2: Localising employment policy: opportunities and challenges

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UK employment policy is at a critical juncture and policies need to respond to unemployment and broader economic hardship induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, both immediate and longer-term policies need to take account of the body of research examining active labour market policies (ALMPs) to avoid replicating the problems of work-first employment support. This is increasingly important due to the growing numbers of applicants and former Tax Credit recipients to Universal Credit, a policy which extends conditional social security to those in work on a low income. Ensuring research into these developments influences policymakers should unite social security and employment researchers more broadly, as this unprecedented policy change has the potential to transform the way individuals, the state and employers interact, and the power balance between them. In this chapter, we explore the role of social policy researchers in this context and argue that policy development and research in this area to date has suffered from uneven engagement with diverse actors and research communities. We advocate a ‘pragmatic realist’ approach to policy engagement reflecting on examples of social policy engagement in the science–policy interface while also drawing on our own varied experiences of engaging with policymakers in relation to ALMPs.

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Social Policy Review 34
Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2022