Select Committee on Work and Pensions Eighth Report

5   Co-ordinating the employment and skills strategies

59. Both the In work, better off Green Paper and the Government's response to Leitch acknowledge the need to integrate employment and skills policies. The latter states:

"The DIUS and DWP are committed to ensuring that the skills and employment systems work together more effectively for the benefit of the customer. That will be reflected in the priorities for Jobcentre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council and the new universal adult careers service, within the resources available. Our aim is that in future customers of the employment and skills service will face no discontinuities. There will be no point where 'job-search' ends and 'up-skilling' begins. Instead there will be a single customer journey, from poor skills or worklessness to sustainable employment and the skills to progress. Support for the individual - both financial and human - will be accessible and sustained."[56]

60. In our report on the Government's Employment Strategy, we urged Ministers to adopt Lord Leitch's recommendations for a more coherent dual strategy for employment and skills:

"The Leitch report sets out a compelling argument for an overhaul of the UK's skills strategy. Better skills provision is essential if the DWP is to achieve its employment rate aspiration; increasing workplace training, and the relevance of qualifications to the needs of employers, will improve in-work advancement and make an important contribution to job sustainability and retention. We are concerned that, as yet, there has been no commitment to financing the implementation of Lord Leitch's proposals. The Government should be prepared to make a significant early investment in skills provision, in order to reap these rewards."[57]

61. We welcome the Government's commitment to co-ordinating employment and skills strategies. We repeat the conclusion in our report on the Government's Employment Strategy that assisting people who are out of work and have low skills to undertake education or training is crucial to improving their ability to sustain employment in a competitive labour market.

Adults Careers Service

62. As part of its strategy for employment and skills, the Government will launch a new adult careers service. The response to Lord Leitch's review outlines the plans for the new service, which will merge the information and advice services of learndirect and nextstep providers. Jobcentre Plus will have a distinct role in this process:

"We envisage that jobseekers identified by their Jobcentre Plus Personal Adviser as requiring further skills support will be referred to a careers adviser for a skills health check. This will help careers advisers make a detailed assessment of customer need, building confidence by identifying existing skills as part of the process of identifying areas for further development, and ensuring that realistic goals are set. This would be followed by personal careers advice on labour market conditions, employers' requirements, skills and earnings potential, future skills needs, availability of publicly funded programmes and courses, child care provision and so on."[58]

63. We asked the Government how the adult careers service will link and add value to the existing Personal Adviser model. The Minister told us that:

"At the moment the idea is that where it is still practicable the adults careers service will be co-located in Jobcentre Plus offices. Jobcentre Plus then identify jobseekers who have basic skills or employability needs and the adult careers service will be able to be on hand to provide a more in-depth assessment of their skill needs."[59]

64. We welcome the introduction of an adult careers service to support jobseekers in returning to the labour market. We recommend that the Government ensures that this service adds value to the role of Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers and that joint-working strategies are developed early so that customers have easy access to high quality careers and employment advice.

Skills and disabled people

65. One issue where we saw a lack of co-ordination between the employment and skills strategies was in addressing the number of disabled people without formal qualifications. Speaking at the launch of a report by the Social Market Foundation, 'Disability, Skills and Work: Raising our ambitions' on 11 June 2007, the then Secretary of State, the Rt Hon John Hutton MP, said:

"Today there are 4.6 million people without qualifications and a further 1.5 million with qualifications below level 2. Disabled people account for a third of all those without formal qualifications. They are twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualifications; and twice as likely to be living in poverty. And as incomes have risen across the working age population, so the relative position of disabled people has struggled to keep pace. While a quarter of all children living in poverty now have long-term sick or disabled parents.

"While disabled people and those with long term health conditions have lower employment rates than the non-disabled population at all levels of qualifications - the magnitude of that employment rate gap for those with no qualifications is almost double that for those with level 2 qualifications.

"And with the demand for low skills likely to continue falling - with Leitch predicting some 850,000 fewer low skilled jobs by 2020 - the impetus for change could not be greater."[60]

66. We were therefore surprised that the Government's response to the Leitch review did not set out specific measures to tackle this problem. When questioned on this point, the Secretary of State replied "I am not sure why that is but it is clearly an issue that I need to check out."[61]

67. We ask the Government to set out the specific measures it plans to introduce to tackle the issue that disabled people account for a third of all those without formal qualifications; and to explain why this was not covered in its response to the Leitch review.

56   DIUS, Cm 7181, July 2007, p 25 Back

57   Third Report of Session 2006-07, para 123 Back

58   DIUS, Cm 7181, July 2007, p 31 Back

59   Q 38 Back

60   John Hutton, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions speaking at the launch of 'Disability, Skills and Work: Raising our ambitions' at the Social Market Foundation on 11 June 2007 Back

61   Oral evidence taken before the Committee on 25 July 2007, HC (2006-07) 940-I, Q 37 Back

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