Could a greater role for nations and local areas improve employment and skills outcomes?
How can local areas best ensure joined-up services that work for people?
The role of local and national authorities varies between and within the countries of the UK. Skills funding is devolved to Scotland and Wales, and in England a number of Mayoral Combined Authorities have roles relating to some skills funding. The social security system operates across the UK but its application varies, with particular flexibilities in Scotland and Wales, and some parts of England having responsibility for co-commissioning employment programmes.
Nations and local areas have different responsibilities over employment and skills in relation to service delivery, funding, policy, and governance and partnerships. There is not a simple answer as to whether national or local policy and delivery are more effective: it depends on the context and quality of delivery in practice.
Our work is focused on examining the potential role for local areas, the best framework for devolution of learning, skills and employment policy, funding and services, and building the evidence base on what works to improve local services. This includes examining the business case for devolution, exploring how nations and areas can make sure services deliver for local people and employers, and evaluating the impact of devolved programmes.
A key issue is the unequal distribution of opportunities across the country. Addressing these will include place-based solutions which devolved authorities are well placed to deliver.
This inequality is highlighted by our Youth Opportunity Index which brings together seven data measures across education and employment outcomes for 16-24 year olds in every local educational authority in England and Wales. It highlights big intra-regional differences in opportunity, with young people facing issues across all parts of the country, rather than in a traditional North-South divide.
A way of improving opportunity and taking steps to ‘level up’ the country is through education and training for adults. This is particular impactful for adults who left school at 16 or younger and/or have not accessed higher education. However, participation in adult learning has steadily declined in the past decade and is now at a record low. Access is particulary poor for those that need it most. Reversing this decline is crucial.