PRESS RELEASE: Key London players call for reforms to tackle worklessness in wake of EU referendum

11 July 2016

Unemployed in London: Key London players call for five reforms to tackle worklessness in the wake of the EU referendum

  • Lack of basic literacy, inflexible working arrangements and benefits trap listed as contributing factors
  • Cross-sector group calls for immediate reforms to end tackle unemployment

As the UK made its monumental decision to leave the EU, decision makers from local authorities, housing organisations and social enterprises came together to call for serious reforms to tackle worklessness in the capital.

Opinion formers from local councils, housing organisations and social enterprise Tree Shepherd gathered to discuss the barriers to employment and enterprise across the capital which are preventing thousands of people from accessing work.

Ainsley Morrison with fruit basketTree Shepherd has helped over 300 people into self-employment through a series of business courses, one-to-one mentoring, and the creation of the Forest Network, where local entrepreneurs support each other as their businesses develop.

The cross-sector group outlined five major challenges to people seeking work, and called for immediate measures to enable thousands of people into employment.

Colin Crooks, CEO of social enterprise Tree Shepherd said, ‘It was fantastic to come together and come up with some strategies to tackle worklessness in the capital. Unemployment is a huge drain on our public services, but even more importantly it is crushing and destructive on a personal level for those who are so desperate to make a living. There is a way to turn this around, and I hope local councils and the government will embrace these recommendations.’

Across the board, a severe lack of self-confidence and self-esteem was raised as a major impediment for people in acquiring paid positions, or starting-up a new business.  Peer networks and one-to-one coaching such as the Forest Network in Lambeth have delivered a sustainable impact and the group called for increased investment in similar schemes that build people’s abilities locally.

Secondly, the group found that budding entrepreneurs are often scared away from starting up as those on benefits, who form the majority, risk the immediate suspension of housing benefit and consequent eviction when they notify a change in their circumstances. The panel called for job centres and housing officers to give equal credence to enterprise as employment, be less quick to suspend housing benefit and to support entrepreneurs with better financial and benefit advice.

Lambeth entrepreneur Ainsley Morrison, 43, encountered similar problems when starting up his fruit and vegetable distribution business Integrity Foods Inc.

Photo 3Tree Shepherd Small Business market - smallHe says, ‘It’s a catch 22. You are full of enthusiasm for your new business and desperate to get it off the ground but it’s really tricky to navigate the benefit system. In the first few months, or even years, your income fluctuates – some months you do really well, and in others, takings are down. As soon as you notify the council of your new wages in that good month, they suspend or cut your benefit, meaning that the following month, when things don’t go so well, you can’t pay the rent, and are at risk of eviction. It’s scary. Local councils need to recognise this and help businesses, reducing red tape and these obstacles wherever they can.’

The group also agreed there was a failure in getting school children job-ready, with workless clients applying for roles they were unqualified or unsuited to, whilst unaware of other opportunities open to them. The group called for more tailored and dedicated careers advice to help young school leavers make the right decisions.

The group agreed a lack of basic literacy and numeracy was a key contributing factor in worklessness, with clients across the board relating that this was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, when accessing employment. The fourth reform called for more investment in functional skills for adult learners to address this need.

Photo 2 Tree Shepherd small business market - smallFinally, according to the Office of National Statistics, more than 58% of the 2.1 million people who currently don’t work but who want to work, but are either long-term sick or looking after family or home. This demonstrates there is a crying need for government and local authorities to encourage and support employers to provide more flexible working arrangements, and to enable more people to employ themselves. 

The panel will continue to meet going forward to discuss future plans to end worklessness in London.

Note to Editors

  • Photos attached: Photo 1) Ainsley Morrison from Integrity Foods with one of his fruit baskets. Photo 2) and 3) Tree Shepherd’s peer-to-peer Forest Network runs a start-up market day to support local businesses
  • For more information, interviews, or photos, please contact Sarah Baldwin, PR Manager for Tree Shepherd on or 07776 211518
  • More details on the Office of National Statistics Report on economic activity:
  • About Tree Shepherd: Unemployment is also a much larger issue than is suggested by official statistics. Out of a total working age population of 40 million, over 6.5 million are workless. This includes 2 million people who want to work but are not registered as unemployed and nearly 1.5 million part-time workers who need more hours. Tree Shepherd is a social enterprise, which promotes grassroots entrepreneurship, to create local employment and tackling worklessness. Formed in 2011 by Colin Crooks, Tree Shepherd support local enterprises through training and continuous development. Its Forest Network offers a mutually beneficial peer-to-peer network for new entrepreneurs, to enable them to develop and grow their businesses.
  • More details on the Office of National Statistics Report on economic activity:


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