Welfare

20.01.17

LGA calls for devolution of job centres

Job centres do not help enough unemployed people get back to work, hence why employment and skills funding should be devolved to councils for an integrated place-based strategy instead, the LGA has said.

Analysis by the Learning and Working Institute of figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that just under half (49.7%) of people who are unemployed are receiving no financial support, hinting at an avoidance of job centres.

The LGA has said that Job Centre Plus, run by the DWP, is not doing enough to engage people at a particularly critical time when services are moving online as part of the Universal Credit roll-out.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “The longer a person is out of work, the more scarring the effects of that unemployment will be on them and the harder it becomes to support them into sustained work.

“Job centres need to engage with more unemployed people for a start and then help more claimants move into sustainable employment.  This is crucial to boosting local growth.”

While unemployment figures have fallen to their lowest for over a decade, it appears that those who are claiming employment support are staying on benefits for longer, with unemployment remaining broadly constant despite 61,614 more claimants in December last year than there were in February.

The LGA argued that this means that job centres are failing to find people employment, while locally run schemes have proven more successful at identifying, reaching and supporting those without work.

“It is difficult currently for a national agency to understand the jobs available in the local economy in the immediate and medium term and the courses available locally to help claimants train for these jobs,” Cllr Hawthorne added.

“These barriers could be overcome if job centres did more to engage all employers through local enterprise partnerships and local chambers of commerce. Councils are well placed to help broker and create these partnerships and to produce quality local labour market intelligence to inform this.”

The DWP recently made the decision to exert greater control over the remaining European Social Fund money available after Brexit, which is used by local authorities to support employment schemes such as training.

The LGA warned that with reduced funding, local schemes may no longer be able to provide their current level of support for those that the national system is not helping back into work.

Last autumn the Work and Pensions select commitee called for a new approach to the role of work coaches at job centres as part of the government's welfare reform plans.

(Image c. Rui Vieira and PA Wire)

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