From education to employment

Department for Work and Pensions Back to Work Plan – Sector Reaction

Liz Kendall

On her first visit as Secretary of State, with the rest of the Ministerial team, Liz Kendall MP has confirmed the three pillars of the Government’s Back to Work Plan:

  • A youth guarantee for all young people aged 18 to 21.
  • A new national jobs and career service to help get more people into work, and on in their work.
  • New work, health and skills plans for the economically inactive, led by Mayors and local areas.

Ms Kendall said rising levels of economic inactivity are unacceptable and that immediate action must be taken. 9.4 million people are now economically inactive, a record 2.8 million people are out of work due to long-term sickness, and 900,000 young people (1 in 8) are not in education, employment, and training.

  • New Work and Pensions Secretary today sets out how the Government’s Back to Work Plan is critical to growing the economy
  • On a visit to Leeds with Ministerial team, Liz Kendall identifies tackling economic inactivity as top priority, saying Mayors and local areas will be in the driving seat of change
  • Visit follows Chancellor’s speech earlier this week setting out immediate action to fix the foundations of the economy, rebuild Britain and make every part of the country better off

The visit comes days after the Chancellor, Rachel Reeves MP, unveiled the Government’s first steps to securing sustained economic growth as the only route to improving the prosperity of the country and the living standards of working people.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Liz Kendall MP, said:

“Growth is our number one mission and, as the Chancellor said, our Back to Work Plan is central to achieving our plans.

“Economic inactivity is holding Britain back – it’s bad for people, it’s bad for businesses, and it’s bad for growth.

“It’s not good enough that the UK is the only G7 country with employment not back to pre-pandemic levels.

“It is time for change in every corner of the country.

“We’ll create more good jobs, make work pay, transform skills, and overhaul jobcentres, alongside action to tackle the root causes of worklessness including poor physical and mental health.

“Change delivered by local areas for local people, driving growth and delivering opportunity and prosperity to everyone, wherever they live.”

Earlier this week the Health Secretary set out how cutting NHS waiting lists will get Britain back to health and back to work, and how by taking bold action on public health we can build the healthy society needed for a healthy economy.  

Under the DWP’s plan, Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service will be merged to get more people into work and to support those seeking better opportunities with the means to find better paid work.

The Youth Guarantee will mean more opportunities for training, an apprenticeship or help to find work for all young people aged 18-21 years old, to prevent young people becoming excluded from the world of work at a young age.

More disabled people and those with health conditions will be supported to enter and stay in work, by devolving more power to local areas so they can shape a joined-up work, health, and skills offer that suits the needs of the people they serve.

On their visit to Leeds today the DWP’s new ministerial team will visit a jobcentre to see first-hand how they’re supporting people with health conditions, and those aged 18 to 24 and over 50.

They will then be joined by Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire Mayor. They will visit Smart Works – a charity who work to build the confidence of clients and help prepare for interviews by providing free clothing ahead of interviews.

Sector Reaction

Matthew Percival, CBI Future of Work & Skills Director, said:

“With economic inactivity continuing to be a significant drag on economic growth, it’s encouraging to see the new government prioritise solutions to address this challenge. Not only will tackling inactivity help firms to access the skills they need to grow and invest, but it will also ensure that more people can experience the financial benefits and security of work.

“It is through partnerships between business and government that most people will be supported back to work. Government can make it easier for businesses to invest in the health and wellbeing of their people by updating tax rules, starting with making Employee Assistance Programmes tax free.”

Kate Shoesmith, REC Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“The new government’s early start to work on lessening economic inactivity is vital because our tight labour market hampers productivity, constrains economic growth and holds back social mobility. The rewards are tantalising for the government if it can harness the personal choices individuals make in needing and wanting flexible work opportunities.

“A partnership approach with business is undeniably the right one, as evidenced by our own Restart scheme. REC’s partnership with Maximus employability services and local JCPs has found work for more than 2,000 people, and we had one of our best placement rates in June this year – in what has been an otherwise flat labour market. We urge the government to use the expertise of the recruitment industry in local areas to support any reforms. A refreshed careers and jobs advisory service needs to be grounded in the day-to-day realities of a local jobs market; from our work we know that many recruiters, employers and educators would be willing to offer their expertise, skills and drive to make a difference to worklessness in their respective regions.”

Responding to the Government’s Back to Work plan, Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute (L&W), said:

“Increasing employment can boost both growth and opportunity, and Learning and Work Institute has been calling for the UK to aim for an 80% employment rate since 2022. Our analysis shows this could boost the economy by £25 billion and save the taxpayer £8 billion per year. To deliver this, the Government needs to offer help to everyone who wants to work: today, only 1 in 10 out-of-work disabled people get help to find work each year. There also needs to be better join-up of work, health and skills support, and the Government will need to work with employers on how they recruit.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said:

“It is good to see Work and Pensions Secretary Liz Kendall today confirm that Labour’s Youth Guarantee for 18 to 21-year-olds will be a priority for her department. 

“It comes just a day after the new Mayor of West Midlands, Richard Parker, announced a youth employment plan to create 20,000 learning and work opportunities in the region.  

“Both are welcome steps to ensure that every single student, no matter their circumstances, is given the opportunity to succeed in learning and work. It’s absolutely vital that colleges are at the heart of these plans; as anchor institutions in their communities, serving 1.6 million students across the country, they have the expertise, insight and relationships with employers needed to ensure that initiatives like these truly meet the needs of young people.” 

Ben Rowland, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

“We welcome the government’s ambition to get more people back into work, in particular reducing the 900,000 young people not in education, employment or training. Getting people back into work requires a strong interface between the learner and the employer. Therefore the commissioning principle of this plan should be to support organisations that are already brilliant at this.

Independent training providers are uniquely effective at getting people back into work. Their business model depends on connecting with employers and learners, making them responsive to employer and learner needs and effective at increasing employability among the most disadvantaged in society.”

Scott Parkin FIEP, Group CEO of IEP Said:

“The Government’s Back to Work Plan is welcome news, highlighting critical areas of focus such as youth employment, national career services, and local work, health, and skills plans. Employability professionals possess the necessary knowledge and expertise to support individuals with complex issues back into the workforce. Through our professional training and qualifications, they are more equipped than ever before to address these challenges.

It is crucial that with the devolution of powers to local areas, employability programmes and their providers are also well-equipped and effectively trained to manage the scope of these issues. Supporting people with complex needs and helping them build confidence and motivation requires trust between professionals and participants. The IEP is committed to ensuring that people are at the centre of all interventions, supporting individuals into good, sustainable work, not just any work.”

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