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Councils in action: Newham LBC

Sir Robin Wales
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Sir Robin Wales: ‘An employer-led back-to-work service is the way forward’

In 2011, the Work Programme was launched with much fanfare to support people into employment. From the start we expressed our concerns about the centrally-commissioned approach and its inability to help those who face complex barriers into work.

The Government refused to listen and evidence shows that the programme is indeed failing the hardest to help.

Newham’s success with Workplace, our local employment service, shows that councils could have played an important role in delivering a more effective programme.

We started Workplace in 2007. It looks and feels like a high-street recruitment service and is based on a joint offer to residents and to local employers.

Workplace is driven by employers and the jobs they have available, building on local knowledge and multiple points of contact.

It is voluntary, making engagement a positive experience, and it offers a single hub for back-to-work support, integrating training and advice.

More than 20,000 Newham residents have been supported into work though the service, 5,000 in each of the past two years. Half of the residents who find work through the service have been unemployed for over a year.

Recently commissioned independent research found that 70% of the residents we’d placed into work were still working a year later.

We’ve improved our performance with residents with poor work histories: 72% of people who had worked for less than two of the past five years were still in work, compared with 60% the previous year.

Often the misconception is that those that are unemployed don’t want to work. Workplace highlights that this simply isn’t the case; they just need the skills, training and support to get into sustainable employment.

Newham’s experience is that an employer-led back-to-work service is the way forward and Government would do well to follow our example.

Sir Robin Wales (Lab), elected mayor, Newham LBC

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