Belfast Telegraph

Unemployed 'falling through cracks', say council leaders

By Alan Jones

The number of unemployed people not claiming jobseeker's allowance has passed a million for the first time, showing how many are "falling through cracks" in national work schemes, according to council leaders.

The proportion of unemployed people not claiming benefits has increased by 28% in the past 18 months in England and Wales, said the Local Government Association (LGA).

Councils are having to "pick up the pieces", as some of the hardest to reach jobseekers, such as young people, are not receiving any central government help into work, claimed the LGA.

The association has been pressing ministers since last year to devolve national education, skills and employment schemes to local areas so they can "join up" services, and said the next government should commit to the move.

The LGA highlighted a number of local schemes, including help for unemployed residents in Gateshead which had led to an increase in young jobseekers finding work, a fund targeted at people with ill health and disabilities in Bradford, a programme aimed at ex-offenders in Southampton, and a scheme for lone parents in Liverpool.

David Sparks, who chairs the LGA, said: "Unemployment is falling, but the headlines hide the plight of our most vulnerable residents who are falling through the cracks.

"Too many are let down by national job schemes which are unable to identify or help them because they have not signed on at their local Jobcentre Plus.

"Councils across the country are desperate to ensure no one is left behind and have sought to support those being forgotten by these national services by using their local knowledge, expertise and connections with local organisations and services to target their hardest to reach residents.

"These successful schemes act as a vital safety net for people but are under real threat with local government funding cut by 40% during the life of this Parliament and pressure on vital services continuing to grow.

"It will be our most vulnerable who will suffer unless government commits to devolving nationally-run education, skills and employment schemes to local areas able to join-up and target services so that our vulnerable people are not left behind.

"This would allow councils to reduce long-term unemployment by a third by the end of the next Parliament."

A Department for Work and pensions spokesman said: "The LGA are wrong to suggest that people aren't getting the help they need.

"The truth is that every day our Jobcentre advisers are helping people off benefits and in to work and we now have record numbers of people in jobs.

"Our network of over 700 Jobcentres already work closely with local authorities and organisations on the ground, tailoring support to help as many local people into work as possible."

Belfast Telegraph