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

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”

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”