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Work, welfare and public policy

Much of IER research is concerned with labour market and social policy and practice with a strong emphasis on the identification of good practice in programme delivery, estimation of the impacts and net costs/benefits of interventions and the evaluation of the wider labour market impacts of policy. Areas of research are focused around:

Activation of the labour market in recent times has resulted in a proliferation of schemes and policies. IER has played a major role in responding to the demands from government for evidence on which to base labour market policy and decisions, including quantitative evaluation of many of active labour market programmes and education, training and related activity.

The evaluation of policy requires a multi-disciplinary approach using both quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques based upon primary and secondary data sources. Research methods employed include: econometric analyses of large datasets; survey-based research; and studies using in-depth interviews and case study approaches. We also utilise our methodological expertise to go beyond the study of employment issues to engage in wider social policy debates and socio-economic analysis. For example, we have an established stream of research on personal debt, economic inequality and citizenship.

Over the years, IER has worked closely with professionals in many Government Departments and their agencies and have an appreciation of the balance to be struck between external objectivity and rigour and the policy and operational requirements of Government customers. As well as larger scale projects, IER has undertaken a number of smaller-scale evaluations of practice for a variety of clients and through this developed an understanding of the perspectives of a range of customers.

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Evaluation of government programmes and initiatives

IER has a long track record of research relating to welfare to work programmes, public employment services, skills and training programmes and careers guidance. IER has directly contributed to the evaluations of JSA and all the mainstream New Deal programmes, namely New Deal for Young People, New Deal for Lone Parents, New Deal 25 Plus (in its original form as New Deal for Long-term Unemployed and in subsequent enhanced and re-engineered forms) and, to a lesser extent, New Deal for Disabled People. IER led the National Evaluation of City Strategy.

IER has also contributed to:

  • the evaluations of Earnings Top-up;
  • Employment Zones;
  • Skills Coaching Trials;
  • Modern Apprenticeship; and
  • City Strategy Pathfinders.

These contributions have taken a variety of forms, for instance:

  • cost-benefit analysis (NDLP);
  • analysis of additionality using data from employer surveys (NDYP and ND25 Plus);
  • econometric analysis of impacts using survey data and administrative records (NDLP, ETU, Employment Zones);
  • spatial analysis using administrative data merged with contextual data from other sources (NDLP, NDDP, Employment Zones);
  • in-depth interviews with Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers and other key stakeholders (ND25 Plus, Skills Coaching).

Employment, unemployment and worklessness

IER monitors trends in employment, unemployment and worklessness, both nationally and sub-nationally. Research has focused on different measures of unemployment and worklessness and on policies to tackle worklessness and help people into work. IER has made important contributions to the policy agenda on tackling worklessness. Other research under this broad heading has related to job search methods and issues in finding work. On a related theme research is underway on links between ICT and employability.

Social policy issues and debates

In addition to a direct contribution to the evaluation of welfare to work and related programmes, IER has also supported such evaluations by conducting research that contributes to a broader understanding of the impact of such programmes. Evidence reviews relating to employers and young unemployed people, methods for measuring additionality and a number of syntheses of evaluation evidence were conducted in the early years of the New Deal.

More recently systematic reviews have been conducted relating to workless households and the partners of benefit claimants, social exclusion amongst working age adults (for the Social Exclusion Unit), international evidence relating to targeting customers in public employment services and, finally, ‘What works?’, probably the largest review of its type that synthesised all of the available evaluation evidence relating to key DWP programmes since 1997.

IER also has a long-term research interest in regard to the market for employment services (both public and private). IER was responsible for the UK contribution to a European Commission network reviewing developments in employment services in member states. More recently, IER has worked with several other research organisations to assess alternative Jobcentre Plus service delivery channels, conducted an international review of profiling and targeting of employment service customers and undertaken an econometric analysis designed to assess the benefits of profiling Jobcentre Plus customers.

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Recent publications

  • Green, A.E. and Orton, M. (2012). Policy Innovation in a Fragmented and Complex Multilevel Governance Context: Worklessness and the City Strategy in Great Britain. Regional Studies, 46(2), pp. 153 - 164.
  • Adam, D., Campbell-Hall, V., De Hoyos, M., Green, A.E. and Thomas, A. (2011). Increasing digital channel use amongst digitally excluded Jobcentre Plus claimants. Sheffield: Department for Work and Pensions. (DWP Research Report 776). ISBN 978-1-908523-26-6

  • Green, A., De Hoyos, M., Li, Y. and Owen, D.W. (2011). Job Search Study: Literature review and analysis of the Labour Force Survey. Sheffield: Department for Work and Pensions. (DWP Research Report 726). ISBN 978 1 84712 925 3

  • Green, A.E. and Adam, D. (2011). City Strategy: Final Evaluation. Sheffield: Department for Work and Pensions. (DWP Research Report No. 783). ISBN 978 1 908523 41 9
  • Green, A.E. and Shuttleworth, I. (2010). Local differences, perceptions and Incapacity Benefit claimants: implications for policy delivery. Policy Studies, 31(2), pp. 223 - 243.
  • Green, A.E., Adam, D. and Hasluck, C. (2010). Evaluation of Phase 1 City Strategy. Sheffield: Department for Work and Pensions. (DWP Research Report 639).
  • Green A.E. and Hasluck, C. (2009). Action to reduce worklessness: what works?. Local Economy, 24(1), pp. 73 - 82.
  • Orton, M. and Davies, R. (2009). Exploring neglected dimensions of social policy: the Social Division of Welfare ( SDW), fiscal welfare and the exemplar of local taxation in England. Social Policy And Administration, 43(1), pp. 35 - 53.
  • Orton, M. (2009). Understanding the exercise of agency within structural inequality: the case of personal debt. Social Policy and Society, 8, pp. 487 - 498.
  • Bonvin, J-M. and Orton, M. (2009). Activation policies and organisational innovation: the added value of the capability approach. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29, pp. 612 - 623.
  • Green, A.E. and Orton, M. (2009). The integration of activation policy at sub-national level: a case study of the City Strategy initiative in an English sub-region. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29, pp. 565 - 574.
  • Orton, M. (2008). State approaches to wealth. In: Ridge, T. and Wright, S., eds., Understanding inequality, poverty and wealth. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Further publications can be accessed from the IER publication pages.


Selected recent projects

  • The Long-term Impact of Debt Advice on Low Income Households, Friends Provident Foundation (2007 - 2013) More Details
  • Final Review and Evaluation of the Mon Menai Economic Inactivity Project, Isle of Anglesey County Council (2012) More Details
  • Stocktake of worklessness policy analysis and dissemination, Department for Work & Pensions (2012) More Details
  • National Evaluation of the City Strategy Pathfinders Stage 2, Department for Works & Pensions (2010 - 2011) More Details
  • Evaluating the IAPT employment Adviser Pilots, Department for Works & Pensions (2009 - 2011) More Details


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Key contacts

Michael Orton

Gaby Atfield