NEN discussed business support at the Work and Pensions Committee

NEN discussed business support at the Work and Pensions Committee

The challenges faced by micro business and sole traders were presented to Parliament last week as NEN chair, Alex Till, represented the sector at the Work and Pensions Committee at the House of Commons.

The challenges faced by micro business and sole traders were presented to Parliament last week as NEN chair, Alex Till, represented the sector at the Work and Pensions Committee at the House of Commons.

He was joined by representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses, Momentic Business Development Consultants, and Aviva Insurance as the committee considered what employers and the self-employed need from DWP support services and wider issues relating to economic inactivity and job vacancies.

Speaking at the meeting, Alex spoke passionately about skills and recruitment needs, as well as the challenges around business support created by changes in local government administration, LEPs, Growth Hubs and other funding schemes as well as an increased focus on supporting tech and high-growth companies.

“We are seeing programmes cancelled and finding that a number of enterprise agencies are having to fight to continue providing that much-needed support at a local, ground level. The change of position as well as European funding removal has had a direct impact on the small and micro businesses we work with.

“The changes are not taking into consideration what is good for economic growth for UK PLC. Self-employment is not all about high tech growth, and getting people into self-employment helps UK PLC’s public purse string.

“If we look at other countries, there is a programme of business support in which everyone can become involved, including the private sector looking their supply chain. It enables a look at the whole skills, enterprise and employability agenda which becomes embedded in the system.”

You can watch the full session here:

Other key discussion points brought up in the session include:

How can job centres better engage with employers?

The current experience of JCP is poor due to their low levels of engagement, time-consuming process, and inadequate website user interface. Online recruitment companies and word-of-mouth are the most common methods of recruitment for businesses.

Employer Impact: Centres prioritise placing people into any job rather than the right one.

A lot of applicants don’t show any interest in the job or have no relevance to it. Employers see it as a waste of time.

Is an occupation health provision likely to aid small businesses when hiring people with disabilities, long-term conditions, and over 50?

There is a need for a new Health Kickstart program to help those with low self-esteem and low confidence.

Flexible and part-time jobs offer significant benefits, should more employers offer them?

Hybrid-balanced working is more important to the younger workforce. Coworking spaces and more options for home working are needed. To make jobs attractive, those who lack work readiness need practical work experience to inspire their dedication.

Do employment charters and employment schemes improve the quality of jobs or do they merely accredit those who use them? What can be done to improve them further?

The disability charter has been a crucial part of ensuring Aviva has the right systems in place and it may narrow down opportunities for those who are not accredited. The tendering process may push accreditation forward.

What can DWP do to better facilitate employers in DWP schemes such as kickstart? Should DWP continue to support participants even after they have obtained employment?

Employers will be welcomed back. As for participants, there is no denying the importance of transition and ongoing support. It is also necessary to have tiers of intensive support in order to ensure continuity.

How would SME employers be affected if programmes design and delivery were devolved to local areas?

To ensure consistency, self-employment should be a national program.

How well does the Restart Scheme provide a route into self-employment?

The restart scheme needs to be better funded. The coverage is patchy. It is not a standalone program. It requires specialist support, which is not widely available under the scheme.

NEA withdrawal: the impact

JCP referrals to previous NEA deliverables asking for self-employment support. ERDF funding coming to an end, UKSPF doesn’t cover the shortfall. There is a huge gap in support. There is a big demand for NEA.

What can specialists at job centres do to help entrepreneurs start their businesses, or should it be specialised programs like NEA?

The importance of maintaining a consistent self-employment programme cannot be overstated.

A year has passed since MIS was applied for, is this enough/sufficient, and does there need to be more support offered?

  1. It is important to take into account the cash flow – late payments should be considered
  2. An opportunity to receive training support is needed
  3. A more relevant assessment of the level of earnings needs to be made

Why has self-employment reduced?

There are a number of reasons why this is occurring; the removal of the NEA provision, a cost of living crisis, a Universal Credit challenge, and MIF – the assessed level of earnings needs to be more relevant.