LGA calls for rethink of job centres

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for employment support funding to be allocated to councils and not Jobcentre Plus (JCP), the national agency in charge of getting people into work.

The news come as the government has reported that overall figures show that unemployment has fallen to its lowest total for more than a decade. According to analysis by the Learning and Work Institute from the Office for National Statistics, 47 per cent of unemployed people were not claiming benefit.

However, the LGA has warned that half of all unemployed people, many with complex needs, receive no benefits or government support, which the group claims, demonstrates that JCP is not doing enough to engage people. It urged that receiving the right support at the right time is ‘critical to creating an inclusive economy’.

The LGA cited that while the claimant count for December 2016 showed a slight improvement on previous months, it is still 61,614 more than in February 2016, an indication that job centres are failing to find people employment. 

Instead, the LGA is calling for greater devolution of employment and skills funding to councils and a radical rethink of the way in which JCP works. It claims the money should be used to enable integration of services, so councils can work towards developing a ‘single, place-based strategy based on the needs of people rather than separate institutions’.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board, said: "The longer a person is out of work, the more scarring the effects of that unemployment will be on them and the harder it becomes to support them into sustained work.

"Job centres need to engage with more unemployed people for a start and then help more claimants move into sustainable employment. This is crucial to boosting local growth. Councils know best how to do this. We know our local economies, we know our local employers and we know our residents and we can bring local services together in a way central government will never be able to.

“It is also difficult currently for a national agency to understand the jobs available in the local economy in the immediate and medium term and the courses available locally to help claimants train for these jobs.

"These barriers could be overcome if job centres did more to engage all employers through local enterprise partnerships and local chambers of commerce. Councils are well placed to help broker and create these partnerships and to produce quality local labour market intelligence to inform this."