supply of places remain unanswered. 

“On social security, the government has committed to supporting disabled people and those with chronic health conditions back into work, and to meeting childcare costs up front. But a more punitive sanctions regime risks pushing some of the same people into debt and destitution, and missing the opportunity to support more people into jobs they can thrive in.” 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“It is bitterly disappointing that the Chancellor has squandered the opportunity to support schools in today’s budget.

“We are in the middle of one of the most serious recruitment and retention crises we have seen for decades, and we have a school estate that is literally crumbling in places. Rather than addressing those obvious and pressing priorities, the government has chosen to focus on what appears to be a half-baked scheme to extend wraparound care in schools that won’t take effect for another three years.

“Once again, we are left with the feeling that this government is detached from the reality of what is actually going on in our schools.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning & Work Institute, said:

“There are some very welcome and substantial measures to help people back to work, including investment in childcare and better joined-up support from health and work services. However, only one in ten out-of-work disabled people and older people get help to find work each year, and the measures miss many who are not on benefits but want to work.

“The Government should tread carefully in changing disability benefits to avoid the risk of a postcode lottery for disabled people. Care is needed to avoid lower benefit payments for hundreds of thousands of people who leave work due to ill health but are not entitled to a Personal Independence Payment. The answer is more help and support, not just a bigger stick.

“The lack of new measures to work with employers on recruitment and job design is also a huge missed opportunity, while skills funding will still be £1 billion lower in 2025 than in 2010. Overall, this is a significant step forward, but there’s much more to do to tackle worker shortages.”

Hadi Moussa, VP EMEA, Coursera:

“Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to offer skills training for people over 50 is a step in the right direction towards solving Britain’s inactivity problem. The introduction of affordable online courses in particular will give greater access to skills and allow people to fit learning around their lives.   

“However, his plans only solve part of the UK’s workforce challenge. Equipping new entrants to the job market with the right skills is just as important as reskilling those who have left it. Less than half (48%) of UK workers with a degree say they regularly use the skills they learned in their job today. Consequently, 80% of UK employers now look beyond traditional education, to relevant skills on candidates’ CVs to verify they are equipped for jobs, which are increasingly demanding more technical and data-led skills.  

“Arming UK workers with the right skills at every stage of their careers is vital to grow the economy and workforce. The Lifelong Learning Entitlement is a positive move, but we did not hear anything about that in the Budget today, and with the launch taking place in at least two years time – we risk playing catch up with advancements that are happening at lightning speed.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

“It is positive to hear in today’s Spring Budget that Britain will avoid a technical recession, and that the latest projections show inflation should fall back down to more usual levels in the coming months. This will be of huge relief to employers who continue to face huge challenges in the midst of rising costs.

“Additional funding for Sector-Based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs) and expanding supported internships are welcome, although relatively modest. While we’re pleased to see investment in extra Skills Bootcamps, it’s disappointing that this does not start for another 18 months.

“Ultimately, we’re disappointed at the lack of detailed plan to meet the Chancellor’s aim to get more people back into work and achieve the stated aim of skills being the catalyst for economic growth. If the government are serious about supporting more over 50s and those in receipt of Universal Credit back into work, this will need significantly more investment in skills training. A rebranding and promotion of accelerated apprenticeship under the guise of Returnerships won’t cut it. If this a budget for growth, it’s a budget for growth without skills.”

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“While many families will benefit from extending funded childcare for one- and two-year-olds, investing in this expansion without addressing the issues with eligibility means that inequalities will widen. As things stand, most of the country’s lowest-income families are shut out of the entitlement to 30 hours of funded provision at age three to four. The state doesn’t provide longer hours for better-off families in schools and this should also be the case in early years.

“While increased funding for early years providers is welcome and long overdue, it is unlikely to be sufficient for provision to be expanded.

“Our research shows that early years education is most beneficial for children from less well-off families and so the focus should be on those in greatest need and most likely to benefit.”

Christine Farquharson, Senior Research Economist at IFS said:

“For such a huge reform to the early years system in England, today’s Budget gave us remarkably little detail about the one thing that will really matter: the funding rate that providers will receive. Even under current patterns of childcare use, expanding the 30-hour offer to almost all pre-schoolers in working families will put Whitehall in charge of the price of 80% of childcare hours delivered in England. That raises the stakes for getting the funding rate right, with the potential for huge damage to the quality and availability of childcare if the government gets it wrong.” 

Michael Lemin, Head of Policy at NCFE, said:

“We welcome a focus on getting over 50s back into work. Older learners, who are more likely to have caring responsibilities or health conditions, would particularly benefit from shorter programmes of learning. However, Returnerships are a potential risk to the apprenticeship brand.

“Questions must be asked about why there is a minimum duration of an apprenticeship required to ensure competence if over 50s are expected to be able to reach competence on a shorter programme. Using age as a blunt instrument will leave people falling between the cracks. It’s unclear why a 49 year old, for example, would be required to undertake a full apprenticeship whilst a 50 year old could benefit from this new programme.”

Lysan Drabon, Managing Director Europe, Project Management Institute:

“Talking about breaking down barriers to employment is not enough. We need to see positive action that will make a real difference to getting people back in to work and supporting the UK’s economic growth. We need to equip the workforce with the new skills that the economy needs.

“Although the world of work has changed significantly in the last few years, the way we train our workforce hasn’t. What our research tells us is that skills such as conflict resolution, leadership, communication, and problem solving are the skills that are missing. 7 in 10 businesses that prioritise these ‘power skills’ alongside technical skills in their workforce experienced consistent project success in the past year, according to our Pulse of the Profession 2023 study.”

Rachelle Earwaker, Senior Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“The Chancellor has made some steps towards tackling some of the issues which have affected families on low incomes over recent years, but we have to be clear – the difficult years are far from over. It will take a much more fundamental shift for our economic and political system to provide the good jobs, social security system and homes that we all need.”

“Inflation may have stopped escalating, but with food prices rising at over 16 per cent this year and 2021-23 seeing the largest successive two year inflation increase since 1979-81, many families are seeing no evidence of the Chancellor’s reasons for optimism. Prices have not started to come down, nor does optimism offer comfort to the 7.2m families unable to afford essentials.

“The glaring omission from the speech of any action to tackle the housing crisis, despite the OBR forecasting a drop in housebuilding in the coming years and higher mortgage rates and soaring rents putting pressure on households, is short-sighted and means the Chancellor is ignoring a growing and serious economic challenge.”

On participation in the labour market:

“This Budget has had a strong focus on boosting employment, and expanding free childcare to very young children and paying childcare costs up front for those on Universal Credit fixes some major problems for many working parents. To meet these aspirations it’s vital that the funding given will match the cost.

“More fundamental reform may be needed to make childcare affordable and available where it is needed, and many of those who have spent this winter making impossible choices between eating hot meals and heating their homes will be wondering if he has really done enough to give them a secure foundation.

“There are big problems with the Work Capability Assessment. It labels people, it doesn’t unlock support to access employment, and it’s not trusted by disabled people. So there are good reasons for change and we welcome proposals for universal support if it is designed in conjunction with those who will use it.

“But there are very concerning aspects in the plans set out today. Addressing these issues must not go hand in hand with an increase in sanctions, which we know are counter-productive, harmful to people’s finances and health, and drive people into destitution.

“To stand any chance of making a positive difference, any new approach to assessments must not lead to the erosion of financial support for disabled people and should be designed on the basis of enabling positive steps towards employment, in particular for the 2.2 million people not working with ill-health or a disability who say they would like to or expect to work again in the future.”

Chris McCandless, European CEO, Busy Bees Nurseries said:

“Today’s announcement is a positive step for children, parents and providers of early years education. At Busy Bees, we know the difference that a great early education makes to a child’s future and look forward to working with the government on implementing these changes. It’s now critical to ensure this increased funding is used to deliver the most favourable impact on parents and staff, and to generate the desired benefit for the economy.”

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO, Mumsnet said:

“This is a hugely significant intervention from the Chancellor. Mumsnet has been campaigning for years for childcare to be recognised as the vital national infrastructure that it is, and to see it at the centre of today’s Budget is testament to the work we have done to drive it up the political agenda.

“We know from our users that the current gap in support between the end of maternity leave and a child’s third birthday means for many women it is simply not financially feasible to return to work.  This has long term consequences for their careers and pensions, as well as slowing economic growth, so it is welcome that the government has listened to us on this issue and set out a plan to address it.  We are also pleased that the Chancellor has heeded calls to reform the childcare element of Universal Credit so that it no longer forces parents into debt, and has announced changes to increase the supply of wraparound care to better reflect the needs of working parents.

“That said, there are clearly concerns about whether the funding allocated is actually sufficient to deliver this expanded provision.  We would urge the Chancellor to engage with these concerns immediately in order to ensure the offer to families that he has outlined can actually be delivered.”

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder, Pregnant Then Screwed said:

“The budget announcement on childcare today was the main event in the Spring budget which just shows the power of collective action and we are elated to hear that the childcare sector will now receive a significant investment, and that universal credit will be paid upfront, these schemes will change parents’ lives. Parents of young children felt ignored, but this will restore their faith in democracy so we thank Minster’s for hearing our cry and bridging the gap for mothers from the end of maternity leave so that they are supported to be able to work. It is imperative that the right investment is made to properly fund the roll out of these free childcare hours. We need to ensure that there is a clear and remunerated strategy to attract more educators into the sector, to retain those workers and to offer progression opportunities. Without a workforce plan providers will continue to be forced to close, and increasing ratios will add pressure to an underpaid workforce. The CBI estimates that to do what the government is planning costs £8.9 billion not £4 billion, so we need to see the detail as to how this money is being distributed. Free childcare from 9 months is brilliant, but only if there are childcare settings to be able to access this care, without the correct funding and enough childcare staff there won’t be.

“We feel really positive about the future though, and many of the parents we work with feel the same.”


Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder, Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies said:

“I am a very big believer in the future of the UK’s economy, including for the financial services sector. Whatever the daily headlines, the UK has an enormous amount going for it and even more potential. Bloomberg continues to make major investments here and we remain optimistic that the U.K.’s high-tech, high-skilled economy is well-positioned for long-term growth.”

Matthew Fell, Interim Director-General, CBI said:

“This Budget is a strong second act in the Chancellor’s plan for stability and growth.  

“The CBI called for action on people and productivity and the government has delivered support for both. Measures to help households and businesses will secure the growth we need to boost living standards for all.

“Full capital expensing will keep the UK at the top table for attracting investment and puts us on an essential path to a more productive economy.

“Boosting childcare provision is a big win for businesses struggling to recruit and retain, and parents balancing care and career needs.

“Alongside support for occupational health to help people stay in work, it shows the Chancellor is listening to business on reducing economic inactivity and easing a tight labour market.

“New investment zones focused on economic clusters will drive growth across the country and increased support for quantum is a further step towards making the UK the science and technology superpower it aspires to be.    

“Giving the go-ahead to carbon capture and nuclear are important steps that will keep the UK’s green growth story on track. With our closest rivals raising their game on green growth, moving further and faster in the months ahead is key.”

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UKHospitality said:

“With hospitality businesses continuing to struggle with vacancies running at 56% higher than pre-pandemic levels, the measures announced today are significant in incentivising people back into work and hopefully alleviating crippling labour shortages. The wider economic forecasts also give us encouragement that consumer confidence and spending are in for an upturn, albeit over time.

“The significant reforms to childcare and the measures to help the over 50s re-enter the workforce are both areas on which UKHospitality has been calling for action and we’re pleased the Chancellor has recognised the help it can offer tackling the enormous vacancies in hospitality.

“Maintaining current levels of energy support to consumers, freezing fuel duty and inflation reducing will help hard-pressed households and increase disposable income, which will be a huge boost for venues in desperate need of trade.

“This will be particularly needed as the sector is still set to see huge energy price increases when current support ends in April, which unfortunately was not addressed. It remains the case that we need to see urgent action on the market failures identified by Ofgem in its non-domestic review update yesterday. The current timeline of further action by the summer is not good enough.

“The reduction in draught duty is positive and we hope this will incentivise more visits to our pubs, restaurants and hotel bars. Addressing draught duty is a good start and I would urge the Government to consider rolling out this type of tax cut across the wider drinks market.

“With duty primarily paid by suppliers, such as breweries, it’s essential that any benefit is passed through to venues to help deliver the Government’s objective of reducing inflation and growing the economy.”


Dr Vishal Sharma, Chair, British Medical Association (BMA) Pensions Committee and Chair of the Consultants Committee said: 

“Today’s announcement is an incredibly important step forward and the result of year after year of lobbying and campaigning for changes to pension taxation by the BMA.

“The scrapping of the lifetime allowance will be potentially transformative for the NHS as [the majority of] senior doctors will no longer be forced to retire early and can continue to work within the NHS, providing vital patient care.

“The rise in the annual allowance will mean far fewer doctors will receive large punitive pension tax bills and will significantly reduce the perverse incentive to reduce hours due to pension tax. It’s also very welcome the Government has committed to addressing the anomaly of ignoring any negative pension growth and rectifying this will ensure NHS staff can appropriately utilise their full annual allowance.”


Steve Bates OBE, CEO, The BioIndustry Association (BIA) said:

“This is a huge boost for biotech companies across the UK developing new medicines and improving healthcare for patients. Our research-intensive industry is a key growth area for Britain’s economy. The Chancellor is rightly focusing UK taxpayer support to enable life science entrepreneurs to crowd in more private investment, help keep the UK at the cutting-edge of international science, and create new high-value jobs across the UK.”

A GSK spokesperson said:

“The UK has a big opportunity in life sciences, to improve patient care and health outcomes, and support economic growth. Today’s Budget recognises this and includes important measures to help realise this opportunity. We welcome the new model and funding for the MHRA to accelerate access to innovative treatments and vaccines for patients and improve the attractiveness of the UK for investment in life sciences research. Giving the MHRA the resources and tools to become a leading global regulator is a key part in capitalising on the UK’s potential in life sciences. We also welcome the new scheme on R&D tax credits targeted towards the most research intensive SMEs – this should have a positive impact on the wider UK life science ecosystem.”

Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer, Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons said:

“The government’s decision to revisit the R&D tax credits for SMEs in the Budget is a shot in the arm to oncology start-ups across the UK. At a time when they are facing tough economic challenges, early stage companies need this vital support to accelerate discoveries from the lab to the clinic.

“Spin-out companies play a vital role in translating Cancer Research UK-funded research from the lab into life-saving treatments. Today’s decision by the Chancellor is a vote of confidence in the UK’s outstanding life sciences start-up community, creating the opportunities needed to develop new tests, medicines and advances in healthcare for cancer patients.”

Kerry Baldwin, Founder, Managing Partner IQ Capital said: 

“The Chancellor’s focus on economic growth, science and innovation are the right priorities and venture has a central role to play in building the economy of the future. The announcements of the Long term Investment For Technology and Science (‘LIFTS’) and the 10-year extension and further support to British Patient Capital are positive and central to the UK becoming a science and technology superpower. The new regime that will allow innovative SMEs to claim greater R&D tax relief is also welcome, especially for R&D intensive companies creating the next wave of scientific breakthroughs in deeptech and life sciences.”

Julian Bellamy, Managing Director, ITV Studios said:

“The UK is a world leader in film and TV and the package of measures announced by the government today, particularly the increase in the expenditure credit and the maintenance of the qualifying HETV expenditure threshold at £1m, will help enable the sector to continue to thrive.  We’re very grateful that the government responded to the concerns of the sector.”

Kate Varah, Executive Director, the National Theatre said:

“We are thrilled that the Government has made the vital decision to maintain the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief. In a period where the sector is navigating ongoing financial headwinds, it means the National Theatre and our colleagues in theatres across the UK can continue to make world-class productions of real ambition that delight audiences, provide jobs, stimulate economic growth and cement the UK as a global leader in culture.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive, the British Film Commission said:

“Today’s announcement is a real recognition from the Government of the growth and opportunity our UK Film and High-end TV industry presents. The UK’s tax reliefs have directly influenced many productions’ decisions to base themselves in the UK, contributing billions of pounds to the economy and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK’s nations and regions. With increasingly intense international competition, we’re delighted to welcome this package of measures, futureproofing the UK’s film, High-end TV and animation tax credits and our position as a leading global production hub.”


Peter Tutton, Head of Policy, StepChange Debt Charity said:

“Today’s budget set out vital support targeted at the millions of households facing real financial difficulty following more than a year of this gruelling cost of living squeeze. The extension of the Energy Price Guarantee, the end to extra pre-payment meter fees and the extra childcare support announced will make a real difference to struggling households.”

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy, the AA said: 

“We are pleased the Chancellor has listened to the AA and frozen fuel duty. Not only will this save drivers ‘heavy duty’ pain at the pump, but will help keep the price of goods and services down as they are mainly transported by road. Crippling road fuel costs are also a major driver of inflation.”

Maria Booker, Head of Policy, Fair By Design said:

“We’re delighted to see the Government ending the prepayment poverty premium. For too long people on prepayment meters have been paying too much for energy. Over 4 million people are charged an extra £45 to access energy, an essential service. This is especially shocking in the context of rising energy bills and the cost of living crisis. The extra costs are particularly unfair as many low income consumers use prepayment meters as it helps them budget using cash.”


Lord Jim O’Neill, Vice-Chair, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said:

“Nearly a decade on from the devolution deal between Greater Manchester and the then Chancellor George Osborne, which helped kickstart the entire Northern Powerhouse project, this feels like a return to the spirit of that period and a new era for metro mayors and local government.

“Single pot settlements and business rate retention will give mayors greater independence and flexibility, allowing them to plan strategically for the long-term. We must open up a clear pathway for other mayoral areas to secure similar powers in the future.

“It will also lay the foundation for us to go further through fiscal devolution and hand more tax powers to accountable local leaders to tackle the productivity gap that has been holding back the North for decades.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said:

“This is the seventh devolution deal Greater Manchester has agreed with the government and it is by some way the deepest. This Deal takes devolution in the city-region further and faster than ever before, giving us more ability to improve the lives of people who live and work here.

“I have always been a passionate believer in the power of devolution, and I’ve been in the privileged position of being able to exercise those powers and make a positive difference to people’s lives.

“We’ve worked hard to secure this Deal and have achieved a significant breakthrough by gaining greater control over post-16 technical education, setting us firmly on the path to become the UK’s first technical education city-region; new levers and responsibilities to achieve fully integrated public transport including rail through the Bee Network by 2030; new responsibilities over housing that will allow us to crack down on rogue landlords and control over £150m brownfield funding; and a single block grant that will allow us to go further and faster in growing our economy, reducing inequalities and providing opportunities for all.

“With more power comes the need for great accountability and I welcome the strengthened arrangements announced in the Deal.

“While we didn’t get everything we wanted from the Deal, we will continue to engage with government on those areas in the future. For now, our focus will be on getting ready to take on the new powers and be held to account on the decisions we will be making on behalf of the people of Greater Manchester. Today is a new era for English devolution.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) said:

“This announcement is a major step forward for the West Midlands with significant new powers and funding secured.

“We’re deepening devolution by building on previous deals and further empowering local leadership with the financial autonomy and decision making authority that they are best placed to deploy. No one in Whitehall can understand the West Midlands better than local leaders, and so there is no doubt in my mind that we should be able to shape our own future – which is exactly what this new deal will allow us to do.

“I recently called for an end to the ‘begging bowl culture’ which confined us to regularly submitting bids for various pots of money in competition with other regions. I’m pleased to see that this new devolution deal goes some way to addressing that – giving us guaranteed devolved funding to spend how we choose, akin to what Government departments have currently, and doing away with Whitehall micromanagement.

“Since 2017, we’ve demonstrated a solid track record in building more homes whilst protecting the green belt, improving peoples’ skills to help them find quality work, increasing transport investment sevenfold and tackling the climate emergency. This is why the Government is trusting us and granting us greater responsibility – and accountability – to deliver even more.

“Today is a milestone day for the West Midlands, and I am delighted we have been able to work together as a team to get this Deeper Devolution Deal over the line.”

Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said:

“The bigger fiscal picture hasn’t changed enormously since the autumn. The OBR expects the economy to grow a bit faster in the short-term, and a bit slower in the medium-term, combining to produce an economy 0.6% larger in real-terms in 2027–28 than under the autumn forecast. The government remains on track to meet its relatively loose fiscal targets by only the barest of margins, despite a historically high tax burden and some extremely tight post-election numbers for spending on public services. Debt interest spending is forecast to remain well above what was forecast a year ago. And we are still in the midst of an enormously difficult period for households. We’re by no means out of the woods yet.”  

Education Committee Chair Robin Walker MP said:

“This huge expansion of free childcare to millions of families, from the age of nine months to starting school, answers many of the calls that I and MPs of all parties have been banging the drum for. 

“This is an investment in the education of small children during their early development – acquiring language and socialising – giving them a head start when they begin school.

“The extra funding to support the existing subsidised hours for older children is positive, but the Education Committee has heard that the new funding is needed right now.

“I also welcome the changes to Universal Credit entitlements that will get rid of upfront costs, and the incentive payments for childminders of up to £1,200.

“However there will be questions about how the sector will scale up in time to meet the increase in demand for childcare that will follow. The Department for Education has been handed billions, and it will now need to deliver.

“My Committee will continue to scrutinise the issues facing the childcare sector, including evidence of whether relaxing staff-to-child ratios in nurseries will have the positive impact that some have suggested or if it will prove to be a red herring. We will also look for solutions to the lack of appropriate provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“With both main political parties in England making the availability of childcare a top priority, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the quality and inclusiveness of early education that children receive as part of this offer.

“At the National Children’s Bureau, we are unashamedly focused on high standards in all types of provision for children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, especially in the vitally important early years.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s commitments to invest a further £4bn into childcare and early education, to expand and extend the availability of free and affordable childcare and to increase support for England’s most vulnerable families.

“At a time when families across the country are struggling to make ends meet and the gap between the development and attainment of children growing up in deprivation and those of their wealthier peers continues to increase, the need to invest more into childcare and early education is urgent. These services play a key role in narrowing the gap in educational outcomes between children from poorer backgrounds and their peers.

“We are concerned, however, that the measures announced today are not sufficient to ensure that more children benefit from a high-quality early education.

“Plans to increase child-to-staff ratios do not fill us with hope and risk putting both the development and the safety of children in jeopardy. It could also further undermine the morale of early years educators by increasing their workload.

“We welcome the measures to encourage more people to join a critically under-resourced childcare workforce but have doubts whether these measures go far enough.

“In fact, the retention and recruitment crisis extends beyond early years and encompasses the entire children’s workforce. We need an integrated children’s workforce strategy to renew and rebuild our most important asset. Reform will only be successful if there is a workforce to deliver it.”

Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management, said:  

The Chancellor’s ‘Budget for growth’ sets out promising legislation changes, but with unemployment at 3.7 per cent and with over a million vacancies, the Government must see that people don’t want the jobs that are on offer. It’s old-fashioned to think work divides neatly into units of thirty-seven and half hours per week. 

“Businesses should promote the benefits of part-time and other forms of flexible working more effectively. Many see full-time/part-time in a binary way but offering greater flexibility could be vital to reducing the number of vacant positions in the UK. 

“We’ve seen the success of the four-day week experiment. Its accomplishment was changing how people saw their relationship with time at work. More needs to be done to design jobs that fit contemporary lifestyles, and not just sticking with traditional working patterns.” 

Winnersand losers of part-time working 

Professor Kelliher explains: “The winners will be the businesses that can adapt to the needs of the ‘economically inactive’. These fit into three broad groups:  

“Firstly, care givers. Currently, the weight of full-time childcare is crushing for families. Greater flexibility and better human resource planning could allow parents with young families to work part-time to help with the increased costs. The expansion of free childcare for one and two-year-olds in England will help young families to fill gaps in the labour market through flexible working.  

Secondly, people with long-term health conditions. Those that want to work and are able, should have opportunities to work in a reduced way. Where business patterns allow, employers can offer flexibility about how much work is to be delivered across a month or a year, giving the individual greater agency to manage their working time.  

Finally, workers returning to the labour market. The cost-of-living crisis means that some are looking to supplement their income but are unwilling to return to their previous way of working. Offering flexible working opportunities is likely attractive to them, allowing employers to draw them back into employment.  

“The losers are businesses that do not re-engage with their human resource and identify the needs of their staff and customers. They risk missing out on people who are skilled and ready to work.” 

Photo Credit: HM Treasury Flickr, with changes made

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