A few weeks ago the Royal bank of Scotland published some figures on economic growth in the regions of the United Kingdom. This demonstrated yet again that London’s economy is outstripping the rest of the country, growing 3.3 per cent year on year, compared with a national average of 2.5 per cent.
London’s economic success and the opportunities it brings is something to be celebrated but not all Londoners are able to seize those opportunities. For some of our fellow citizens the journey into employment can be daunting and over the years a variety of well-intentioned but ineffective schemes have done little to help with this.
The London Boroughs don’t exist as self contained economies and jobs may be available in one part of the city while the potential workforce is elsewhere. This is particularly relevant to Lewisham residents as much of our borough is residential but has good transport connections to the rest of London.
Over the years Lewisham Council has tried to find ways to help our own residents improved their job prospects. One of the ways we have done this has been through our Apprenticeship Programme which has enabled hundreds of young (and some not so young!) people to train with local employers gaining relevant and transferrable skills. One of the highlights of the year for me is spending a day visiting some of those apprentices and hearing at first hand how things are going.
In 2014, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark began working with Job Centre Plus and Tomorrow’s People on a programme to offer a different type of employment support in our three boroughs. It aimed to support residents, particularly those with the most complex needs, to get the ‘right help at the right time’, including skills and training that met the needs of the local and wider London labour markets.
The programme, known as “Pathways to Employment” is proving to be around five times more successful at getting people into work than existing national programmes. It is administered by integrated teams of Jobcentre Plus, Tomorrow’s People and council staff based in one Jobcentre in each of the three south London boroughs. Those teams are able to address a range of issues including housing, health, education and skills, debt and financial advice.
The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee looked at this area recently and took evidence about local schemes, including ours. They came to the conclusion that this approach should be adopted across the country.
Our three Councils are now going to formalise the partnership and look to step up the programme so that many more residents can be helped to share in London’s economic success in the future.