Author Archives: Christopher Brooks

Making the Work Programme work for older jobseekers

It has been widely reported that that the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, was failing to help the unemployed back into work and was accused by the Labour Party of being ‘worse than doing nothing’. While we don’t agree with this view, it’s clear the Programme has had some teething problems, particularly for the over 55s involved.

To quickly re-cap, the Work Programme is a major policy costing between £3 and £5 billion over five years, aimed primarily at the long-term unemployed. It uses private companies (‘contractors’) to help people return to work. And to clarify a common misunderstanding, it is not the same as the different but much talked about scheme where jobseekers do unpaid work experience at a business or other organisation!

NOT WORKING FOR OLDER JOBSEEKERS

Age UK has now had a detailed look at the results by age group to find out how successful it was for older jobseekers and  published a briefing.

While the Work Programme came in below expectations for everyone, it is even worse for the over 55s (see chart below. This shows the proportion of people sent on to the Work Programme who entered and remained in a job for at least three months).

The over-55s suffer a drop in successful job outcomes of nearly 30 per cent compared to the average for the under-55s (interestingly, the 50-54 age group have the same outcomes as 45-49s). The age profile of the job success rate is shown below.

This is a huge shortfall and represents a huge problem because the Work Programme appears to be failing to tackle the barriers faced by older jobseekers – it is simply not offering sufficient support.

job-outcome-chart

OVER 55s STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK

For anyone who loses their job once over the age of 50, it can be very difficult to move back into work. So it would be expected that the Work Programme would be less successful for older jobseekers, right? Well yes, and no.

Because the Work Programme is a labour market tool designed to improve job outcomes, it’s possible to change how it operates. Doing so could correct the natural imbalances found within the labour market which almost always harm the prospects of disadvantaged groups, including older jobseekers.

Our briefingrecommends several ways of changing the Work Programme without hampering contractors’ freedom to operate as they choose.
This could be by paying contractors more to place over 55s into jobs or by moving people to the Work Programme after six months unemployment rather than 12 – giving the right support earlier can help, although ‘right’ is the key word here. Measures such as these could make all the difference.

But it seems clear that if nothing changes, older jobseekers will continue to find themselves cut out of the workforce, often permanently, while being expected to wait longer before being able to draw their state pension.

Read  the full Age UK briefing ‘The Work Programme and older jobseekers’

Find out more about Work and Learning on the Age UK website

A means to many ends: experiences of flexible working

Being able to work flexibly can have a hugely positive impact on peoples’ work, and their personal lives too.

Today we’re launched our new report, A Means to Many Ends,  which looks at older workers’ experiences of flexible working, which looks at why 50+ workers want to use flexible working options, how they work in practice, and what barriers people typically face when they try to work flexibly.

What is flexible working?

Although it’s very difficult to define, it’s worth considering what we mean by flexible working. We see it as being a whole range of options, for example flexi-time, working from home or working a four-day week. But crucially it can only be considered flexible when  the individual either instigates changes or personally benefits.

The report finds that older workers want flexibility for a variety of reasons – for example, to meet caring responsibilities, wind down to retirement, or to manage a health condition.

Flexible working is usually very positive, enabling people to remain in employment and make ends meet, balancing personal commitments with work.

And all this is not to mention the benefits for their employers of retaining skilled staff, having a more committed and loyal workforce, or perhaps being able to mentor younger workers.

Despite the benefits too many employers still seem reluctant to even consider flexibility, which is bad news for both parties – to make sure that everyone who wants to work is able to do so, a culture change is needed, with renewed emphasis on the mutual benefits of flexible working.

Barriers

There are, however, significant barriers to accessing flexible working.

Continue reading

‘Missing’ older workers could boost UK

With the UK still mired in economic troubles and unemployment high, it is perhaps obvious that we need to get more people into work.

Among older people, who find it harder than any other age group in the UK to move into work, this needs to be a real priority, in particular when we look at how poorly Britain fares compared with our international competitors. We see that getting more people aged 50+ into work can be done.

According to some new research by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank which focuses on people on low to middle incomes, the employment rate for 55-64 year olds in the UK lags well behind the best performing countries from around the world.

While the average of the 5 best performers is about 72%, the UK falls well short with only 57% in work. Continue reading

Is retiring comfortably a thing of the past?

Since the early 1990s the numbers of people working past State Pension age (SPA) has been continuously on the rise. Although people choose to continue working for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most important is simply ‘for the money’.

However if this is why people keep working, for some it will never be enough.

A whopping 45% of those currently aged 50+ and in employment will have to work for at least 11 years beyond their SPA in order to attain a level of retirement income which maintains their standard of living.

And of course many may never reach this marker – for such people retiring will necessarily mean a drop in living standards.

This is the result of new research by the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), sponsored by Age UK and three other organisations.

The research sets a level of income estimated to bring the equivalent standard of living in retirement, and then poses the simple question: ‘how long will people need to work to reach this?’

The following chart is taken from the report:

PPI chart on replacement rate by SPA

This could have important implications for a variety of reasons.

For example, it indicates that many people will want (or need) to keep working for longer than they may have anticipated. This impacts on individuals who may have to rethink plans for retirement, and provides a further imperative for employers to become more age-friendly.

Also, many people will not be able to work for this long. This is obvious for people who suffer from ill health, but also many who lose their job – even in good health – will find it difficult to re-enter the workforce due to ageist attitudes from employers.

However, the report also looks at the numbers of people attaining a minimum income standard – unrelated to their lifetime earnings – by the time they reach SPA. Happily, the numbers here are much higher (85%), but clearly many people will not be able to continue the same lifestyle if they have such a reduced income.

The research highlights issues facing people both sides of State Pension Age, and shows clearly just how uncertain the future can be without good employment and pension provision.

The full report is available on the Pensions Policy Institute website, and makes for a very interesting read.

Last year Age UK’s More Money in Your Pocket campaign helped 500,000 people put £120 million back in their pockets through free benefits information and advice. This year, we will continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from claiming. For more information, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/moremoney