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Islington joins national call for action to get people into work

Islington has today (Thursday, February 26) joined a band of 22 councils calling for Government to give local authorities more power, resources and responsibility to help get local people into work.

At the moment the Work Programme is run from Whitehall, but concerns have been raised that this centrally driven approach is ineffective at getting the long-term unemployed, disabled people and harder-to-help groups back to work.

The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN), which includes Islington and 21 other councils from Sunderland to Southampton, argues that local authorities and their local partners are much better placed to tackle long-term unemployment.

Today it is calling for Government to put local areas in charge of part of the back-to-work programme, so they can convene and coordinate better services for getting residents into work.

It follows a similar call from Islington's Employment Commission, which argued in December that local councils have the appetite and expertise to better help residents facing long-term unemployment and complex barriers to work. It urged Government to devolve employment services, including the Work Programme, to the local level.

One recent innovation from the council and its partners is the establishment of Islington's new iWork team,  which provides intensive, personalised coaching and mentoring to local job-seekers, and a single point of contact for local employers with posts to fill.

However, the council argues much more devolved funding from government is also needed to help drive up the borough's employment rate (70.5 per cent in June 2014) and support some of the 12,600 local residents claiming sickness and disability benefits, the highest in London.

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, said: "The biggest cause of poverty in Islington is unemployment, and too many people in our borough are out of work.

"For far too long mainstream, national employment schemes run from Whitehall have failed the people who need them most, namely those who have been out of work for longest.

"Instead of resources being tailored to the needs of individual job-seekers, they've been squandered on a one-size-fits-all approach.  Local areas like Islington best understand the challenges facing local residents who are out of work.

“We're confident that through mobilising the energy and commitment of local people, local organisations and local employers – in a co-operative spirit – we can have a significant impact on long term unemployment in our borough.

"Today we are joining with councils the length and breadth of the UK, calling for Government to give local areas like Islington the resources, power and responsibility they need to get people into jobs they can keep and enjoy."

The CCIN estimates that devolving such powers to a local level would cut the cost of employment programmes by up to 25 per cent, saving £500m nationally.

In their report, Unlocking Our Wealth, launched today at the RSA, the 22 councils argue that devolving the adult skills budget and employment support would help local authorities to provide better assistance to job-seekers.  The full report is available here: www.coopinnovation.co.uk

For more information on the Islington Employment Commission and to read the commission's final report please see: www.islington.gov.uk/employmentcommission