Job coaches at GP surgeries to push unemployed over-50s back to work
Job coaches are set to be stationed at GP surgeries under plans being drawn up by the Government to get unemployed over-50s back to work.
Ministers are understood to be considering the proposal as they strive to plug record gaps in Britain’s labour force and boost the economy.
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has pledged to slash the tally of nine million people who are neither in work nor looking for a job.
The UK is the only major developed country to have suffered a sustained rise in economic inactivity since the start of the pandemic.
Experts have warned the trend, driven by a surge in early retirement and long-term sickness, is undermining efforts to rebuild the economy.
A government source said ministers were “actively looking” at the policy.
Under the plan, work coaches would hold sessions in local GP surgeries where they could more easily reach the over-50s.
Doctors would be able to refer patients who want to return to work for advice and practical help, like updating their CVs.
Ministers hope the move will reach older Britons, many of whom are not on benefits and are reluctant to attend job centres.
Encouraging economically inactive people in this age bracket back to work is a major part of the Chancellor’s plans to address persistent labour shortages across the economy.
Last week, Jeremy Hunt said life for over-50s “doesn’t just have to be going to the golf course” and said older workers could “make an enormous contribution”.
Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is leading a review into how to entice retired 50 to 64-year-olds to return.
He will report back this month with his recommendations, which are also expected to include tax incentives and the expansion of "mid-life MOTs".
There are 308,000 economically inactive people in that age group, according to the Office for National Statistics - up from 37,000 at the start of 2020.
Research by the Learning and Work Institute found much of the rise in the post-pandemic jobless toll was down to over-50s quitting.
In contrast, other countries like France, Germany and Italy now have more older people in work than they did before Covid struck.
Trials are taking place across the country exploring how better links between job support and healthcare can help reverse that trend.
A government-backed pilot in South Yorkshire, where GPs referred patients for work support, had a 50 per cent success rate out of 5,000 people.
Mr Stride told the Commons last month that the scheme was “hugely important” and that he was “looking closely at the results including the effect on productivity”.
Stephen Evans, the chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said building on such successes “should be a priority for the Government”.
“Putting work coaches into GP surgeries could definitely help people and health professionals to understand the support available and make it easy to access,” he said.
“It is something that could be done relatively quickly and inexpensively, helping to address the problem of reaching the many over-50s who may be reluctant to go to a job centre.”
The Society of Occupational Medicine said early results from its own pilot linking job centres and GP surgeries have also been promising.
Dr Shriti Pattani, its president, said: “Many over-50s are unlikely to come into contact with employment services but they still want to work.
“The best way to be able to reach them is through primary care services. As one gets older, health conditions come up and GPs would be a really good way to capture that group.”
Lisa Edgar, Saga’s chief insight officer, said many over-50s remain highly active after retiring and would consider another job, but they want to feel valued by employers.
She added: “We really need to think about what avenues and groups people use as they age to get information and what it will take for that information to land and be meaningful to them.”