Headlines: August 2nd, 2007



A new programme to increase social mobility by helping people improve their skills, find a job and progress at work has been launched by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. It is designed to improve life chances for individuals and their families and contribute to a reduction in child poverty.

Social mobility, the change in an individual’s status throughout the course of life, has declined in the UK to the extent that family background is more predictive of social position today than it was in 1850. Employment is a major factor in facilitating social mobility and unemployment is limiting the life chances of more than three million people who have been on benefit for over a year, many on incapacity benefits. There are concentrations of worklessness in cities, often close to thriving labour markets. There are also nearly three million households in which no-one is working, and 1.7 million children are growing up in such families.

The Employability Skills programme has been developed especially to meet the needs of Jobcentre Plus customers and includes a provision leading to an Employability Award that is based on the skills, behaviours and attitudes that employers want to see in someone they recruit. It will provide training in numeracy, literacy and language skills to help people find a job and then further training to help keep them in employment once they are working. Without these basic skills people experience cycling between low-skilled jobs and periods of unemployment.

The programme is linked to the Local Employment Partnerships announced earlier by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The new partnerships will include a ‘Jobs Pledge’ under which major employers in the private and public sectors, will offer a quarter of a million job opportunities. These opportunities will be for people who are at a disadvantage in the labour market, such as lone parents and those on incapacity benefits, so long as they engage with the support available and are ready, willing and able to work. Already around 30 employers, including Asda, B&Q, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Carrilion and McDonalds have committed to this pledge.