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ESF Leavers Survey 2002 Objective 3: England
commissioned by MORI and the Department for Work and Pensions
This report presents results of a survey of 3,431 individual beneficiaries who left projects supported under ESF Objective 3 in England during the latter part of 2002.
There was considerable variety between different kinds and circumstances of beneficiary, but underpinned by fairly widespread experience of disadvantage across much of the cohort. In addition, participation had been strong among certain key groups, including women (constituting 60 per cent of beneficiaries), people at each end of the age spectrum (27 per cent were under 25 and 21 per cent aged 50 or more), people experiencing long-term unemployment or inactivity (27 per cent) and among people without qualifications (21 per cent).
There was great variation in individuals’ entry status, with some 37 per cent already employed at that time, compared with 39 per cent inactive and 21 per cent unemployed. The intake of already-employed entrants varied greatly between different regions within England, broadly reflecting the local buoyancy of the labour market.
Following their participation in the programme, there has been a substantial and continuing shift of status among respondents towards paid employment. Thus employment rates which had been falling before entry rose significantly on exit (from 37 to 47 per cent), and continued to rise subsequently (to 53 per cent at the time of the survey).
However, the programme does not seem to have been successful in reducing inactivity within the sample (falling from 39 per cent to only 38 over the same period). Despite this, there was evidence of improved qualifications and enhanced employability among these inactive beneficiaries.
Among beneficiaries not working when they joined the projects, having no qualifications or skills, or having the wrong ones, was by far the most widely cited barrier to finding work (at 39 per cent). Two-thirds of all joiners expected to improve their qualifications. Projects and beneficiaries had been very successful in meeting this objective; by the time they had finished, just over a half (55 per cent) of all entrants had gained a full qualification, and a further nine per cent of those who did not gain a qualification had gained credits or units towards one.
Beneficial ‘soft outcomes’ were widely found among the 47 per cent not working at the time of the survey. Nearly three-quarters of them felt they had improved their skills; rather more felt that they were now more confident about their job prospects, and many reported a reduction in the problems they felt had held them back in the labour market.
Disproportionate gains among the disadvantaged
There is evidence of a positive bias towards the most poorly-placed beneficiaries acting across the programme as a whole. Looking at job outcomes, and taking into account the high proportion of entrants who were already working, there is evidence from these results that the programme has been disproportionately helpful and successful in helping the most disadvantaged beneficiaries find work. Similarly with qualification gains, the propensity to gain qualifications was highest among the most disadvantaged groups of beneficiary, declining among the least disadvantaged groups.
There is considerable evidence about the tailoring of support to match individual needs and circumstances. Thus, just under half of these respondents remembered agreeing a personalised plan when they joined the project. Consequently, we observed a high level of overlap between the various problems which beneficiaries said had held them back and the support they received through their courses. Finally, four out of five respondents thought that the project had been relevant to their needs, and three-quarters thought that the level of support had been appropriate for their abilities.
Well over four out of every five beneficiaries declared themselves satisfied with the quality of the course overall. In line with this, the volume of early leavers was low, with just 16 per cent of beneficiaries reporting that they had left earlier than expected. Furthermore, much of this was a consequence of finding a job or finishing the course earlier than anticipated. Only about five per cent of beneficiaries left early for negative reasons, such as dissatisfaction, or inability to cope, with the course.
ESF Leavers Survey 2002 Objective 3: England, Atkinson J. , European Social Fund, 2004.
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