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Call for national work programme devolution

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Government should devolve responsibility for commissioning the replacement work programme to all local areas in this year’s Autumn statement, according to the Local Government Association.

Warning ministers against “repeating the mistakes” of the current work programme, which saw only one in five of the most disadvantaged job seekers helped into work, Mark Hawthorne, chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said councils’ “time has come”.

“The government needs to recognise that employment support alone is not the answer to help those furthest from the jobs market, he said

‘’The LGA has put forward its own proposal to the government for a devolved, integrated employment support to replace the work programme, which we believe will deliver better outcomes for residents than the traditional Whitehall centrally controlled approach.”

A number of areas with devolution deals won commitments from government to co-commission the work programme successor, the work and health programme. However, last week LGC reported how senior figures in a number of devolved regions were frustrated at their limited ability to influence the way the new programme will operate. LGC has also reported how areas have asked to contribute their own funds to the programme.

The work and health programme’s annual budget of £130m is a fraction of the £600m work programme budget. European funding has been expected to be used by local areas to help plug some of the funding gap.

The LGA is also urging government to commit to talks on how that funding will be replaced in the future.

Nick Forbes (Lab), senior vice chair of the LGA, said guaranteed European funding until 2020 was “central” to tackling long-term unemployment and added: “Without this funding, support for the most disadvantaged areas risks being decimated.”

The LGA fears the new programme, combined with a lack of guarantees around future European funding, will not provide “sufficient and effective support” to jobseekers and “will fail to guard against the risk of increased unemployment for communities across the country”.

Cllr Forbes said helping more people in to work was “crucial to boosting local growth and reducing the welfare bill” and added “councils know best how to do this”.

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