Of charities and choice: Researching the choices of the long-term unemployed on third-sector employability programmes

Date

2022-05-17

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Sage

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

‘Work-first’ (or ‘workfare’) activation policies severely restrict the choices of the unemployed. Can third-sector organisations (TSOs), with their person-centred mission, support long-term unemployed adults to make their own choices, given individual and societal constraints? Commentators often focus on ‘what works’ in supporting those with complex needs; others draw on the ‘capabilities approach’ (CA). With commentators often talking past each other, two key issues emerge. First, what constitutes real choice, and, second, how to deal with the testimonies of programme users when those experiencing social deprivation may overstate the choices available to them? We argue that the CA’s dichotomisation of ‘true/real’ versus ‘constrained/no’ choice is problematic for a balanced assessment of choice possibilities across different programmes. Building on insights from current literatures, we develop a framework for researching choice possibilities. Using qualitative research, we apply this framework to a TSO employability programme in England, and find users have more control over their choices compared with UK workfare policy. The article contributes to international debates on the value of the CA, the links between programme form, user choice and well-being, and the scope for TSOs to deliver on their user-centred mission and prefigure better alternatives to workfare.

Description

The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.

Keywords

Active labour market policies, workfare, choice, unemployed, third-sector, employability, capabilities approach, well-being

Citation

Payne, J. and Butler, P. (2022) Of charities and choice: Researching the choices of the long-term unemployed on third-sector employability programmes. Human Relations,

Rights

Research Institute

People, Organisations and Work Institute (POWI)