New ways of working, new forms of service delivery and a much more holistic approach to the provision of services will be essential if local government is to meet the new challenges arising from ongoing welfare reform.
Effective partnering with the government, especially the Department for Work & Pensions, will also be vital in helping to establish the most effective way for delivering future employment programmes.
It’s now clear that the real challenges arising from the employment agenda lie within local areas and local communities. It’s up to every local authority, therefore, to recognise and respond positively to the new skillset and cultural change that are required if service delivery and budgets are to be co-ordinated and managed in the best possible way.
Failure to do so could have a very serious impact on a council’s ability to meet the local needs of the very communities it is there to serve; not to mention the inevitable damage to local economies.
Successful outcomes will be determined by the way a local authority adapts its operational focus to work effectively with other stakeholders and supporting partners and moves towards greater service integration. Aligning skills, health, education and economic interventions to improve personal employability and to raise local employment rates represents quite a challenge. It also touches practically every aspect of local government service delivery and has to be achieved without compromising service consistency and accountability.
But a united approach that features shared goals and aspirations increases the prospect of successful outcomes for local communities, local economies and, ultimately, for local authorities themselves. Targeting economic exclusion in the most deprived communities, for example, can help support families to climb out of poverty and help to ensure individuals are better prepared for the labour market; key ingredients for local prosperity and economic vitality.
I have no doubt that such concerted moves within local areas and local communities will underpin the successful delivery of the new employment agenda.
Aaron Henricksen, business director – welfare services, Serco