Work it out: Creating Local Systems of Employability Support

October 20, 2016   By Sarah Stopforth

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Local government should have more powers to help tackle persistent unemployment: 98% of councils think that employment and skills provision should be locally commissioned.

  • 80% of responding councils are already taking steps to improve employment and skills provision in their area
  • However 84% say budget cuts are preventing delivering the services that would be most effective
  • Almost half of responding councils think fragmentation of services is preventing providing proper services
  • Local provision has huge support from business – over three quarters of councils reported support
A report published today argues that greater devolved powers to all councils would go much further and faster towards tackling long-term unemployment. This includes devolution of the apprenticeship levy, further education budgets, and increase integration of between local authorities and Job Centre Plus centres.

The report looks at tackling persistent unemployment (particularly long-term and youth unemployment) was published by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and commissioned from New Local Government Network (NLGN). It found that 98% of responding councils think that employment and skills provision should be locally commissioned to best meet the needs of people who are out of work and employers in the local area.

Councils are confident that they could deliver skills and employment provision effectively – over 80% of councils are already taking steps to do this, including establishing the key partnerships with business and employers to deliver more tailored training to meet the local skills need. Over three quarters have found business to be supportive of this.

The report reveals evidence that councils are creating stronger local employment and skills systems within their existing powers:

  • The City and County of Swansea Council has procurement contracts which require targeted recruitment and training for young people or long-term unemployed.
  • Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark councils have come together to integrate employment and welfare services to create individualised services.
  • Blackpool will be piloting integrating mental health provision with employment services to help tackle unemployment in those suffering from depression and anxiety.
However, 84% of local councils found that budget cuts to local authorities were the greatest barrier to providing better local provision for better employment and skills, showing the need for greater investment to effectively tackle youth unemployment. The national economic benefits of reducing unemployment are well documented – and yet councils only receive 7p back from every £1 saved1.

Jessica Studdert, Deputy Director of the NLGN said:

“If we are serious about successfully tackling persistent unemployment, we need to give councils more power over how services are organised locally. They are best placed to know what skills local businesses need and link individuals to local opportunities.

“Our research shows that local government has a huge appetite to do more, and that there is existing business support for this. The national model of fragmented provision and accountability between government departments is falling short in communities. It is time that responsibility and resources are devolved to create a system that secures jobs for people.”

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE said:

“Devolutionary goals of better employment and fairer regional and city economies will not be achieved if we ignore the employability and skills of people in our local areas. To truly rebalance the UK economy we need local people capable of moving into the new and emerging jobs market.

“Local councils are uniquely placed to understand their communities. By placing local councils at the heart of employability we can maximise the opportunities for our residents, and our local economies”.

The report also recommends that:

  • There should be a National Learning Network to share best practice on how to tackle unemployment locally
  • New data sharing legislation should be introduced to facilitate closer working relationships between all aspects of public service.
  • Further budget powers should be devolved around supporting the long term unemployed back into work

October 20, 2016
Authored by

Sarah Stopforth
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