Work Local is the Local Government Association (LGA)’s positive vision for an integrated and devolved employment and skills service – bringing together information, advice and guidance alongside the delivery of employment, skills, apprenticeships and wider support for individuals and employers. This case study highlights how Greater Manchester Combined Authority worked with local and national partners to implement a similar approach.
In 2014, the Devolution Agreement gave Greater Manchester Combined Authority the responsibility to work with the Government to co-design and commission a devolved equivalent to the new national Work and Health programme. Out of this the ‘Working Well’ project was born.
The programme provided support to 5,000 Employment and Support Allowance benefit claimants who had completed the national Work and Health Programme but who were not able to find work. The aim of the Working Well Pilot was to improve the work readiness of everyone, and help them to get into work and sustain employment for at least a year. The programme also aimed to demonstrate the value of devolved employment programmes and the positive impact they can have to local areas.
Working Well has adopted a whole population approach to Health, Skills and Employment. It is committed to continued development of support packages that target Greater Manchester’s challenges in ageing populations, disability unemployment, and those who are at risk of or have already fallen out of employment due to poor health. To support this approach further, a bespoke Working Well: Early Help Project was introduced in March 2019, which aims to support 11,000 people who are either at risk or are newly unemployed (as a result of a health condition). A further commission providing specialised support for people with learning disabilities, autism and severe mental illness, will go live in early 2020.
All Working Well Programmes are match funded by the European Social Fund and have been developed in collaboration with Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities and local Jobcentres.
At the heart of the Working Well programmes is the notion of providing intensive, personalised support, fully integrated with Greater Manchester’s public services. This integrated approach is facilitated locally by each of the 10 Greater Manchester Local Authorities. There are numerous elements that support this:
- the programme was designed around the principles of intensive and holistic support from a ‘key worker’ who draws on, sequences and integrates other public service interventions to support people to address presenting issues that hold them back from starting work
- 10 local authority based ‘local leads’, Integration Boards (attended by local services), and Local Delivery Meetings ensure buy-in from, accountability to, and responsibility for local authorities in the delivery and performance of the programme, with a key role in enabling effective integration
- a central Greater Manchester Programme Office oversees the programme, providing overarching and consistent strategic direction, intelligence on performance to date, and with a key role in resolving any issues in the programme, whether in relation to referrals, support, or job starts.
To date, Working Well has supported over 4,500 people into work and has supported over 20,000 people with a complex range of skills and needs. This programme will run until 2024 and will provide support to a further 23,000 people.
Working Well participants are helped through a wide range of internal and external support for their mental and physical health needs, particularly from the Talking Therapies Service (a bespoke Working Well commissioned mental health service) which has supported over 1,400 participants with mental health issues. A lower proportion of participants with severe health issues got into work compared to those without, but nonetheless 779 with severe health issues started a job.
Participants aged over 50 are more likely to have been unemployed for a longer period of time and more likely to have severe physical health issues. Working Well has supported this group to a greater extent, with a larger proportion of these participants receiving employment, health and skills and qualifications support compared to those aged under 50. There has been 645 job starts for participants aged over 50.
Housing issues were identified as a severe concern by 12 per cent of participants, although this varies widely by local authority. Participants with severe housing issues have a far higher average number of severe barriers to work, and are more likely to have severe mental health and substance misuse. The programme helps by enabling key workers to deal with the relevant bodies to resolve housing issues and by referring participants to financial advisors where necessary. Some 265 participants with severe housing issues have started work to date.
There is a high prevalence of participants with no or low qualifications on the programme. The programme helps by referring participants to predominantly basic skills and vocational-related accredited training, which is delivered both internally and externally, including through Skills for Employment. Participants without qualifications are far less likely to have started a job than those that have. However, Working Well has supported 549 participants without qualifications to start jobs to date.
Sustaining the approach and lessons learned
Key to Working Well’s success is local collaboration through a consistent and shared strategic approach from the outset. The Working Well programme in its design and delivery has remained closely aligned with the Greater Manchester Strategy. Reform was a major part of the 2013 Greater Manchester Strategy: Stronger Together that directly preceded Working Well. Amongst other actions, it included a call to deliver an integrated approach to employment and skills, with economic inactivity, mainly related to ill-health, identified as one of the key causes of Greater Manchester’s productivity gap compared to the UK overall.
An integrated approach is also central to the more recent Greater Manchester Strategy: Our People, Our Place from 2017, with devolution central to being able to fully join up services and implement a distinctive Greater Manchester person-centred approach. The strategy includes commitments to improving the mental and physical health of Greater Manchester residents, making Greater Manchester the UK’s ‘first age-friendly city region’, giving those keen to get back into work the support and training they need, and improving the pay of Greater Manchester’s workers.