Five south London councils are to work in partnership to commission a new work and health programme after the budget was devolved from Whitehall.
Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Sutton councils are working together as part of the South London Partnership to help add value to residents across the five boroughs. The councils will commission the delivery of the employment support programme to residents in their boroughs for the first time.
The new programme which is expected to begin in spring 2018, replaces the previously government run Work Programme and will concentrate on helping people who have been unemployed for longer than two years or who have struggled to get into work due to health problems or disability, into jobs. It will also address other difficulties including a lack of basic education, debt and homelessness.
One to one advice and support from a case worker will also be offered as part of the programme to address the often complex barriers to employment. The support will be integrated with the existing services offered by the councils and other local partners, which will ensure local expertise is drawn upon when helping on additional matters such as basic skills, training, health, housing and English for Speakers of Other Languages.
Local authorities across the capital will share funding from the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund, working together through four sub-regional contracts which will be procured over the next 12 months.
Croydon is the leading borough on the procurement for the South London Partnership and about £15m will be spent on the delivery of the programme in Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton between 2018 and 2023.
South London councils already help local people in to work through their borough run employment support programmes. In Croydon, employment support is offered by Gateway which helps customers by identifying pathways into employment including training, work experience and volunteering opportunities.
Gateway also works in close partnership with Croydon Works, a job brokerage service that aims to ensure Croydon residents benefit from the employment opportunities being created through the borough’s regeneration.
Merton Council set up the Economic Wellbeing Group, in which partners including social housing provider Circle Housing Merton Priory, Merton Chamber of Commerce and South Thames College, work with the council to help local residents and businesses enhance their economic well-being.
They work together to provide employment related short courses and a jobs brokerage service. Training and support is also on offer to those wanting to start their own business or social enterprise and Job Clubs that deliver advice and support with job searches, applications and preparing for interview.
Through its back to Back to Employment courses, Kingston Council offers local residents free tuition to help those who are unemployed or claiming benefits, back into work. The course provides basic IT skills, and also covers employability and job search skills.
The new Work and Health Programme will see boroughs work together to develop and deliver a single programme across the five areas, that combines the support currently offered individually by the councils.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council and Chairman of the South London Partnership, said:
“The devolved funding provides the South London Partnership with a fantastic opportunity to join forces and get some of the most vulnerable people in our communities back into the world of work.
“With our residents’ needs in mind, we will be able to work together to ensure the new programme provides tailored, local support to south London residents improving their chances of securing sustainable employment.”