William Eichler 03 November 2016

Councils should have responsibility for Work and Health Programme

Councils should have responsibility for Work and Health Programme image

Funding and responsibility for the new Work and Health Programme (WHP) should be devolved to local areas, council chiefs say.

The £130m-a-year WHP—due to start in 2018—is designed to help disadvantaged jobseekers and people with disabilities and health conditions into work.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned it will be ineffective because either too few jobseekers will be supported by the WHP or they will receive insufficient support.

They said that under the WHP’s predecessor—the Work Programme (WP)—the Government spent £600m per annum but only one in five of the most disadvantaged Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants secured a job after two years.

With only a fifth of the funding, the LGA concluded, the WHP is unlikely to be more successful.

Council chiefs, instead, are calling on Whitehall to devolve funding and responsibility for the WHP to the local level.

This, they argued, would allow all local areas to join up employment support with local services, alongside skills and health interventions so jobseekers get the right support at the right time.

In their submission to the treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement, the LGA called for a loosening of DWP control so groups of councils can manage the WHP in their patch.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA's people and places board, said: ‘The Government should recognise that employment support alone is not the answer to help those furthest from the jobs market.

‘The LGA put forward its own proposal to the Government for a devolved, integrated employment support to replace the Work Programme, which we believed would deliver better outcomes for residents than the traditional Whitehall centrally controlled approach.

‘Together with the Government, we consulted councils on how the WHP should work. The clear message was that to be successful it will need to integrate local services, job centres must be required to work with councils and local partners so the right people are supported, and the right locally based contractors are used.

‘Councils are committed to ensure no-one is left behind, but they simply cannot afford to pick up the local costs of long-term unemployment.

‘The Government will spend £10.5bn this year on 20 national employment and skills schemes. It can also no longer afford to spend billions on separate national programmes when there are better more local solutions that can coordinate all local partners in a way which can most appropriately help those most in need of support.’

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