Helping people secure, stay and succeed in higher quality, higher … – GOV.UK


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Published 13 December 2022

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This Government is determined increase productivity and prosperity right across the United Kingdom. Integral to this will be getting more people into work, enhancing our workers skills, and increasing their earnings.
I am grateful to Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith and the members of her advisory panel for their report on the barriers to progression that those in low paid jobs face. We have considered its insights carefully as part of developing a government plan to help people progress in work and increase their incomes.
Our new approach is set out in this response to Baroness McGregor-Smith’s report. It builds on the success of Universal Credit (UC) and our sustained focus on helping people move into work. Our Plan for Jobs and the recent Way to Work campaign have successfully protected jobs and livelihoods and helped people move back into work. This is evidenced by full-time employment rates returning to close to pre-Covid levels.
We have taken further steps to make work pay. As well as announcing an increase to the National Living Wage from April 2023, we have also increased UC work allowances and reduced the taper rate, meaning people keep more of what they earn. Alongside this we have increased the contact that those not active in the labour market or in low pay have with their Work Coaches and Jobcentres. This is all part of this Government’s programme to place economic stability and confidence at the heart of our agenda: reducing economic inactivity and helping to boost pay, prospects and prosperity across Britain. It includes a new model of support for people already in work and looking to progress, building on stronger work incentives and a place-based approach. This model expands the intensive support offered to the lowest paid UC claimants, but it also introduces the expertise of a network of specialist Progression Leads working at district level to strengthen the local employment landscape across our Jobcentre network. The job of these Progression Leads will be to work with local stakeholders to develop progression opportunities and to support our invaluable Work Coaches to provide tailored and practical advice on progression. We have been testing this new support offer on a voluntary basis in South Yorkshire and Cheshire. The results have been encouraging, and so we aim to roll-out the new model to all Jobcentres across Great Britain by the end of March 2023. This will give approximately 2.1m people the chance to access this additional support to advance their careers.
Building on the voluntary offer, and as announced in the Autumn Statement, we will be providing even more Work Coach support to Universal Credit claimants who currently have less frequent contact with Jobcentres. This will start from September 2023, with over 600,000 claimants starting to receive our new offer, which will help them to overcome the barriers holding them back from progressing in work. Our invigorated progression offer is intended to complement and work alongside the plans set out in the Skills for Jobs plan and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
We also recognise that specific groups of people face more complex barriers in employment and our response sets out how we are supporting these groups. This includes the Access to Work scheme which is supporting a series of Adjustment Passport pilots to facilitate transition into employment and provide greater flexibility for disabled people and people with health conditions to move into and between job roles. For older people, our new, further enhanced support package is benefitting workers over 50.
Our response and our plans to help those in work are ambitious, and our wider aim is clear: to help people to access the opportunities that will enable them to have higher quality, higher paying jobs.
The Rt Hon Mel Stride MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
This Government’s agenda is clear: to build our economy to deliver highly skilled roles and opportunities across all sectors. In DWP’s interaction with the lowest paid workers, through the welfare system, we are at the frontline of implementing this agenda by focusing on getting our workers in to higher paid, higher quality jobs. We are clear that we want to make the most of our extraordinary network of Jobcentres across Great Britain to make a real, tangible difference to the work, skills, and prospects of our lowest paid claimants, which includes those impacted by the pandemic and in particular, long covid. That is the impetus behind this response, for DWP but also for departments across Government.
Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith’s report ‘Supporting progression out of low pay: a call to action’ was commissioned before the pandemic in 2020 by then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey. This UK Government response sets out a new approach to supporting people in low pay to increase their earnings, skills, and prospects at work, whether in the same sector or by switching sectors. This new, wide-ranging approach includes a number of key themes:
A note on the scope of this response: The UK Government is responsible for policies on employment support and social security in England and Wales, save for certain functions relating to employment support which may be exercisable jointly or concurrently with Welsh Ministers in some circumstances. All policy areas under consideration in this response, except the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, are transferred to Northern Ireland. In Scotland, some parts of the social security system are devolved, however Universal Credit remains the responsibility of the UK Government. With respect to employment support, the Scottish Government has powers to set up contracted programmes to help disabled people and people with health conditions into work. It has similar powers to support people who are at risk of long-term unemployment, provided this support lasts for 12 months or longer. The Scottish and Welsh Governments are responsible for health, local Government, education, skills including the careers service, transport, childcare, and social care. Where this response relates to these areas, it applies to England only.
Where this response describes funding for initiatives in England only, the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive will have received consequential funding through the Barnett Formula. It will be for them to decide how they use this funding. The UK Government remains committed to working with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, and with the Northern Ireland Executive, to consider how best to help low paid workers across all nations secure, stay in and succeed in higher quality, higher paying jobs, therefore boosting our collective prosperity.
Commission Recommendations
Providing incentives and support for people to move into and progress in work is at the heart of Universal Credit (UC). It removes the cliff edges that were a feature of the legacy benefits, including tax credits, instead reducing benefit payments at a steady rate as earnings increase. The Work Allowance is the amount households with children or an adult with a disability or health condition (which affects their capability for work) can earn before their award starts to reduce. After any Work Allowance is taken into account, UC reduces as earnings increase according to a ‘taper rate’ which applies to all households with earnings.
To make work pay and strengthen incentives for those on low pay, we have:
We want to help businesses better understand how UC works and how it differs from legacy benefits, including tax credits, so they can help in-work claimants to make informed decisions about their career progression.
To help employers understand rules for UC claimants, we are:
To further strengthen employers’ understanding of UC, we will:
Commission Recommendations
Jobcentres and Work Coaches have historically focussed on helping people find and move into work. With DWP’s new offer, we are putting a greater focus on helping people progress once they are in work.
We have raised the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) in UC from £355 to £494 per month for individuals (equivalent to working 12 hours per week at the National Living Wage) and from £567 to £792 per month for couples. People earning under the threshold receive the most intensive support from our Jobcentres on a weekly or fortnightly basis, so raising the threshold means that more people will see a Work Coach for progression support on a weekly or fortnightly basis. The government will raise the AET further in January 2023 to 15 hours a week at National Living Wage for individual claimants, and 24 hours a week for couples. This change will mean approximately 120,000 more UC claimants who are in work will benefit from further support through our Jobcentres.
Our voluntary progression offer has been rolling out since April 2022. Across 10 Jobcentre Plus Districts including South Yorkshire, Cheshire, North and Mid-Wales and the Black Country Work Coaches are already offering practical and tailored progression advice on a voluntary basis to individuals who want to progress but do not know where to start – they may need a confidence boost, new skills, a qualification, specialist career advice (via the National Careers Service or the equivalent services in Scotland and Wales), or help putting together a plan for their progression.
The voluntary progression offer will be available in every Jobcentre across Great Britain by the end of March 2023, ensuring that individuals who are in work will have the right support to progress. The offer will:
Furthermore, and building on our voluntary offer, from September 2023 we will start to require UC claimants in the ‘Light Touch’ conditionality group to engage with our progression offer[footnote 1]. This will mean that over 600,000 Universal Credit claimants will be required to meet with a work coach so that they can benefit from support to increase their hours or earnings and overcome barriers to progression. This is in line with the original design of UC, which as well as supporting people to move into work, is about helping people take up more and/or better paid work.
Commission Recommendations
DWP is helping to support unemployed people and those on low incomes to develop their skills through our Plan for Jobs. As part of this, Jobcentre Work Coaches are:
National Careers Service

National Careers Service advisers can support individuals in England looking to undertake learning, training and retraining and provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and over. Professional careers advisers guide people to make better career and learning choices through upskilling or re-skilling, which continues to be an important priority and focus for the service.

National Careers Service advisers provide personalised careers information, advice and guidance services to all adults. This is done via individual and group face-to-face sessions, over the telephone, through digital and social media platforms, with particular emphasis on priority groups who may need more help in developing their career management skills, progressing in work or learning.

More information is available at and advisers are available via phone 0800 100 900 via webchat and in the community.
A lack of basic skills can hold people back from getting or progressing in a job. We have:
For people to progress in work, it is important for there to be opportunities to gain the necessary qualifications later in life. Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications increase employability and boost earnings by 9% and 16% on average[footnote 5] respectively and a major review of higher technical education[footnote 6] in England highlighted that Level 4 and 5 technical qualifications can unlock the skills employers need, and lead to well paid jobs.
We are therefore:
The offer is available to any adult without an existing Level 3 qualification, and to adults who have a Level 3 qualification or higher but who earn under the National Living Wage annually or are unemployed.
To progress to higher earnings, some people need support to switch sectors and others need support to develop new skills to respond to developments within their sector. We are implementing DWP Train and Progress, a nationwide initiative designed to implement a framework that enables Jobcentres to create the routeway to better aligned employment and skills support. This includes a temporary extension of the time claimants can participate in full-time, work-related training to 16 weeks.
To help people learn while they earn, we are:
supporting UC claimants through DWP’s Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs) – aimed at unemployed people but also open to workers on low incomes who can balance attendance alongside existing commitments
– to provide employability training, a work experience placement and either a guaranteed interview or support with an employer for a real job or support to help participants through an employer’s application process.
Furthermore, the new Employment and Skills Pathfinders, announced as part of the Levelling Up White Paper this year, will create greater alignment at a local level between our various skills and employment initiatives to help people into work and into better jobs. The Pathfinders will bring together various government and local stakeholders to respond to intelligence about local employers’ skills needs, supporting jobseekers into training that will enable them to move into, and progress in jobs in their local area. Pathfinders will initially run in Barking and Dagenham, Blackpool, and Walsall.
We have reviewed the Commission’s recommendation that governments across the UK should oversee the development of subsidised sector-specific bridging courses to enable low skilled workers to gain skills that would enable them to access higherlevel training and better paying positions. We fully support the intentions behind the Commission’s recommendation and believe that the existing SWAPs, Skills Bootcamps, and Apprenticeships described above will meet this need.
Commission Recommendations
The Commission’s report highlighted the hard work of the people who work in adult social care and outlined some of the specific challenges faced by the sector. These included significantly higher staff turnover than other public service sectors and negative perceptions of the work and opportunities to develop and progress.
We are taking forwards our system reform programmes and progressing the proposals in the People at the Heart of Care White Paper, including in training and technology. We recognise that reforms to the adult social care system will be crucial to building long-term resilience in the sector to increasing demand.
Our focus will be on supporting the adult care workforce to develop the right skills and knowledge and have access to high-quality training and development opportunities.
Through our continued funding of Skills for Care, the Government already provides a range of resources and practical toolkits for social care providers to help them attract, train and retain staff. This includes distributing funding annually through the Workforce Development Fund, which enables employers to bid for financial support towards the training and development of their staff.
This also includes our continued investment in the social work workforce, including the Think Ahead programme graduate programme to train new mental health social workers.
Commission Recommendations
We recognise some groups need particular support to help them progress to higher earnings, such as parents juggling work and childcare, disabled people and people with health conditions, or older workers.
We recognise that without support on childcare, we cannot harness the full potential of our workers, including lone parents and lead carers. The UK Government provides a generous system of childcare support for working parents and is committed to ensuring that DWP’s Work Coaches, UC claimants and parents are aware of and understand the childcare choices available to them so they can benefit from it. In June, the first phase of the Childcare Choices advertising campaign was launched across the UK – a collaboration with DfE, HMRC and DWP. The campaign aims to bring together the government support for the costs of childcare in one place, giving people information about 30 Hours Childcare, Tax-Free Childcare and Universal Credit Childcare on the Childcare Choices[footnote 8] website (which provides information about the UK Government’s childcare offers and the free, funded early learning childcare available in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The campaign aims to ease the pressure on a wider range of working families by encouraging the take up of the various government support packages available to help with the costs of childcare. The campaign was delivered through radio, digital bus stop advertising, paid search, social media, and press advertising. Phase Two of the campaign recently launched as part of the wider Help for Households Cost of Living campaign.
Two further initiatives include: UC’s Flexible Support Fund has been extended to any eligible in-work claimant to pay for fixed, up-front costs that may be acting as a barrier to progression for them; and the Move to Universal Credit advertising campaign, which ran from November 2021 to end July 2022 and was aimed at tax credit customers, featured the UC childcare offer as a key message.
Following the success of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme in helping low-income families in England during major school holidays, DfE is also providing over £200 million a year to local authorities to enable this programme to run until the end of 2024/25. This programme will continue to provide enriching activities and healthy, nutritious meals to help with children’s social skills and wellbeing, while also relieving some of the pressure on family budgets and helping low-income parents to continue work over major school holidays. In addition, the Department for Education has announced a further investment in the National School Breakfast Programme, extending the programme for another year until July 2024 backed by up to £30million. This will support up to 2500 schools in disadvantaged areas providing free, nutritious breakfast meals to pupils.
In addition, the Department for Education provides three early education entitlements. 15 hours free early education for disadvantaged children (families on Universal Credit earning less than £15,400p.a. may qualify for this support), a universal 15 hours free early education offer for 3 and 4 year olds and an additional 15 hours free early education (’30 hours free childcare’) for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
The Commission highlighted the fact that disabled workers can find it hard to progress in work. We are committed to continuing to improve the support available for disabled people and those with health conditions.
We have a number of practical actions that will improve the everyday lives of disabled people, including helping them to start, stay and succeed in work by:
Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper[footnote 10] published last year explored how the benefits system could better meet the needs of disabled people and people with health conditions.
The Health and Disability White Paper will be published in the coming months and will set out what more we are doing to support more people to start, stay and succeed in work including:
We are also implementing the package of measures announced in the July 2021 Health is everyone’s business consultation response[footnote 11] to support the recruitment and retention of disabled people and people with health conditions. The measures taken forward will:
The Commission’s report rightly recognised the value of older workers and championed the need to support them to progress equally alongside younger workers. We are clear that workers of all age groups will play a part in growing our economy and prosperity.
To ensure older workers are supported to progress in work, DWP is:
As part of the Department’s wider work to develop a new, enhanced offer for older people, we will deliver Mid-life MOTs across three new workstreams:
Commission Recommendations
The Commission highlighted the vital need to ensure that workers in low pay can physically take up progression opportunities, pointing to the dependency of many low-paid workers on public transport and how local transport does not always meet people’s needs.
Our investment in, and focus on, local transport networks will make a real, tangible difference to residents, workers, and businesses, including access to good jobs and the ability to take up opportunities at work. This includes:
Commission Recommendations
The Commission also advocated for using the social value element of public sector procurement to further incentivise businesses to improve the quality of their employment offer.
We have assigned a minimum 10% weighting to social value in the award of central government contracts in the evaluation of a bid, where it is relevant, proportionate, and non-discriminatory to do so. It is intended that the inclusion of a social value element will help us to recognise and take account of the additional benefits that can be achieved through the delivery of UK Government contracts. This can play a key role in influencing strong employment practices, including on offering training, skills development, opportunities to progress and the ability to achieve higher earnings.
As 10% is a minimum level, UK Government departments can increase the weighting over time and are encouraged where appropriate to consider doing so. Some Departments, including the Crown Commercial Service and the Ministry of Justice, have already increased the weighting for some projects above the minimum – where particularly relevant to the subject of the contract and proportionate to its value. The UK Government will continue to review the minimum threshold.
Crown Commercial Service, Digital Specialists and Programmes procurement

In their recent procurement for framework contracts for digital specialists and programme suppliers, Crown Commercial Service asked potential suppliers to demonstrate how they will enact their social value and corporate social responsibility priorities within the complex IT development and operations environment, including:

* Promotion of diversity in terms of developing staff and motivating teams
* Considering the needs of digitally excluded end-customers
* Creating employment and training opportunities particularly for those who face barriers to employment and/or who are in deprived areas, and for people in industries with known skills shortages or in high growth sectors
* Ensuring their staff are aware of their contribution to these responsibilities.

For digital programmes suppliers, the weighting for these social value and corporate social responsibility indicators was 20% and for Digital Specialists it was 60%.
To share good practice, the Cabinet Office has set up a pan-government knowledge-sharing group called the Social Value Network. The Cabinet Office has requested that all Commercial Directors nominate a representative to attend this group and submit a social value implementation plan, feedback on which is shared with the Network to promote continuous improvement.
In addition, Cabinet Office is represented on the Steering Group of the National Social Value Taskforce and attends as a member of that group, to participate in cross-sector learning. The network comprises of members from the wider public sector, devolved authorities, private and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSEs) sectors.
The Commission’s report recognised that ‘good work’ standards have a key role to play in improving progression opportunities throughout the UK by raising the bar for employment standards and supporting businesses to offer high quality jobs.
We recognise that ‘good work’ means different things to different people. The Good Work Plan[footnote 14] sets out five foundational principles of quality work: satisfaction, fair pay, participation and progression, wellbeing, safety and security, and voice and autonomy.
To support in-work progression, we are committed to the continuous improvement in the quality of jobs and will achieve this by both creating new jobs focused on UK Government priorities and encouraging employers to make improvements to their existing workforce through offering training, careers options, wage increases and investment. This will enable workers to progress into better-paid and better-quality jobs, whilst also enhancing and productivity.
The Commission highlighted that a lack of flexible working, particularly in more senior roles, is a barrier to progression for many low paid workers, particularly for women, older workers, and disabled people and those with health conditions. This is why the UK Government is seeking to better support employees and employers to agree ways of working that bring benefits to both.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently published its response to the consultation Making Flexible Working the Default[footnote 15], which commits to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees (an estimated additional 2.2 million) from their first day of employment. The response commits to further changes to the right to request flexible working that will encourage a better dialogue between employers and employees about the benefits of flexible working opportunities, increase the possible frequency of requests and speed up the administrative processing of requests. BEIS has also consulted on proposals for a new entitlement to carer’s leave. The Government response to the consultation on carer’s leave, published in September 2021, commits to introducing carer’s leave as a day 1 right, available to employees who are providing care for a dependant with a longterm care need.
As well as this, Government commissioned Matt Warman MP to lead a review into the future of work. This review concluded in September 2022, recommending that we should look to ‘…enhance the wellbeing of employers, employees and the selfemployed’ and stating his belief that there are important opportunities to make further progress regarding workers’ rights. A cross-Government programme of work is already underway to address the recommendations of the Review.
Commission Recommendations
The UK Government has considered the Commission’s recommendation to establish a body or oversight mechanism that can bring together the work of relevant departments but believes that the existing structures across Government are working together sufficiently robustly to drive our agenda of ensuring more people secure, stay and succeed in higher paid, higher quality jobs.
Commission Recommendations
As the Commission set out, employers have an essential role to play in helping people to boost their pay and productivity, something which is of clear benefit to both employers and organisations.
Since the publication of the Commission’s report, the DWP has been working with employers and their representative bodies, such as the British Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses, to understand their approach to supporting progression and to explore the recommendations set out in the Commission’s report, including the adoption of the 5-point progression checklist. DWP and BEIS will continue these conversations and will engage with employers, representative bodies and other government departments on the new measures being put in place to help the low paid progress. We will also explore the feasibility of developing a suitable measure of progression.
Phoenix Group is an example of an employer that has used the recommendations from the report to transform their progression offer.
Phoenix Group’s Commitment to Progression

Phoenix Group is the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business. Since the publication of the report, Phoenix has identified three areas[footnote 16] they are taking action on to further improve the opportunities for all its employees, no matter their background. These are:

1. Improving its recruitment of traditionally ‘hard to reach’ unemployed people.

2. Conducting a deeper data analysis on in–work progression across all grades, the take-up rates of learning resources and qualifications by grade, age, and business areas

3. Using their data and colleague experiences to:

a. Improve storytelling around successful training and career development outcomes

b. Make targeted interventions in areas and grades where there are barriers to progression

Whilst it is too early to see full results, Phoenix is confident that they have put the structures in place for longer term success and is taking action to remove barriers to career progression.
The majority of people in the Light Touch group have earnings which are equivalent to them working between 15 hours per week at the National Living Wage and 35 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage.
Delivered in England and Scotland. Separate provision is available in Wales. In England, SWAP training is fully funded for learners earning less than £17,374.50 annual gross salary.
As stated in the scope of the response skills provision is devolved to the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
More information is available at What qualifcation levels mean: England, Wales and Northern Ireland – GOV.UK. More information on skills levels in Scotland is available at Interactive Framework – Scottish Credit and Qualifcations Framework (
Measuring the Net Present Value of Further Education in England 2018-19 (
Higher technical education: current system and case for change
Budget 2021: Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people(
Childcare Choices
Access to Work: get support if you have a disability or health condition – GOV.UK (
Shaping Future Support: the Health and Disability Green Paper
Government response: Health is everyone’s business (
Bus Back Better: National Bus Strategy
Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling and Walking
Good work plan – GOV.UK (
Making flexible working the default (
Everyone’s a winner: how in-career progress can work for all Phoenix Group (
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