Policy priority 2: A strategic aim

Help long-term unemployed people across the city region get into work

  • Learn from how other places have reintegrated the long-term unemployed
  • Capitalise on the opportunities presented by Government pilots

The first metro mayor of Tees Valley must set out a vision to reintegrate residents who are long term unemployed back into the labour market. The Tees Valley area suffers from significant and persistently high unemployment levels: the city region’s claimant count is double that of the national level (3.9 per cent compared with 1.8 per cent nationwide) and is even more pronounced for youth unemployment (5.2 per cent compared with 2.3 per cent nationally). Rates of economic inactivity in the Tees Valley are also higher at 26 per cent than the national average (22 per cent).

Learn from how other places have reintegrated the long-term unemployed

Long term unemployment has typically been considered as a ‘wicked problem’ for policy makers, and the metro mayor should be alert to the challenges that they will face in tackling this critical issue. Despite this reputation there have been recent policy successes, one of the most prominent being Manchester’s Working Well programme (as demonstrated by the SQW1 and Dickinsons evaluations). The What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth will be publishing their evaluation of all the relevant evidence later this year.

Capitalise on the opportunities presented by Government pilots

Working Well is a pilot programme that provides assistance to Employment Support Allowance (Work-related Activity Group) benefit claimants who have not secured employment after two years on the Work Programme. The primary innovation in the Working Well model is that support is provided to individual clients through an assigned key worker who co-ordinates a wraparound service from a complex mix of different sources.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority has already submitted proposals to pilot a locally specific programme based on Working Well and the metro mayor should support this proposal in due time. However many of the principals can inform policy in the longer term regardless of whether this application is successful.

Firstly, the metro mayor should enact programmes that recognise the complexity of support requirements for long term unemployed residents. Individuals that have been disengaged from the labour market for a long time often face multiple barriers to work, from health issues to a lack of relevant skills. The Mayor is uniquely well placed within the city region to convene the many different departments and organisations that support disadvantaged residents. The Mayor must set out a strategy that encourages a joined up way of working based on improving the outcomes for those individuals that are most in need. This means ensuring that different interventions complement each other in helping more long term unemployed residents to access work.
By designing and delivering support at the city region level (as opposed to through the Work Programme package areas) decision makers have the opportunity and incentive to bring together the disparate budgets and departments more effectively. The metro mayor is also in the position to achieve and benefit from savings made in different departments, and this should incentivise and reward better decision making.

Reintegrating those who have been out of a job for a long time should be a critical priority for the city regions’ economic and social success. This will require not only significant investment, but innovative and well-administered programmes of support. Learning from the experiences in Manchester and elsewhere will put the first metro mayor of Tees Valley in a strong position to achieve this vision.

Footnotes

  • 1 SQW Annual Report and Interim Evaluation of Greater Manchester Working Well