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The value of ONE

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Unemployed - Photo Central Audiovisual Library, European CommissionTwo new reports, published today by the Department for Work and Pensions, examine the attitudes of employers to recruiting benefit claimants, and the impact of the ONE service on clients’ attitudes and behaviour in relation to work and claiming benefit.

Both pieces of research took place in the ONE pilot areas. The survey findings are based on 1200 telephone interviews with employers carried out between November and December 2000. The research with ONE participants involved 106 depth interviews with clients – including jobseekers, lone parents, widows, carers and people claiming sickness or disability benefits – who began a claim in August 2000.

The main findings are:

Employers survey

Employers were willing to take on ONE relevant recruits (41 per cent had recruited from them in the past three years), and many stated that they would recruit from them in the future in principle. Employers’ attitudes to recruiting from ONE relevant groups appeared to reflect business practices. They recruited on the grounds of suitability and skills for the job.

The groups employers were most likely to have recruited from were lone parents (27 per cent), followed by people who were long-term unemployed (20 per cent) and those with physical or mental health problems (13 per cent). Seventy-five per cent of the employers felt that employing lone parents posed no more problem than employing parents with young children generally.

Employers’ pragmatic approach was reflected in their willingness to make changes within the workplace to facilitate the integration of the new recruit if and when these were needed. Six out of ten employers had made changes, with 35 per cent introducing more flexible hours, and 24 per cent providing additional or different training. Employers were less willing to change the actual job specification (eight per cent), reflecting their view that they would recruit the best person for the job.

There were clear links between the use of Jobcentres for recruitment and the recruitment of ONE relevant groups. Fifty one per cent of employers recruiting from these groups used the Jobcentre.

Increased recruitment of ONE relevant groups could be achieved by a more proactive service via the Jobcentre. Employers were asked about ideas which would be useful in recruiting via the Jobcentre. Employers were most interested in the idea of being given more information on the ‘soft skills’ of potential recruits (87%). There was also a high level of support for the idea of having an account manager (85%), an adviser based at the Jobcentre who had specialist knowledge in the employers’ area of business and who would be the key point of contact for recruitment purposes.

There was potential for encouraging the recruitment of ONE relevant groups amongst the 20 per cent of employers who had not recruited from these groups before, if one or more of the ideas was implemented.

Qualitative research with clients

There were people in all client groups who regarded themselves as ‘job-ready’ and saw claiming benefit as a temporary measure. Although focused on work, few had developed a clear, targeted strategy for finding a job before seeing their ONE Personal Adviser (PA).

PAs helped job-ready clients develop more targeted job search strategies, increasing clients’ self-confidence, as well as their confidence in their job search and work goals. Many subsequently moved into work or started vocational training.

The extent to which ONE impacted on the attitudes and behaviour of participants who saw work as an option for the future was limited, because discussions with PAs tended to concentrate on benefits rather than work. The greatest impact was on clients who had recently lost a partner – either through bereavement or separation. The space and sympathy PAs gave helped clients deal with their situation and reflect on their next steps, including whether they may be able to consider work later. Many said they would return to their PAs when they felt work was a more immediate priority.

Among those who said work was not an option (mainly carers, lone parents and sick or disabled clients) PAs were able to change some clients’ attitudes to the possibility of work. Exploring the different options available and discussing previous work experience enabled a few claimants to feel that work was a realistic option.

PAs were able to challenge any negative perceptions of the benefits system if the client perceived them as being approachable, understanding and respecting clients’ work related goals. However, participants’ accounts suggested that, while PAs provided help and advice with the barriers to work that clients themselves identified, they were less successful at helping clients identify hidden barriers.

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