Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of activation policy and labour market initiatives is to offer assistance to those most in need of support in securing work and achieving financial self-sufficiency. This policy objective prioritises scarce resources to those in receipt of qualifying welfare payments. Accordingly the employment services and schemes provided by the Department are focused in the first instance on this cohort of unemployed people. In this context, the major elements of the Government’s response are set out in the Pathways to Work policy which is aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of the job vacancies that are created are filled by people from the Live Register, with a particular focus on those who are long term unemployed or at risk of long-term unemployment. Many of those who became unemployed at the height of the jobs crisis in 2009 have found it particularly difficult to find employment. They are now a target priority group for activation measures.
The Government must also take account of the fact that many people who sign on to the Live Register will exit it again within a short-time frame, without any recourse to employment schemes or intensive activation measures. For example, in 2012, of those who signed on to the Live Register, 43% had left the Register within 3 months of first signing on. Given these high exit rates, it is appropriate to apply a qualifying duration on the Live Register as a criterion to allocate scarce resources, including places on employment and training/educational schemes, to those most in need of support. Of course, some services (for example assistance with job-search activities, use of online job search tools, participation in part-time/evening and on-line training courses) are available to all unemployed persons, regardless of their duration of unemployment, if they register with the Department’s employment services offices.