London boroughs are to use European funding to help deliver the replacement work programme that will provide employment support for harder-to-help claimants.
Four sub-regional groupings across the capital are now hoping to implement more innovative and localised practices to get disabled people and the long-term unemployed into work, instead of being subjected to a capital-wide, top-down approach from Whitehall.
At the end of January the government officially passed a work and health programme budget worth up to £72m over five years to London, as well as £28m to Greater Manchester.
While Greater Manchester has committed up to £39m of local funding over the five years, LGC previously reported that London’s boroughs were not prepared to provide any additional funding of their own.
London has since agreed with the Department for Work & Pensions to use up to £65m from the European social fund instead when the programme starts in spring 2018.
Claire Kober (Lab), chair of London Councils, said it was “difficult” in the current climate to ask boroughs to fund the programme directly. However, she told LGC: “There was a recognition the DWP cash alone wouldn’t give us the size of population we would like to be working [with] through the programme. It felt like a neat solution to the issue.”
LGC has previously reported how the work and health programme’s annual budget of £130m is a fraction of the £600m budget of its predecessor, the work programme.
Under the devolved arrangements in London the work and health programme will be delivered by four sub-regional groupings (see box below).
One council in each grouping will act as the lead local authority for that area and be the accountable body to government, but the Greater London Authority will remain accountable for spending of the EU cash.
Each sub-region is to proocure its own providers for the programme and bid for a share of the funding. Cllr Kober said bids will need to be signed off by both the GLA and DWP which will use a payment by results method to ensure funds deliver the desired outcomes.
While London and Greater Manchester’s devolution deals contain commitments to “co-commission” the successor to the work programme, senior figures in a number of other devolved regions which have commitments to “co-design” the scheme have been left frustrated at their limited ability to influence the way the new initiative will operate.
Cllr Kober said there was currently “one, possibly two” providers delivering the work programme across London which were decided centrally by the DWP and have ”very little regard to the particular features and needs of communities and geographies”.
She said there will “almost certainly be more than four providers” across the sub-regional groupings and that in turn would allow providers to implement “innovative solutions on the ground that are going to be most effective”.
More than 100 providers gathered in Wembley last Thursday to hear more about the scheme. That followed another market engagement event at City Hall earlier in the month which also attracted more than 100 organisations.
London city hall
While London is to make use of European funding, Cllr Kober was not too concerned about the impact Brexit would have on the money as she said it was “secure” until the end of 2021-22.
She said: “Our immediate commitment is to get the programme up and running and demonstrate we can deliver in the way we have been saying we can for some time. Once the programme is up and running in 2018 and we have got some success under our belt then we’ll be in a much better position to think about the future.”
Cllr Kober said: “We have long believed as London boroughs we can deliver a better way than has been delivered through the DWP centrally until now.
“The devolution agenda, particularly of public services, is still in the relatively early stages so these things do take time to work up because many government departments don’t have lots of experience of it, while we’re working through sub-regions, some of which are more established than others.
“My clear hope and expectation is that as time goes on and we become more proficient in negotiating these deals and working with Whitehall departments the time it takes to do that becomes quicker and the government gains confidence in our ability to deliver.”
London’s sub-regional groupings for the delivery of the work and health programme
- West London – Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow LBCs
- Central London – Camden LBC, City of London Corporation, Kensington & Chelsea RBC, Lambeth LBC, Southwark LBC, Wandsworth LBC, Westminster City Council, Hackney LBC, Haringey LBC, Tower Hamlets LBC, Lewisham LBC
- East London – Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Enfield, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Bromley LBCs
- South London – Croydon LBC, Kingston upon Thames RBC, Merton LBC, Richmond upon Thames LBC, Sutton LBC