Memorandum submitted by Local Government
1. The Local Government Association (LGA)
represents over 500 local authority in England and Wales covering
a population of over 50 million people and spending totalling
around £74 billion a year on local services.
2. The LGA exists to promote better local
government. We work with and for our member authorities to realise
a shared vision of local government that enables local people
to shape a distinctive and better future for their locality and
3. The LGA welcomes the opportunity to respond
to this call for evidence as local authorities will be affected
by changes to Incapacity Benefit across a range of key service
functions. Councils play an important role in increasing access
to employment, especially among hard to reach groups. They also
have a key role through social services in helping people currently
on benefits to find work where appropriate using advice and signposting.
Finally they also administer benefits and benefits advice.
The LGA welcomes the aim to:
Re-formulate the system to enable
people to get back to work as research has shown that at least
one million of the 2.6 million incapacity benefit claimants would
like to work again.
Provide greater investment in terms
of more personal support.
Simplify current complexities and
reducing the risks of trying work.
Provide greater financial support
for all, particularly those with most severe functional limitations.
The LGA hopes that the changes will provide
an opportunity to:
Provide a more effective assessment
for those with mental health problems.
Extend the positive support for getting
people with disabilities back to work to help others find suitable
employment such as clients with learning disabilities.
Ensure that there is advice and support
not just at the point of moving to full-time paid work but throughout
considering, finding and retaining employment.
The LGA would welcome consideration being given
Ensuring there is no negative impact
of any increased or extra benefits on local authority administered
benefits, for example, housing and council tax benefits.
Changes to the benefit system going
hand-in-hand with more resources aimed at preventative work, for
example working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to
reduce accidents at work and ensuring local transport networks
support the employment needs of the area.
Further local incentives being provided
eg through re-investing benefit savings in a locality to develop
further supported employment schemes within a local area.
Incorporating the points from the
recent DWP research into the role of Personal Advisers in the
Pathways to Work pilot areas before further changes are rolled
A range of stakeholders being involved
in establishing how distinctions between conditions are assessed
and what the content of the "return to work activities"
Ensuring that access to enterprise
is promoted as a route for IB claimants to return to work. The
Association considers that IB claimants should be eligible for
the "self employment routeway" training currently offered
by jobcentre plus as part of the work based learning for adults.
Self employment could be a particularly attractive route for those
groups who face multiple barriers to the job market such as long
term unemployed who are over 50 years old.
Building in flexibility to national
programmes to ensure that they can be easily tailored to unique
circumstances in localities.
Ensuring that existing mechanisms
and programmes to reduce worklessness such as those within Regional
Skills Partnerships are fully recognised and engaged in any reforms
The LGA has reservations about the use of sanctions
and would welcome consideration that:
Changes to the system are communicated
carefully so some of the most vulnerable sections of society,
especially those will mental health problems, do not fear a reduction
or termination in their benefit.
The new system/provision will be
designed to meet a wide variety of groups and capacities for work,
especially those with fluctuating conditions and those who have
been on the benefit for long time.
People have every incentive possible
to try out work, for example, through improved linking rules and
extra money to stay in work.
Whilst supporting greater independence,
benefits will still meet the higher daily living costs often faced
by those unable to work due illness or injury.
Any compulsion and sanctions should
not lead to people having to take employment that only leaves
them and their families only marginally better off.
Given the fact that many of those
on Incapacity Benefit wish to return to work, quality voluntary
arrangements, with referral to specialist agencies when appropriate
and with guaranteed incentives to work, may be more effective
to help people to move to long term employment, rather than compulsion.
Other mechanisms, such as the into-work
credit may provide a more effective incentive than the use of
The LGA believes that improvements to benefit
policy could ease the transition into work and encourage greater
participation. The following suggestions are made:
In order to minimise income insecurity,
when an income changes, benefit adjustments need to be made without
delay or confusing "linking rules".
The rules regarding the Permitted
Work scheme need to be simplified.
Earnings disregards for income related
benefits need to be raised to give incentives those receiving
Gaining new skills and knowledge
need to be valued as a stepping stone to work.
We welcome the productive approach
taken by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus
(JCP) officials in joint activity with the LGA in relation to
the "helping the hardest to reach into work" area undertaken
as part of the "promoting economic vitality" shared
Great strides have been made in promoting
partnership working through eg the joint DWP/LGA National Partnership
Accord in 2003 and the development of a practitioners "toolkit"
for local authorities and JCP local managers on partnership working
in July 2004 which promoted approaches such as joint labour market
However, there is a lot of uncertainty
surrounding the current reorganisation of JCP which local authorities
say is affecting partnership work at a local level, especially
around welfare advice work, and long-term planning.
The success of the new model will
depend on providers being able to work in partnership, for example
with advice agencies or community organisations.
Government agencies such as JCP need
to be encouraged and enabled to work flexibly with local authorities
to develop innovative approaches to tackle employment and skills
needs. We do not want all this positive joint activity to be jeopardised
by the knock on effect of efficiency savings.
The context of Jobcentre Plus efficiency
savings may conflict with the increased role of personal advisers.
The welcome emphasis put on the circumstances
of the individual claimant may conflict with an increasingly target
The LGA sees the role of local government in
helping people back to work as central:
Effective local partnership working
is essential for the effective development of any employment programmes.
Any changes needs to be carefully co-ordinated at a local level
with local authorities to have maximum effect on social inclusion.
As the attached short case study examples illustrate,
local authorities often play a key role in developing innovative
and creative programmes around increasing access to employment.
Local authorities will be involved in identifying local skills
shortages, engaging with local businesses and devising and delivering
life long learning strategies. Though such initiatives as Local
Area Agreements local authorities will work in close partnership
with the main partners and stakeholders locally, pooling resources
to deliver joint objectives and common aims.
As local government is itself a large
employer and one that is keen to involve the whole of its community,
we hope that funding streams, such as Access to Work, will still
be obtainable by local authorities to ensure that they can provide
sufficient adaptations and alterations for new employees with
3 October 2005