Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Leicester City Council after the publication of the Welfare Reform
1.1 This is a follow-up response to the
one made by Leicester City Council, Advice and Economic Development
Group in September 2005. We have conducted a consultation exercise
across all departments in the Council in making this supplementary
1.2 Leicester City Council supports the
Government's intention, stated in the paper "A New Deal
for Welfare: Empowering People into Work", of addressing
barriers that incapacity benefit claimants, lone parents and people
aged over 50 to increase their opportunities of getting into employment.
We are also pleased to find that most of the recommendations that
were made in our initial response have been incorporated in the
strategy. We have additional points to make that we hope will
assist in effectively delivering the strategy.
2.1 We strongly support the Government's
view that in aiming to increase the prosperity of the country
as a whole it is essential to tackle the areas of deprivation
and poverty in our cities. A key priority in Leicester City Council's
Corporate Plan is to promote prosperity and new jobs while safeguarding
people's health and development interests through helping disadvantaged
people into sustainable employment.
2.2 We think that the most effective vehicle
for achieving this aim at a local level will be through encouraging
the establishment of employer led consortia.
2.3 One of the main concerns that we had
when making our previous submission was gaining the active involvement
of employers in helping to increase the employment rates of the
target groups. We welcome the idea of establishing local consortia
in cities as a means of achieving this. The Government's paper
suggests that the Local Area Agreement infrastructure could be
pivotal in establishing a consortium, drawing a partnership together
comprising a range of partners such as local authorities, health
professionals, voluntary sector and employers and we see the sense
of this in that Area Committees offer opportunities to penetrate
at a community level.
2.4 However, as we pointed out in our previous
submission, there have been difficulties, in the past, in getting
employers to give a full commitment to becoming involved in local
partnerships that aim to actively deliver Government labour market
2.5 We repeat our previous recommendation
(paragraph 7.4 in our initial response) that one possible way
to overcome employers' reluctance would be for the Government
to encourage delivery of strategy through local employer led consortia.
This could be achieved through Government giving clear direction
and resources to Local Strategic Partnerships to enable them to
establish and publicise the benefits of employer consortia. Having
employers' consortia as an arm of Local Strategic Partnerships
would also help build linkages between the consortia and the local
communities where many of the worklessness live.
2.6 Leicester City Council, through its
Local Strategic Partnership, is in the process of encouraging
the development of an employer's forum that will aim to address
issues in the labour market. The intention is that the forum will
comprise a number of agencies including Jobcentre Plus, Learning
and Skills Council, training providers, job brokers and the local
authority but will be employer led. Initial sounding from employers
are promising as they see that this has potential for tackling
some recruitment and retention issues they have and sharing good
2.7 The feedback obtained so far from employers
is that an employer consortium should focus on recruitment and
retention among the target groups. This could involve:
working through job brokers
to reach the target groups particularly at a community level;
increasing the skill and employability
levels of individuals in target groups; and
introducing a package of measures
that would assist employers in recruiting and, once in work, supporting
new recruits from the target groups.
3.1 Employers may still be reluctant to
develop dedicated strategies aimed at the target groups until
they see some practical advantages for them in doing so. This
is particularly so with many individuals in the target groups
having issues that will have to be addressed, not only in getting
them into a job, but also in supporting them in employment once
they have started in work.
3.2 The second point that we wish to make,
therefore, is that funding should be made available to employers'
consortia to encourage employers to pilot initiatives that aim
to increase their recruitment or retention rates among the target
3.3 Examples of such initiatives could include
employers using existing staff to provide a buddying or mentoring
system in the workplace. However, employers would expect some
recompense for loss of production if staff were spending some
of their time supporting new recruits.
3.4 The concept can be thought of as being
similar to grants being made available to employers to make adjustments
under the Disability Discrimination Act to support the recruitment
and retention of disabled employees.
3.5 Such measures can bring advantages to
employers in the medium term, such as helping build staff development,
as well as providing day to day support to new recruits with the
personal support that many of them will need.
4.1 We agree that the range of activities
presented in Figure 2.5 of the report constitute a range of suitable
activities that would constitute an action plan with a couple
of additions and a couple of caveats.
4.2 Leicester City Council is responsible
for managing a welfare to work project called the Job Service
Partnership (JSP) that is funded through NRF. The JSP includes
an employment after-care support service which new employees have
found invaluable in assisting them to sustain their employment
to 13 weeks and beyond.
4.3 We have found that it is important that
clients are made aware of this service as it helps set out their
rights and responsibilities within the project. The support service
can encourage clients to take the step into employment; it can
also make sure that clients are encouraged to attend work on a
regular basis. We recommend, therefore, that an after-care employment
support service is built into all claimants' action plans.
4.4 It is also important that any action
plan is tailored to individual's needsthe success of Leicester
City Council's delivery of the welfare to work project is that
it supplements Jobcentre Plus by agreeing individual action plans
with its clients. Effective job matching is part of individuals'
action plans. This is important for clients' motivation as well
as persuading employers that it is worth their time to engage
with the project. We recommend, therefore, identification of suitable
jobs and job brokering support is also built into claimants' action
4.5 It is important that the service is
tailored to clients' needs throughout the process. We, therefore,
take issue with the proposal that clients undergo a work-focused
interview after eight weeks but the Personal Capability Assessment
is completed in three months. This smacks of an underlying measures
being taken to put some pressure on clients to take employment.
It does not lie comfortably with the aim of encouraging employers
and agencies to look positively at what people can do.
4.6 We think that it would help enormously
in addressing some of an employers' concerns to recruit incapacity
benefit claimants if an individual could show an employer what
they have been assessed as capable of doing. This would also help
any job brokering assistance. We recommend, therefore, that an
individual should not be required to attend a work focused interview
until the Personal Capability Assessment has been completed.
4.7 We would expect clarity and limits on
what constitutes work tasters, particularly with work trials and
permitted work in order to assure clients that their circumstances
would not be exploited by employers.
5. ROLE OF
5.1 We welcome the input that Occupational
Health has been given in the paper as a further attempt to assist
and help employers become involved in delivering the strategy.
Indeed we think that the role of Occupational Health could be
extended further. We believe that Occupational Health should have
an input into conducting the Personal Capability Assessment. This
would help ensure that the Assessment is not conducted in a vacuum
but takes into consideration aspects of the particular type of
employment that has been identified in the claimant's action plan
and thus follow on from individual job assessment. This step would
also strengthen any job brokering system that is developed.
6.1 Generally, we would say that it would
be reasonable to extend the activity plan if the plan breaks down
for any reason outside the claimant's control. A common situation
that the JSP comes across in delivering welfare to work is that
many job entry jobs are fixed term contracts and after the job
has expired the claimant returns onto the register. It is important
that we support and build upon claimants' experience in these
circumstances. This could mean the claimant going past the six
month limit from when they first received the premium.
7.1 The Government's stated aim is to increase
the overall employment rate, nationally, to 80%. This target,
however, has no regard to the quality or sustainability of employment.
We have found that this can have severe repercussions in delivering
welfare to work projects. Many of the entry level jobs on offer
do not have guaranteed hours or the hours can fluctuate wildly
from week to weeksome may say this is a product of encouraging
a flexible labour market. People in these circumstances are often,
understandably, reluctant to leave benefits when the jobs being
offered include such degrees of uncertainty. For those that do
take the risk and come off benefit, the JSP has found that for
a proportion of people work has not paid.
7.2 Neither does increasing employment rates
equate necessarily to any increase in productivitythis
should be measured by the number of working hours. We think, therefore,
that the Government could reset its target from increasing the
employment rate to increasing the number of working hours in the
country. This would still keep the focus on productivity while
at the same time it might help focus away from "any type
of job will do" and increase employment sustainability.