Forgotten ideas and political promises ahead

 In Blog, CEO's blog

So General Election 2017 is upon us. ELBA is strictly apolitical so we don’t have a view on the relative merits of the combatants. However, we do have a view on the type of policies we would like to see any new government adopt.

There are three things from the last Government which were not seen through to completion which we hope will be recommitted, and three new policies we would like to see put in place.

First of the ideas that was not fully seen through was that all larger businesses be required to offer their employees volunteering days in addition to paid holidays. While I do feel a little uneasy about the element of compulsion for the employer, employees don’t have to take up the offer, and there is no doubt it could lead to a rapid rise in the level of employer supported volunteering. Making volunteering as common place as annual leave would undoubtedly get extra resources into the community for a very wide range of good works.

Volunteering is of course good for the soul, and that leads to the second issue – mental health – or perhaps better put, mental wellbeing. The recent attention given to ending the stigma attached to mental health is welcome. My hunch is that there is a critical mass of opinion moving along which has sufficient momentum to make sure the issue of how we can all improve our mental wellbeing and support those with mental ill-health does not get forgotten.

Thirdly, there was a degree of pomp given to the announcement of a review of the experience of public services of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. We had hoped that this would lead to a wider discussion about social mobility for that particular group. As Baroness MacGregor Smith pointed out in her recent report on race in the workplace, “Every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, should be able to fulfil their potential at work.”  It’s a business case as well as a moral case – in other words, it’s a no-brainer.

We will all no doubt want to comment on the various manifestoes when they are published but here are three non-political things ELBA would welcome in anybody’s promises to the nation.

  1. A commitment to make the Apprenticeship Levy work. Many employers still have doubts, but in principle it could be a really great boost for training and development of the workforce of all ages and at all levels. We need to keep the bureaucracy to a minimum, and my starting suggestion for that would be to allow people to build up modules and credits from Apprenticeship standards rather than having to fully complete a single qualification end to end.
  2. Let’s find a way to shift some of the public spend necessarily incurred responding to those with acute mental illness, to preventative work with employers trying to help their employees who are struggling with low level mental ill-health. Keeping them in work in many cases is by far the better option with faster recovery than a messy exit from a job followed by a much longer period of unemployment. We would save money in the longer term.
  3. Widening Participation has been a mantra for successive governments, and it has been good to see (most) universities increase their intake of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. But it has to be matched by graduates from all backgrounds getting equal access to graduate level jobs and progressing in their careers. A young black male graduate is twice as likely to be unemployed as his white counterpart. We say, Widening Participation – Fairer Destinations.

So bring on the candidates prepared to wear brown shoes with a black suit, who are happy to talk about mental wellbeing, and who get the idea that a diverse workforce is one that is making the best use of all the talents. They will get a good listening in east London.

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