Central London Forward

Central London Forward provides support, coordination and partnership working across councils in central London, leading on key programmes such as ‘Central London Works’. This case study examines the strengths, impact and challenges of the current skills and employment system, and what is needed to increase positive outcomes for local residents.

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Central London Forward (CLF) is a strategic sub-regional partnership covering the local authorities of Camden, City of London, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. It is the largest of London’s four sub-regions.

Vision for the local area

CLF was set up in 2007 to support coordination and partnership working across local authorities in central London. It aims to work alongside its member authorities and other stakeholders to support inclusive and sustainable growth in central London, so that the local economy thrives and residents are able to benefit from the opportunities this creates. CLF’s role has evolved and expanded over the years, and it has taken on a role delivering programmes.

CLF manages two large Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) funded programmes on behalf of its member authorities: the devolved ‘Work and Health’ programme, named ‘Central London Works’ , which supports local residents with disabilities and the long-term unemployed into work; and the JETS (Job Entry Targeted Support) programme, which supports those who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic to return to employment.  

Joe Dromey, Director of CLF, said London had seen strong economic and employment growth over the last two decades, with the historic gap between London’s employment rate and the wider UK employment rate having nearly closed before the pandemic. However, many residents in central London have not benefited from the city’s economic opportunities.

"CLF has a dual focus: putting in place the foundations that support strong and sustainable economic growth, but also helping central London residents to get the skills they need, and the employment support and advice they require, to move into those jobs,” explained Joe.

Work the partnership is currently undertaking

CLF brings its member authorities together through a range of groups and forums. Its board, which meets a few times a year, is comprised of all 12 political leaders. The 12 chief executives meet together as the programmes board. Below the boards are a series of functional officer groups, including for economic recovery lead officers, skills officers, planning officers and finance officers. They meet regularly to identify shared priorities or concerns, to guide CLF’s work and to learn from each other.

Alongside managing the Central London Works and JETS programmes, CLF bids for funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) and others to deliver programmes across the region. The adult education budget is devolved to GLA and commissioned by the mayor of London, working closely with the sub-regions and boroughs.

Central London Works is delivered by Ingeus, on behalf of CLF, and this £51 million initiative will support up to 21,000 residents to find work and manage their health conditions. CLF and Ingeus work closely together, with monthly performance meetings which assess not only the number of referrals and job starts but also the quality of jobs and support. Alongside the formal contract management meetings are integration meetings, involving boroughs, with the aim of supporting integration of employment and skills services across central London.

There are some good examples of this integration in action – for example, Ingeus have set up ‘super centres’ in Hackney, Lambeth and Islington which bring together different programmes, including borough and Jobcentre Plus provision. Joe said this approach had been effective:

“They are a really good example of co-location, which is a really positive approach to making sure that we are delivering services effectively and in a joined-up way”

There is also an employer services sub-group which aims to coordinate employer engagement across all the programmes, ensuring that programmes work in unison rather than chasing vacancies for their own participants. The aim here is for a coordinated, single conversation with employers about how CLF, providers and the boroughs can help them fill jobs. Again, this is proving successful:

"It brings Ingeus together with the other providers in London, and the boroughs and sub-regions, to work towards a coordinated approach to identifying potential job opportunities and then engaging with employers to help fill them,” explained Joe.  

Opportunities, barriers and potential solutions

Joe said that some recent opportunities for further devolution had been missed, most notably with the ‘Restart’ programme.

“It was disappointing that we didn’t see Restart devolved to sub-regions, as we did with Work and Health [which was devolved to London’s four sub-regions and to Greater Manchester]. That seemed to be a step back in devolution. And if ‘Kickstart’ had been locally delivered we could have better engaged with employers, identified opportunities and delivered more job starts.”   

Data sharing is another challenge. For example, DWP does not currently share the number of Restart referrals and jobs with local areas.

“We are very happy to share the data from Central London Works, which we manage, with any partners, but DWP will not share the Restart data. So we are trying to work on integration of the programmes but we can’t access the information we need. That definitely needs to change," said Joe.

CLF also recognises a challenge around resourcing, particularly the resources to effectively manage and integrate employment and skills support at a local level.

“Given that local authorities are so hard-pressed financially, it is difficult for them to fund the management and delivery of these programmes. Government needs to recognise that if we are to have effective local delivery and integration, that needs to be funded. So programmes that are devolved need to come with proper resourcing to deliver this sort of work,” added Joe.

The local perspective

‘No Wrong Door’  is a pan-London programme launched by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, in 2021. The idea has been informed by extensive engagement with sub-regional partnerships, boroughs, London Councils, Jobcentre Plus, employment and skills providers and others. The programme is led by GLA and London Councils. It aims to coordinate and integrate the employment and skills system so that no matter what someone’s starting point is, or which service they access first, they will be connected to the right type of employment and skills support, at the right time, to help them on their journey to good work.

No Wrong Door aims to respond to the long-standing challenges of a lack of joining up and local responsiveness in the skills and employment system. DWP and the GLA are providing funding to the sub-regional partnerships to establish integration hubs to deliver this at a sub-regional level.


Joe Dromey, Director of CLF - [email protected]

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