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

Meeting the challenges of an ageing population

Each year, Age UK stands back and takes an overview of how society is meeting the needs of people in later life and sets out our agenda for public policy in the year ahead. In our Agenda for Later Life 2013 report we track changes in a range of key areas including money matters, work and learning and health and social care.

A couple smile at each other in the garden.

Public attitudes, policies and the economy all impact on people’s experiences of ageing.  This year, as the economy bumps along the bottom, it would be all too easy to concentrate on the challenges we face. However, we strongly believe in the need to focus on the opportunities as well.

The publication of a White Paper setting out plans for a new single tier State Pension brings hope of better provision in future for those with low incomes and interrupted working lives. Continue reading “Meeting the challenges of an ageing population”

UK life reimagined

A demographic revolution is under way, with more of us living longer than ever before. Fifty years ago there were nearly 20 million people in the world age 80 or over; now that figure stands at about 105 million, and it’s rising fast. Many – though not enough – of our older population are in good health and will retire with a decent income and a strong social network, and many have much to offer society.

The timing of the debate around the aging population in the UK is then 440px_older_carers_handsperhaps unfortunate, held as it is against a back­drop of a beleaguered economy. Since the Coalition Government came to power we have seen cuts to government services and working-age benefits and a further £10 billion reduction in welfare to come. Against this context there is a perception that older people have fared better than most other groups but media commentary suggesting that today’s older people belong to “the lucky generation” obscure the enormous variations that exist. This is particularly stark in terms of poverty and wealth – fewer than half of all retirees have an income big enough to pay income tax.  Older people’s median income lev­els remain lower than those of the population as a whole. Continue reading “UK life reimagined”

Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age

This guest blog was contributed by Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAENThe Age and Employment Network. 

The idea of a given ‘retirement age,’ when most people abruptly cease work, may soon be a thing of the past. While it is important not to exaggerate this trend, we can’t just ignore it.

Every day, it seems, the media carries stories about how people will have to work longer. Sarah O’Grady recently wrote in the Daily Express under the headline, ‘Millions must work forever.’

A sense of proportion is important. Currently more than 90% of people over 65 are not in work and the majority are retired. Of those over 65 who want to work, most are concentrated in the 65-70 age bracket.

However as the state pension age rises, if finances become more difficult and if more employers create age friendly workplaces, we may see more people working much longer.

Nobody has a clear picture of how many pensioners would prefer to be in work. Not entitled to claim unemployment benefit or support from Jobcentre Plus, it seems once claiming the state pension, one is forgotten as a worker. Continue reading “Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age”

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 “A means to many ends: experiences of flexible working”

‘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 “‘Missing’ older workers could boost UK”

Shining a light on later life

This blog was contributed by Andy Glyde, Senior Campaigner at Age UK.

The BBC season on ageing, When I’m 65, produced some excellent hard-hitting documentaries on what it is like to get older. As a self-confessed telly addict and campaigner on older people’s issues, it was right up my street.

The good thing about the season was its boldness for not holding back. This was strikingly clear in the first programme, When I Get Older, which exposed some of the toughest issues faced by older people: poverty, isolation, loneliness, bereavement and caring for a partner, followed by life in a care home. Even I have to admit to shedding a tear or two as the four older celebrities went through their journey of discovery.

The crucial thing throughout the entire series was that all of the older celebrities involved were honest about their pre-conceptions about later life; Lesley Joseph thinking that families should be fine to care for loved ones, John Simpson seeing little point to living with dementia and Tony Robinson having such a negative attitude towards care homes. As one might expect with such stories, each experienced an epiphany to one level or another about how they had completely misjudged the situations they found themselves in. Not that later life is always rosy, but it certainly is not always as bad as one might think.

For me, the most inspiring show of the season was the one that seemed to arouse the least attention. How to Live Beyond 100 met some of Britain’s centenarians and found out their experiences of life having reached the big 1-0-0. From playing golf to swimming to being involved in the community, each highlighted the importance of being active in later life.

My particular favourite was Fauja Singh, the 101 year old marathon runner, for whom I have a huge amount of respect for, particularly as I ran past him in the London Marathon earlier this year. Continue reading “Shining a light on later life”