Work in Progress: Interim report of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support

Campbell B, Dave A, Patel R, Plowden Roberts C, Wilson T |   | Institute for Employment Studies  | Jul 2023

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This is the interim report of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support, which is being managed by IES in partnership with abrdn Financial Fairness Trust.  More information on the Commission is available here, including links to previous reports and the launch webinar. 

This report presents findings from the first six months of the Commission’s work, comprising a major Call for Evidence that received around one hundred responses; twenty consultation events, workshops and focus groups; and an extensive review of the literature around ‘what works’ in employment support. In all, over 200 individuals and organisations have participated in this first phase of evidence gathering, making this the largest consultation on our system of employment support and services in at least a generation.

The report sets out many positive examples of effective employment support, employer engagement and partnership working. However, it also found a range of evidence that our approach to employment support needs major reform if it is to meet the challenges and opportunities that we will face from demographic, economic and technological changes. In particular, it finds that our system:

  • Is too narrow in its focus, with the UK having the least well-used employment service in Europe
  • Overly emphasises entry to ‘any job’ rather than the right job, the quantity of jobsearch rather than its quality, and monitoring compliance rather than empowering jobseekers
  • Has a very limited offer for employers, focused on vacancy gathering and job applications, with little joining up with wider business support (especially in England)
  • Struggles to co-ordinate effectively across services, especially with skills and careers support, and to deliver employment support in different settings
  • Appears to have become locked in a cycle of short-term funding, contracts and initiatives

The report proposes six key principles for a new approach to employment support, and plans for the next stage of the Commission’s work which will begin to develop options for reform and co-design these with service users and stakeholders. More information on how to be involved in this work is set out in the final chapter of the report.