Thousands of disadvantaged people and long-term jobseekers across the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area are set to receive specialist tailored advice and support to get into work.
Up to £4.5m will be provided by the Department for Work & Pensions to trial the use of social networks to help boost the prospects of individuals getting jobs and progress the careers of those on low incomes.
Developed and delivered by the WMCA, in partnership with government, the scheme is expected to help support 4,500 people – including young people, disabled people and other vulnerable groups.
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, David Gauke, said: “We have record numbers of people in work which is great news, but there are still people missing out on the available opportunities because of barriers to employment.
“The West Midlands will be leading the way in trialling a new approach to employment support, which will help more vulnerable groups find and progress in work.
“This pilot is yet another step forward in our efforts to help people of all backgrounds enjoy the benefits of work, and will boost the wide ranging support we currently offer through local experts like Jobcentre Plus.”
Cllr George Duggins, WMCA lead member for skills & productivity and leader of Coventry City Council, added: “Supporting those who need it most is a fundamental value for the WMCA and why we will be using this pilot scheme to help disadvantaged people into work.
“Having a secure and properly paid job is one of the most effective ways for people to improve their quality of life but we have to make sure that everyone in society benefits from the job opportunities being created, especially those on low incomes and young, unemployed people so they can reach their full potential.”
The funding follows a commitment in the West Midlands’ first devolution agreement that government would consider a business case for an innovative employment support pilot.
The scheme will now focus on providing support not only for those people who are out of work but those already in work but on low incomes.
It will be delivered in a number of locations across the WMCA area where communities experience high levels of unemployment and low pay. Advice on local job opportunities along with training and support for job applications and interviews will be given to people in their own neighbourhoods.
The location-based support is aimed at making it easier to engage with local residents and encourage the communities themselves to help spread the word through their neighbourhood’s existing social networks about the opportunities and support available.
Evidence suggests that neighbours, extended family members and others in the local community can prove an effective channel for getting information to the right people and in helping to strengthen and nurture confidence that there are accessible jobs available, particularly to those whose families have experienced generational unemployment.
Discussions are also underway between the WMCA, further education colleges and adult education services about developing a local ‘Citizen’s Curriculum’ to support the pilot scheme and ensure everyone has the English, maths, digital, civic, health and financial capabilities they need to get in to work.