Tackling unemployment: Q&A with David Kirkham
July 12, 2012
David Kirkham is strategic manager for Nottinghamshire: City and County Employment and Skills Board, a business-led social partnership formed to promote sustainable employment and economic inclusion. In 2009 he led the development of Nottinghamshire Fit for Work Service. He was previously a civil servant for 11 years with the Department for Education and Employment and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Q. Given the current economic situation and outlook in the UK and beyond, should we be reining in our expectations of the role local government can play in getting people back into employment? Is a reality check required?
A. I think we need to examine where we need to intervene. Over the last 15 years we’ve seen a gradual transition from mainly state delivered welfare to work programmes to a private sector-led system. The latest iteration of back to work support – the Work Programme is actively designed as a ‘black box’ approach. This means that government wants the service provider to shape the way services work, with payment made according to their results. Arguably this has considerably reduced the amount of direct influence local government has in getting people back to work; however, there are ways to innovate, which make the most of what local government can leverage in order for national work programmes to work. Fit for Work is a stand out example of this. It’s a preventative model and is locally designed and, given the early indication that the Work Programme has not engaged with health related work support as expected, there is a case to intervene.
Q. Creating employment is a key aim of D2N2 – the local enterprise partnership for Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire – how can the local authorities in those areas ensure that vulnerable groups are targeted in sub-regional strategy and that job creation isn’t just focused in ‘high end’ employment?
A. There needs to be a balance between social and economic inclusion alongside the higher end employment growth and economic development. Our LEP is prioritising a growth strategy that aims to create competitive advantage in our economy, its economic focus is on the more knowledge intensive and high end employment but we are working to establish priorities that also focus on entry level employment. We know from our own labour market intelligence that the service and social care sectors provide the greatest market share of employment in Nottingham and Notts and social care is the fastest growing. In terms of economic development we cannot afford to miss these factors out.