Salvation Army’s concern for future of employment support

published on 16 Jan 2019

Client with staff member at computer

More than half of its employment support funding could be at risk – Annie Dell, policy analyst explains why The Salvation Army says government needs to be clear that future employment support funding should invest in people, and makes sure no one is left behind.

“The Salvation Army’s UK employability support, Employment Plus, aims to help everyone looking for work, move into a good job. The European Social Fund (ESF) plays a critical role in this. Currently, 60 percent of The Salvation Army’s employability support is funded by the ESF. These grants allow us to support anyone in the community that is seeking work, whether or not they are claiming out-of-work benefits. 

“But there is uncertainty around the future of this funding after 2020 and a risk that if it’s not adequately replaced, vulnerable people will lose out. While the money that currently goes into the ESF from the UK will come back to the UK, it is not clear that financing will be ring-fenced to provide the same support programmes it currently funds.

“The Salvation Army believes it’s crucial that employment support funding reaches the people who need it most, such as those who are socially isolated and people who are long-term unemployed or ‘economically inactive’ (meaning – for a variety of reasons – they are not in employment and have given up looking for work). ESF money funds programmes that support people with services such as mentoring, IT skills as well as work-related qualifications and offers tailored approaches that take into account how best to support individuals to move into good work.

Additionally, in its current form, the ESF addresses areas where the need for employment support is greatest, for example, some areas in South Wales are determined to need as much funding as disadvantaged areas in Eastern Europe, and both will receive significantly more from the ESF as a result.

“It is essential that however the funding is devolved after 2020 that those who are responsible put communities and individuals at the heart of decision-making to ensure investment has genuine and positive impact.

“Without a focus on employment support, The Salvation Army’s concern is there could be a group of already vulnerable people who will no longer be able to access the specialist, ongoing support that programmes financed through the ESF provide. In particular, those who are out of work and not claiming out-of-work benefits, who struggle to access national employment support delivered by Jobcentre Plus.

“Inevitably, uncertainty around the future of this funding will make it difficult to plan the support The Salvation Army delivers every year to thousands of individuals. It’s important that, as we leave the EU and the UK will manage funds directly, even unintended restrictions that some match funding streams can create are considered. For example, some religious organisations like The Salvation Army cannot access funding that is tied with Big Lottery money, which is how some ESF funded programmes are currently co-financed. All organisations need to be able to access the funding equally.

“In our experience as a church and charity in communities across the country, we are seeing that despite a growing labour market, there is an increase of people coming into our centres who are economically inactive. In particular, for those who are coming to our centres seeking work, we would like to see funding secured to allow increased provision of specialist support; this will better enable us to identify and help all people who are seeking to work, back into employment no matter their economic status.

“In addition, we often observe that people who are economically inactive live in more affluent areas where there are pockets of small yet significant deprivation. With limited local services, too many individuals who want to work are missing out on the employment support needed to successfully make that journey into work.  This is why it’s essential that funding for employment support recognises the need in each local area.

“No matter the outcome of the future of employment support funding, the focus from government should be clearly defined on supporting everyone in society, particularly those who can be hidden from the national radar; these people depend on programmes such as ones funded by the ESF to help them access tailored support. We don’t need just roads and railways; we need funding and investment that enables and supports people to access labour market opportunities.”