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Employment support must work for all

Source: PSE April/May 2018

London’s new Work and Health Programmes (WHPs), which have now gone live, will help thousands more people get into work across the capital, notes Cllr Claire Kober OBE, chair of London Councils.

London is a vibrant, international city, with strong economic growth and a high overall rate of employment.

But too many people aren’t able to contribute to or benefit from this success. In London today, there are over half a million people who want to work but are not currently in employment.

This is also experienced unevenly – there is a 19-percentage-point gap between the borough with the highest rate of employment and the lowest.  Some demographic groups are also more likely to face greater barriers to sustainable and high-quality employment. The disability employment gap is persistently high, at 26.3%.

This is unacceptable. It’s my firm belief that everyone who wants to and is able to work should see their ambition matched with the opportunity to get a job. 

Tackling this is a priority for both national and local government, which is why I am proud that the London WHPs went live at the beginning of March.

Designed to support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, those from specified groups needing extra tailored support (including ex-offenders, care leavers and the homeless), and the long-term unemployed to enter and stay in work, the programmes are the latest development in London’s devolution agenda. They strengthen the case for more powers, freedoms and budgets to be transferred to local leaders, who are better placed to understand and meet the needs of the capital’s residents.

The London WHPs are part of national DWP provision, but in the capital and Greater Manchester devolved funding is giving local authorities greater control over their design and delivery.

Commissioned and managed by four sub-regional groups of boroughs in London and covering a much smaller geographic area, we can bring together employment services with wider local authority provision. Devolution has allowed the sub-regions the flexibility to adopt variations on the payment models to those used in the national WHP. For example, west, central and south London have created different payment models which encourage providers to support people into roles that pay above the London Living Wage.

We have also been able to significantly expand the number of people who will be supported through the programme by match-funding from the European Social Fund. This brings the total funding available up to £135m over five years and gives us scope to support 50-55,000 people.

It was a proud moment for the capital when the four providers opened up their doors a few weeks ago, and an important step towards tackling the barriers to work that too many Londoners still experience. The culmination of over three years of sustained pan-London policy and procurement activity, the WHPs have strengthened relationships within the sub-regional partnerships of boroughs, which we believe can become the basis for future joint working and have fostered a closer working relationship with national government.

But the London WHPs will only go so far in helping the many Londoners who are out of work and who want to work. We want to be able to do more to support them.

Boroughs are keen to start a conversation with government to identify how employment services could be serving communities better. We believe local areas should have more control over the design and delivery of employment services, and over making sure they reflect the needs of their residents. This could include the creation of shared ‘employment hubs,’ which bring more local services together to create holistic support that will enable people to overcome severe barriers to work.

It’s an exciting time in London for employment services, and boroughs are ready to go further to ensure no one’s ambition is wasted.




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