Headlines: July 31st, 2006

 

Thirteen towns and cities from all parts of the country have been chosen to pilot a new approach to providing services as part of the welfare state. They have been granted Cities Strategy pathfinder status and will have more freedom to provide individually tailored programmes and solutions for local problems.

The successful areas all submitted plans for the pooling of resources and expertise to tackle specific problems that stop people in their areas from getting into work. The government is making available five million pounds to get the plans off the ground and those areas that are successful in meeting targets that will be agreed with the government will be eligible for further funding that can be re-invested in local services and priorities.

The successful areas are Birmingham, Blackburn, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heads of the Valleys, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Rhyl, Sheffield and Tyne and Wear. They join two London pathfinders, which were announced earlier this year. They will now establish consortia of government agencies, local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors that will start developing delivery plans ready for agreement by the Department of Work and pensions in the autumn.

Delivery plans are expected to focus in particular on those individuals who are most distant from the support currently available from the welfare state. The DWP says the pattern of benefit receipt and disadvantage will differ in each area but it is likely to include incapacity benefit claimants, lone parents, older people and people from ethnic minority groups. The consortia will join up the work being done by Jobcentre Plus and the Learning Skills Council and to ensure that access to support is less complicated. They will also be expected to ensure that provision better meets the needs of local employers by offering a clearer route from training and skills development to the workplace.

John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said, “We are replacing the old one-size-fits-all welfare state that was run entirely from Whitehall, with tailored help for individuals and local initiatives. Harnessing the leadership our cities are providing will be a key part of this in years to come.” He said local people would know what would work best to tackle the problems in their own areas and that was why cities were being given more freedom to develop their own plans.