Nearly nine million people who are economically inactive risk being left out of the labour market for even longer due to a complex patchwork of disconnected national schemes and services which fail to directly address their needs, councils warn.

Research for the LGA shows there are at least 51 national programmes, services or initiatives in England designed to support people back to work in various ways, but none of these join up, with very few designed specifically to address economic inactivity.

The LGA said councils are ready and willing to work with government on finding a way through to encourage more people into work, whether through job-matching, retraining, upskilling or improving confidence and self-esteem. It comes ahead of the publication of latest official figures, which are expected to show the number of people who are economically inactive remains at around record highs.

People who are economically inactive – those who are not in employment, who are not looking for a job or are not able to start work – has reached a record high of 8.7 million in the UK and remains stagnant. Not all of them will be able to work, but for those that can and want to, many are ineligible for national job support from jobcentres if they are not claiming out-of-work benefits. This means people who want to get back to work miss out, leaving vacancies unfilled, leading to falling productivity and sluggish economic growth.

The reasons for economic inactivity range from physical and mental health conditions, a loss of confidence or self-esteem, to more practical factors such as access to transport and the need to upskill and earn new qualifications.

The LGA, which represents councils, says a more joined up approach across the Government and a commitment to work through local government to design and target support is vital to addressing the underlying causes of why so many people are out of the jobs market and unable or unwilling to return.

The report by Shared Intelligence, commissioned by the LGA, recommends giving local government a leading role in helping people back to work in their areas with long-term, simplified funding. Eligibility for existing programmes should be broadened out to better reach people that are economically inactive, and that any support must be linked to other frontline services such as public health, housing, adult and community learning and the NHS.

Evidence in the report shows that local government is also able to bring together a range of agencies and local partners with first-hand experience of how to support people back into work.

It also finds that deep seated causes of why a person is economically inactive can take time to diagnose and highlights the need for longer term funding and joined up services across a place, so professionals can work together. Providing in-work support is also a vital component in helping people hold down new jobs, the report says.

Routing long-term support and funding through councils and devolved authorities, rather than being limited to specific programmes or timeframes managed by different agencies or Whitehall departments, will bring partners such as employers and providers closer together, provide flexibility to changing local market conditions and make the most of public funding.

Cllr Martin Tett, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s People and Places Board, said:

“Economic inactivity does not have a quick fix and short-term, limited schemes will not be enough to get millions of people back into work.

“Councils know their communities best and can use their unique coordinating role to tackle this fundamental national issue and its underlying causes.

“Given the right powers and funding, local government can do so much more to unlock the labour market, join up support and boost economic growth”


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