September 11, 2013

Cultures of Dependency: Fact, fiction, solutions

Individual cities rather than central government should be in charge of helping local people into work.

Cultures of Dependencysays that in the future employment support must better understand the pressures that families, social networks and communities put on unemployed people. Devolving power and money would allow individual Jobcentres to pilot new innovative ways of delivering local personalised support to help people find a job. Support could also be targeted at whole families, peer groups or estates in order to tackle serious barriers to work like a poor work ethic or family problems.

Devolving welfare powers to cities using the 28 existing City Deals would transfer total expected benefit spending for a whole group of individuals over a given period of time and allow cities to keep any benefit savings leveraged from helping people into work in this period.

The report uses evidence from 33 in-depth interviews, six focus groups and 322 survey responses in jobcentres in Hounslow, Leicester and Stockport to assess the depth of problems that individuals, families and communities face in finding employment. The results showed that some people found family members or friends kept them positive or pressured them when they were looking for work however, for others, their contacts actually acted as a barrier to employment as they lacked helpful contacts and motivation and could even encourage them into crime. This was worst for the long-term unemployed.

It also recommends:

Encouraging cities to bid for greater autonomy over the functioning of Jobcentre Plus, commissioning of the Work Programme and support for the very-hardest-to-help individuals. If implemented, this approach would lead to a significant increase in devolution of employment support and would allow much more effective joining up of support locally so that specific community and family issues can be addressed.

Giving more responsibility to Jobcentre Plus managers and advisors to develop personalised responses to local problems. For instance, where whole families are unemployed they could be asked to sign on together in order to plan childcare and job opportunities. For childless individuals who lack experience of travel or knowledge of opportunities outside of their local area, the flexibility to ask them to sign-on up to 90 minutes away could boost their confidence of commuting and open up their chances to employment outside of their immediate town.


Matthew Tinsley

Economics & Social Policy Research Fellow, 2011-2014

Join our mailing list