Headlines: February 28th, 2008

New research says that devolving welfare to work policy to local government would be an important step
towards the Government achieving its target of having 80 per cent of people in employment. The study from the New Local Government Network has looked in detail at what is being done by Kent County Council to cut the number of those out of work and it praises the authority’s pioneering approach.

The report, ‘The Local Journey to Work: Localism, welfare and worklessness’, says Britain should follow the example of Australia and the United States , where there are more flexible, locally tailored solutions to worklessness. Local authorities and their partners, it argues, are best placed to understand local issues.

In its analysis of the Kent approach, the study found impressive and pioneering measures including the way the authority set an example as an employer and offered clear leadership on a welfare to work strategy. The county council was also tackling areas of high unemployment by mapping out clear clusters and identifying key issues.

The report says the Government has reduced unemployment through the ‘Pathways to Work’ programme but its centralised nature limited the role of local councils and local knowledge on key areas of deprivation and unemployment. It calls for local councils to be given a leading role, bringing together local partners to create a locally focussed ‘Pathways’ scheme. It wants councils to be given financial incentives to encourage people back into work and suggests they could keep half of any benefit savings.

Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council, said, “There is no one-size fits all solution which is why local government is perfectly placed to deliver targeted, effective programmes.”