UK job centres should face competition, says think tank

Nassos Stylianou
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UK job centres need "radical" reform, says Policy Exchange (Source: Getty)

The UK's job centres are failing to help people into long term employment, with just over a third of people finding sustained work through them, according to a report by an influential centre-right think tank.

The report by Policy Exchange, published today, says that because of the fragmented nature of the welfare system in the UK, job centres are failing many of the 11.5m people suffering from long-term health conditions, especially those with mental health issues.

Jobseekers who may be suffering from longstanding problems that prevent them finding and sustaining work are being let down by the current welfare system that often does not deal with these overlapping issues from the beginning of the process, argues Policy Exchange in the report entitled 'Joined Up Welfare'.

According to the think tank's estimates, only 36 per cent of JSA (job seeker allowance) claimants find a job within six months of claiming benefits and keep it over the whole of a seven to eight month period, while "others do not find employment, or cycle in and out of work".

"The way public services are currently structured means that often a jobseeker ends up being passed from pillar to post. This is confusing for the individual, creates barriers to help them into work and is expensive," said one of the report's authors Guy Miscampbell.

Therefore, the think tank, which is close to the Conservative party, proposes a radical new structure where private companies and charities can compete with government agencies to help the jobless find work, while job centres would be restructured in a way that would allow other providers to bid to offer “more personalised and specialist support”.

This would give the unemployed person the advantage of being able to select for themselves which service they wanted to commission to help them find work.

Jobcentre Plus, the brand used by the UK Department for Work and Pensions for its working-age support service in the United Kingdom, would be renamed 'Citizen Support'.

The rebranded body would effectively act as the central hub for accessing government services, allowing advisers to identify an individual's specific barriers to work and therefore offering advice on the potential provider that could meet that person's needs. Access to data showing the provider's previous success rate would enable the jobseeker to make an informed choice on the matter.

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