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DWP hands devo areas £28m for work programme ‘alternative’

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Six combined authorities have received a share of £28m to help the long-term unemployed back into work – but the funding is different to previous commitments contained in devolution deals.

Most devolution deals contained commitments to allow CAs to co-design the work and health programme with the Department for Work & Pensions. Greater Manchester and London are co-commissioning the programme and using some of their own money in order to do that.

However, LGC reported last year that other areas with devolution deals had grown frustrated due to a lack of influence over how money could be spent and the way the programme could operate as a result of DWP’s plans to let contracts over large areas that went beyond combined authority boundaries.

As a result an alternative approach has been found. 

Combined authorityFunding £m
Cambs & Pboro 5.2
Liverpool City Region 3.5
Sheffield City Region 5.0
Tees Valley 6.0
West Midlands 4.5
West of England 3.9

Andrew Lewis, managing director of Tees Valley CA, told LGC combined authorities had worked together to lobby the government on alternative arrangements which provide “much more freedom” and added the DWP had “understood” their frustrations.

He said: “We are very pleased with the outcome and it’s better than the original proposal to co-design the work and health programme because it’s got more local autonomy and, for us, a much higher level of resources than would’ve been the case.”

The Tees Valley expects to use the £6m it has secured to support up to 2,500 people back into work over the next three years. The pilot initiative will focus on people aged 30 and over who have been out of work for a long period, those who face physical and mental health challenges, and those who have had a claim for employment support allowance rejected.

Mayor Ben Houchen (Con) said it was “a unique opportunity to address long-term unemployment” but added the funding had only been “secured because we have a mayor”.

While the work and health programme will continue in CA areas Mr Lewis said that is “not our focus now”.

He said: “It’s a nationally contracted programme that’s relatively small and I think what we have secured now is much better than the original proposition. There’s much more local responsibility, we’re not part of a national contracting approach, there’s more intensive resources, and more freedom to use local organisations and break free from the national constraints.”

The CA has also influenced the evaluation framework, Mr Lewis added.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CA has received £5.2m to run a new health and care sector progression academy to train those outside the sector to gain employment, and help those already working in the sector to progress.

The region’s mayor James Palmer (Con) said the money would help to create 600 new apprenticeships and added: “This is a prime example of the benefits Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will receive because of our devolution deal with central government.”

The Liverpool City Region is to focus its £3.5m on providing intensive support to households where more than one adult is unemployed and in receipt of benefits. It is estimated up to 1,600 residents in 800 households will be given help with debt management and support to improve their health and well-being. Mayor Steve Rotheram (Lab) said: “Our Households into Work programme is an example of where assisting our residents with tailored support will help them to prosper, as well as creating opportunities that they might previously not have been able to access.”

Another CA to receive funding is the Sheffield City Region, despite its devolution deal being thrown into doubt as Barnsley and Doncaster explore the possibility of a pan-Yorkshire deal. The region has received £5m to implement a new early intervention system for individuals identified as being at high risk of becoming long term unemployed.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said the funding allocations overall showed the government was “going even further” than the commitments contained in the original devolution deals.

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