Making the system work

People’s lives are complex and local economies differ across the UK. So achieving fairer and more prosperous local areas requires a range of services to work together and tailor support – a one size fits all approach won’t work.

This is the case for devolution – cities and local areas (working with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, as well as UK Government) are best placed to integrate support, tailor it to local circumstance, and deliver better outcomes and value for money.

Our devolution ask

The adult skills budget should be devolved to cities and local areas, based on outcome agreements focused on their impact on people’s pay and job prospects. This would consist of the current budgets for adult literacy and numeracy, Adult Community Learning, learner support, and funded entitlements (such as to a Level 2 qualification for young people). In total, this could be £2.387bn across England.

Cities and local areas should also have a role in co-commissioning employment services. We propose co-commissioning of the successor to Work Programme for people who are long-term unemployed, and devolution of responsibility for employment support for disabled people, uniting Work Choice and ESA support in Work Programme, where local areas can show how they would boost investment and deliver improved results.

In addition, cities and local areas should be given a formal role in overseeing learning, skills and employment services as a whole. It would be fundamental for local areas to say how this would work in practice, but this could include local services reporting to their LEP or combined authority their overall performance and how they are integrating with other support.

This role would be founded on three priorities:

  • Effective information. Information on the local labour market, (such as key growth sectors and skills needs) is crucial for providers to plan. Individuals and employers also need this information, along with data on the performance of services (such as how many people completing a particular course go on to work and earn more), to make effective choices;
  • Customers first. Individuals and employers often need support from a range of services, for example someone out of work might need basic skills training, health support and job search support. Local areas are central in ensuring services work together; and
  • Focus on outcomes. This includes considering the impact of learning, skills and employment services on sustained employment and progression, as well as wider impacts and potential savings for public services. For example, our Citizens’ Curriculum showed public health benefits and reduced emergency service call outs.

How we can help

Together with Inclusion, who we will merge with in January 2016, we have a long track record of supporting local areas to make learning, skills and employment services, including:

  • Labour market information. Inclusion provides a number of local labour information tools, allowing local areas to map their jobs and skills needs. This includes running the London Employment and Skills Observatory.
  • Customers first. Inclusion has mapped local authority services for the Local Government Association, and the impact of welfare reform for individual areas such as Brighton.
  • Focus on outcomes. We have longstanding experience in evaluating programmes, such as the implementation of the SFA Innovation Code and London’s ESF programme. We have proposed practical changes to how the success of apprenticeships and employment programmes are measured to focus more on how they improve people’s job and career prospects.

For more information please contact Stephen Evans