Devolution of welfare-to-work could improve the co-ordination, effectiveness and coverage of local service delivery systems

recent report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) draws on evidence from Canada, the USA, the Netherlands and Germany which shows that welfare-to-work devolution can be a catalyst for integrating and improving local employment and training services.

The report, carried out by Professor Dan Finn, Associate Director at Inclusion, maps the current welfare-to-work landscape in Britain, in which the role of jobcentres is changing and greater partnership working and flexibility is required by welfare reforms such as the introduction of Universal Credit. It states that: ‘Greater devolution of how Jobcentres work with local government is required,’ and that ‘More coherent partnership agreements would facilitate integrated and locally accountable service delivery’.

Some of the key issues to emerge from the report are around accountability. It states that alongside devolution ‘a national framework is required to ensure common or minimum service standards, especially where participation is mandatory for benefit claimants.’

It argues that: ‘Local government involvement in WtoW policy would give greater legitimacy to often controversial national programmes and greater insight into how to tailor services to local communities’ needs and views.’

In addition to this, ‘Greater local control would enable local government and/or employer-led partnerships to improve the effectiveness of welfare-to-work policy, increase value for money and better adapt mainstream WtoW policies – especially the Work Programme – to local conditions.’

The report also suggests that devolution could ensure that less well-off residents benefit from the increased employment and wealth associated with economic growth.

Finn also makes the point that, if poorly designed, further devolution could risk undermining the standard and effectiveness of national services while reducing transparency and central accountability. Further to this, the devolution of welfare-to-work services could result in a ‘postcode lottery’.

The full report can be read here.