Press release

Publication of DWP working paper 105: In-Work Support for Lone Parents: Using the UK ERA Demonstration to Examine Cross-Office Variation in Effectiveness

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Research - programme impacts across Jobcentre Plus districts participating in the Employment, Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration.

Research published today by the Department for Work and Pensions is a technical paper which looks at variation in the programme impacts across the Jobcentre Plus districts participating in the Employment, Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration. It attempts to understand what factors are associated with positive impacts and the extent to which impacts vary according to which elements of the overall ERA package individual offices emphasised the most.

This report is the last in a series of ERA reports published by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). In particular it accompanies DWP Research Report 765: Breaking the low-pay, no-pay cycle: Final evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration.The final ERA analysis showed the ERA programme to have a modest but sustained impact on employment and earnings for long-term unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance. For lone parents in receipt of Income Support, and lone parents working part-time in receipt of tax credits the programme had an impact on employment and earnings in the short-term, but this impact subsequently disappeared as the comparison group ‘caught up’.

Working paper 105 is a technical report that looks only at the (out of work) lone parent participants. By addressing the question of variation in effectiveness across local Jobcentre Plus offices it intends to dig beneath the overall result that ERA  had no significant long-term impact for this group  (as set out in Report 765) to understand whether there were elements of the overall programme, or the way it was delivered, which did have a positive effect.

It tests two hypotheses: First, whether the intensity of the ERA services (eg the amount of time advisers spend with each ERA customer) affects customers’ employment and benefit outcomes. And, secondly, whether the types of ERA services provided (such as help with advancement or help with finding education and training opportunities) also matters. And finally, which matters most?

Key Findings

Final ERA Impact analysis (RR 765) showed that

  • For the long-term unemployed participants (mostly men) in the New Deal for the 25 plus (ND25+) target group, ERA produced substantial increases in employment and earnings, which emerged after the first year and persisted for most of the follow-up period
  • The earnings gains for the ND25+ group were accompanied by lasting reductions in benefit receipt over the five-year follow-up period.
  • ERA proved cost-effective from the perspectives of the long-term unemployed participants themselves, the government budget, and society as a whole. This is a noteworthy achievement for a group that is widely considered difficult to help.
  • For the two lone parent groups, (mostly women), ERA produced earnings gains early in the follow-up period, but these did not last after the programme ended. The early gains resulted from increases in the proportion of participants who worked full time (at least 30 hours per week).
  • In the later years, these impacts for lone parents generally faded, although an earnings gain appears to have persisted among lone parents who were better-educated but unemployed, who may have had more latent potential to work and interest in working that ERA tapped.
  • In the long run, ERA did not work substantially better than the national New Deal for Lone Parents programme for the average lone parent and from a cost-benefit perspective ERA did not produce encouraging results for the lone parent groups, with the exception of the NDLP better-educated subgroup.

Analysis of how these results vary across local Jobcentre Plus offices show:

  • that increased employment and reduced benefit receipt arose in offices where a higher proportion of ERA customers (compared to control group members) received help with in-work advancement; were given support while working and were made aware of the employment retention bonus
  • that both the intensity and the types of services matter. In offices with higher adviser caseloads lone parents spent more time on IS and less time in employment and where offices emphasized in-work advancement, customers had fewer months on IS and more months employed.
    • that in terms of what affected ERA impacts most; offices that emphasised in-work advancement and in-work support more generally tended to deliver stronger effects of ERA, as did those offices where awareness levels of the employment retention bonus were higher.    On the other hand, some of the services examined (particularly those that emphasise human capital investment rather than in-work advancement) were not found to affect the impact of ERA.

Notes to Editors:

The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) programme was a social policy demonstration project which ran in six UK regions between October 2003 and October 2007. DWP has previously published a range of ERA reports which are available on the DWP website.

With over 16,000 individuals being randomly assigned over one year, the ERA study represented at its inception the largest randomised evaluation of a social programme in Great Britain. The programme targeted three groups of people:

  • Lone parents volunteering for the New Deal for Lone Parents programme (NDLP)
  • Lone parents working between 16 and 29 hours a week and receiving working tax credit (WTC)
  • Long-term unemployed people mandated to join the New Deal 25 Plus programme (ND25+)

DWP Working Paper 105: In-Work Support for Lone Parents: Using the UK ERA Demonstration to Examine Cross-Office Variation in Effectiveness is published on 8 December 2011. The report is available on the DWP website.