The review of research into the effectiveness of local employment policies finds that there is no clear relationship between local job expansion and the level of long-term unemployment - defined as those who have been out of work for six months or more. Barriers ranging from a lack of skills to match new job opportunities to a preference among employers for hiring school leavers or commuters can prevent any 'trickle down' occurring as the labour market expands.
Looking at national evaluations of programmes for reducing long-term joblessness, the study urges research to establish more clearly 'what works'. But it suggests that some interventions already appear more effective than others. For example:
- Measures that are 'close' to the labour market, such as recruitment subsidies and training in specific skills;
- Subsidies that help individuals during the transition to employment;
In addition, the review emphasises the importance of targeting action at local level, recognising wide variations in the level and nature of both long-term unemployment and job opportunities. It argues that local partnerships bringing together agencies, employers and the wider community are in the best position to co-ordinate the types of comprehensive package needed to tackle the specific range of problems found in their area.
Researchers who carried out the review at the Policy Research Institute of Leeds Metropolitan University conclude that current policies - including the Government's 'New Deal' for the long-term unemployed and programmes funded by the Single Regeneration Budget and the European Social Fund - do not always lead to the kind of integrated approach that is needed.
Professor Mike Campbell, principal author of the report, said:
'Nationally designed programmes, unless they allow for substantial local discretion, are unlikely to fully meet the differing needs of different localities. Our findings suggest that a more decentralised and 'bottom up' employment policy has the potential to bring policy closer to long-term unemployed people and their needs and to provide a more flexible and appropriate response to local problems.
'A more localised employment policy might embrace a range of actions that are currently used in only a limited way. These include preventive measures to identify those most at risk of being out of work for a long period when they first lose their jobs and outreach work to ensure that long-term unemployed people are aware of vacancies. Action could also be taken to encourage greaterresponsiveness among employers to the needs of people who have been out of work for a long period.'
' Policy in future needs to concentrate on 'how' the right measures are selected and applied, as well as 'what' they include. Local partnership arrangements, the capacity of local agencies to devise effective programmes and they way in which they are implemented can all make a significant difference to what they finally achieve.'
Making a difference: local responses to long-term unemployment by Mike Campbell with Ian Sanderson and Fiona Walton is published for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZX (01904 430033).