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New NLGN research argues that devolving welfare to work policy to a local government level will be key to the Government achieving its target of 80% of people in employment.
The New Local Government Network report, The Local Journey to Work: Localism, welfare and worklessness argues that the UK should follow Australia and the US and introduce more flexible, locally tailored solutions to worklessness. It also argues that local authorities and their partners are best placed to understand local issues and how best to target certain areas of worklessness.
NLGN analysed the approach of Kent County Council in reducing local worklessness and found impressive and pioneering measures including the council setting an example as an employer, offering clear leadership on a welfare to work strategy and tackling areas of high unemployment by mapping out clear clusters and identifying the key issue affecting worklessness.
The report argues that whilst the Government has been able to reduce unemployment through its Pathways to Work programme, the centralised nature of it has limited the role of local councils and reduced the amount of local knowledge on key areas of deprivation and unemployment. Instead, the report advocates giving local councils a leading role in bringing together local partners to create a locally focussed Pathways scheme.
It also argues that local authorities should be given financial incentives to encourage local people back into work. It advocates that councils should be able to keep 50% of any benefit savings made as a result of getting someone back into work. It also calls for a longer-term pilot to examine the impact of devolving all welfare funding to a local authority level.
The Local Journey to Work argues:
“This report highlights the added value that local authorities can bring to this agenda, the necessity of their involvement in any successful worklessness policy and the steps needed to ensure that councils maximise their impact in this area”.
Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council said:
“There is no one-size fits all solution which is why local government is perfectly placed to deliver targeted, effective programmes. Kent County Council is at the forefront of new developments by rethinking the way in which we tackle welfare dependency and deliver vocational and professional training.
“Getting people off benefits and back into employment is crucial if we are going to stop the spiral of dependency. Helping people to get jobs not only boosts their self-esteem, it enables them to be independent.
“We are also targeting the younger generation. Our young people are crying out for work-based learning opportunities and businesses desperately need young people who are work-ready. Our new 14-24 Innovation Unit is challenging traditional education models and ensuring training and skills programmes meet learners and employers needs.”