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GM and London handed £100m Work and Health Programme powers

Greater Manchester and London have been handed £100m to develop and deliver localised versions of the government’s new Work and Health Programme in an effort to help thousands of disadvantaged people gain work.

Whitehall confirmed that London will receive £72m and Greater Manchester £28m over the course of the contract, which was first announced by the government in last year’s local government financial settlement, to allow them to offer more intense, tailored employment support to those with complex needs such as the disabled, homeless and the long-term unemployed.

The initiative aims to help tackle the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people, which is estimated to be around 32% despite the number of disabled people in work increasing by almost 600,000 in the last three years.

Work and pensions secretary Damian Green said: “This is a significant step to help thousands of disabled and vulnerable people get the support they need to move away from benefits and find lasting work.

“By devolving powers we are sending our clearest message yet that we are serious about making changes for the better, and believe this can be found in the expertise of local providers who know their residents best.”

The Work and Health Programme is set to start in England and Wales late this year, while in Scotland employment support is already devolved to the Holyrood.

It aims to offer authorities the opportunity to align employment services with other local services such as housing, health, debt advice and childcare in order to reduce individuals’ barriers to work.

The announcement was praised by representatives from both authorities, with the London mayor Sadiq Khan expressing his delight at the news.

“This is a great example of how we can put party politics aside and work closely with the national government ‎in the best interests of all Londoners,” Khan said.

“Delivering this programme at a local level will result in greater integration of employment support with other local services. This will lead to better outcomes for Londoners, with those who need support receiving it at the right time.”

Cllr Sean Anstee, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) lead member for skills and employment, said that the scheme will allow the region to expand its successful Working Well programme, helping more people get the support they need to find a job and be successful.

“In Greater Manchester we know that when we create local solutions to help people back in to work they are much more effective,” Cllr Anstee said. “These new devolved powers will help us expand Working Well and make a real difference to people’s lives.”

The announcement comes as the government continues its consultation on its Work, Health and Disability Green Paper, which looks to improve the level of support disabled people receive from JobCentre Plus. The consultation is set to close on 17 February 2017.

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