Six ground-breaking projects, including an investigation looking at how endometriosis impacts women in the workplace, have been awarded £12.4m, the government announced on September 12.
The projects comprise the first round of the Labour Market Evaluation and Pilots Fund, and take place over the next two years. The results will help to transform the government’s approach to the jobs market and drive forward research into best practice in employment.
While the UK’s employment rate is higher than a number of other advanced economies, the government is committed to ensure that those who most need help getting into the workplace are supported.
The chancellor announced a range of interventions to address this at Spring Budget 2023 - including a significant expansion of childcare support, making 30 hours of free childcare a week available to parents from children aged nine months. The Labour Market Evaluation and Pilots Fund is part of that and will be used to test new approaches and generate better evidence to help specific groups return to work or work longer hours.
Victoria Atkins, financial secretary to the Treasury, said, “Our jobs record is incredibly strong, with high employment that means millions of people are benefiting from work. But for some, that’s not happening.
“We need to look for solutions that are tailored to help people thrive in the jobs market. This analysis is the first step towards that – looking at specific health conditions or living arrangements to find out what works to help people work.”
Mims Davies, minister for social mobility, youth and progression, said, “The vital opportunities and confidence employment gives helps to transform lives. This is why we are determined to support all those who want to progress to do so, while also driving down inactivity and, importantly, growing the economy.
“This key new funding for our pilots will enable us to support even more people to move forward in work, including vitally those in supported accommodation and more disadvantaged communities, to help people to break down any barriers to work, so more people can fulfil their employment potential.”
Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, said, “The ONS welcomes the opportunity to shine light on this important area with these projects. This new analysis will provide crucial insight for decision makers in helping to understand how health conditions impact on people’s working lives and what interventions can help people stay in work.”
Maria Caulfield, minister for the women’s health strategy, said, “Endometriosis can be a debilitating condition that stops women and girls from living their lives to their fullest potential.
“Through the Women’s Health Strategy we have set an ambition for all women and girls with severe endometriosis to experience better care, with reduced waiting times for diagnosis and providing funding for key research into the condition.
“The support doesn’t stop at health, and today’s announcement demonstrates how we’re taking a cross-government approach to help women with endometriosis get back to living their best lives.”
One of the projects includes a first-of-its-kind Office for National Statistics (ONS) evaluation which will investigate the impact of endometriosis on women’s participation and progression in the workforce. Endometriosis can affect around one in 10 women, with symptoms including chronic pain and fatigue, which can disrupt daily routines, fertility, and mental health. Time off work may be needed to cope with symptoms. Previous work has shown that women with the condition often take this into consideration when making career choices, including the likelihood they will need to take significantly more sick leave. This project will improve understanding and help inform government plans to support women with the condition in their careers.
A second project by the ONS will evaluate whether programmes to reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes and obesity improve people’s ability to join the labour market. Around 3.8m people in the UK have type 2 diabetes, and 2.4m are at high risk of developing the disease, which can have a strong effect on quality of life, including the ability to work. The evaluation will include reviewing the impact of the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP), a large scale nine-month, evidence-based lifestyle change programme aimed at people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
There will also be a new pilot to address barriers to work faced by those aged 18-24 living in supported housing, which is accommodation provided alongside care, support or supervision to help people live as independently as possible in the community and can act as a pathway to transitioning into work.
To support young people in making that transition, DWP and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have developed a Proof of Concept that will test financial support and simplification of the benefits system for 18–24-year-olds living in supported housing who move into work or increase their working hours. This will help them to build their employment prospects further, work towards becoming financially independent and progress into move on accommodation in a planned way.
Funding will also be allocated to two HMRC projects to evaluate the impact of Tax-Free Childcare on parents’ work choices and women’s return to work after maternity leave. In addition, funding will be provided to DWP to trial employment support and rent incentives to move people out of work or on low earnings into work or onto higher earnings.