Headlines: November 19th, 2008

The local council is the focal point of local leadership and it has a role to play in driving local demand for labour through broader economic development activity, creating the right conditions to attract employers to the area and enabling business growth. To ensure that this happens, Communities Minister Sadiq Khan, has given a commitment to delegate control where partnerships can demonstrate that they can do better.

The Minister warned that if unemployment rises or particular sectors face downsizing, those groups that already face disadvantage in the labour market will become even less competitive. It is important to ensure that those long term workless groups do not become further dislocated from work and even more uncompetitive once the labour market recovers. The Working Neighbourhoods Fund of 1.5 billion pounds will support councils in tackling worklessness in their areas.

A ‘one size fits all’ approach to delivering employment skills is ineffective because it fails to help those that don’t fit the standard model. By moving towards local flexibility, services can be tailored to local circumstances and personalised to help each individual customer overcome their personal barriers to work.

The review launched in May 2008 and led by Councillor Stephen Houghton to examine how the Government can better support local partnerships to deliver more effective worklessness interventions is due to report shortly. It is likely to recommend that local partnerships, including third sector organisations, should play a stronger role in coordinating services that local residents and businesses need. This might include bringing together health, training, welfare, childcare, and housing into a comprehensive and seamless service that addresses all the barriers faced by communities.

Examples of councils promoting employment skills include Manchester’s ‘no wrong door’ approach to outreach and delivery. This scheme harnesses funding from different sources to support employability. The West Midlands City Strategy Pathfinder has mapped out who is responsible for each part of the customer journey, detailing the referral process and providing a single point of access for the City’s employers.