From education to employment

John Hutton MP Gives 13 Cities Greater Freedom in Choosing Tailored Programmes

Cities across the United Kingdom have been informed that they will be given greater freedom to implement tailored programmes for removing barriers to work, announced Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) John Hutton MP.

The areas that have been granted this status form part of the Cities Strategy pathfinder programme. The thirteen cities concerned have agreed to pool their knowledge and experience to tackle the specific problems that have afflicted each area in bringing people back to work. There will be government funding, naturally, to help to get the plan up and running, which will amount to approximately £5 million. The areas that prove to be successful in this initiative will then qualify for th next level, with greater funding for local priorities and the local services that are most crucial.


The successful cities join two previously announced London pathfinder initiatives. The lucky thirteen are Birmingham, Blackburn, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heads of the Valleys, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Rhyl, Sheffield and Tyne and Wear. These are the winners after cities were asked to express interest (or, one assumes, the lack thereof) after a summit in May. Those cities not forming part of the list will be consulted further by the DWP concerning future support that can be offered.

In these cities, partnerships of bodies involved will seek to tackle the locally significant problems in the targeted approach that is so hard to coordinate through central government. The partnerships will include government agencies, providers, local government, the private and voluntary sector. The DWP will then be given the chance to assess the value of their plans in the Autumn. The main focus for the programmes will be on those who are the most excluded from welfare state support, and who require the greatest support and assistance in entering the workforce.

There will be substantial variety in the pattern of takeup of the programme. However, the DWP expect the participants to include incapacity benefit claimants, lone parents, older people and those from ethnic minority groups. They will use training and skills as a key element in their campaign, joining the work done by Jobcentre Plus and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). With this in mind, the partner organisations in the local areas will be expected to follow the guidelines of the FE sector and ensure that the provision available better meets the needs of local employers.

Local Knows Best?

John Hutton MP welcomed the thirteen winning cities to the programme, and said: “Local people know what will work best to tackle the particular problems in their area ““ that is why we want to give cities more freedom to develop their own plans helping people off benefit dependency and into work. We are replacing the old one-size-fits-all welfare state that was run entirely from Whitehall, with tailored help for individuals and local initiatives.

“Harnessing the leadership our cities are providing will be a key part of this in years to come,” he continued. “Helping people off benefit and into work helps families out of poverty, boosts the local economy and provides savings for taxpayers. We want cities who help more people into work to share in this success, through additional funding that allows them to invest further in the local community.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Welfare Reform Jim Murphy MP said: “We want to develop a new partnership between central government and the people who are delivering services on the ground. We think that local areas will be able to deliver more if they can combine their efforts behind shared priorities, and are given more freedom to try new ideas and tailor services to local needs.

“The reforms we are driving forward for the welfare state are about giving people the power to come up with their own solutions to their specific problems or issues and the Cities Strategy will be an exciting look at what can be achieved in this respect,” concluded Mr. Murphy. “We want to help as many people as possible get off a life on benefits and get into the workplace. Cities Strategy and the Welfare Reform Bill will see a fundamental shift in the way we help our citizens by providing services that meet individuals” needs and not the other way round.”

Jethro Marsh

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