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Connecting People with Jobs

Activation Policies in the United Kingdom

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This report examines recent activation policies in the United Kingdom aimed at moving people back into work. It offers insight into how countries can improve the effectiveness of their employment services and also control spending on benefits. The United Kingdom's policies have helped limit the rise in unemployment during the crisis. It has been at the forefront of reform efforts by OECD countries to transform and modernise policies designed to help the unemployed find work, through major new programmes such as Universal Credit and the Work Programme. Although time is needed for these to gain momentum as well as for a full evaluation of their impact to be carried out, the report identifies a number of areas where consideration should be given to additional measures or adjustments to existing ones.

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Quasi-market arrangements in the UK Work Programme

In the United Kingdom, some employment programmes for the unemployed have been outsourced using quasi-market arrangements since the 1980s. The Work Programme, introduced in June 2011, expands quasi-market arrangements to cover all long-term unemployed and several other large client groups. Its commissioning model can be summarised as follows: a market structure with large contracts held by few prime providers, which work with a network of sub-contractors; a more fully outcome-based payment model with strong emphasis on sustained outcomes; limited prescription of minimum service levels through a “black box” delivery model; high performance expectations; and ongoing performance competition between providers. This chapter assesses the Work Programme’s performance to date and addresses the challenges that remain for achieving better labour market outcomes for participants referred to the programme.

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