Pioneering plan for Islington’s 40,000 unemployed revealed today

Robert Khan (left) and Tom Salinsky, the writers of Coalition

Robert Khan (left) and Tom Salinsky, the writers of Coalition - Credit: Archant

Audacious new measures have been put forward this morning to get the borough’s whopping 40,000 jobless people into work and stop Islington becoming a “dormitory”.

The recommendations are part of a report released yesterday by the Employment Commission, a body launched by Islington Council at the start of the year to find out why 30 per cent of working age people are unemployed despite 1.3 jobs in the borough for each of them.

The document, commissioned by Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, saw co-chairs Cllr Robert Khan and businesswoman Maggie Semple OBE, spend six months visiting job centres, job clubs, companies and charities to identify three key area.

Cllr Watts said: “The first is the way employment services are funded at the moment, which is a chaotic free-for-all. It lets people down.

“Central Government spend £40milllion? on jobseekers in Islington, but only four per cent is allocated locally. We think this money could be used in a way that’s more in tune with our individuals and employers needs. More of the money should be devolved to the council to spend.”

The second area, he says, is targeting the long-term unemployed, including the 12,000 people in Islington on sickness benefit - the highest in London.

He said; “The language used by central Government - that these people are scroungers - is utterly wrong and very unhelpful. They want to work. Even people with quite severe learning difficulties can be accommodated by different working patterns. And employers are keen on this. They get someone who is massively motivated, and for the employees it’s completely life-changing. Employers are also keen on Islington residents - because who turns up to work when there is a tube strike? Local people. They also have a lower rate of sickness.

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“What we need to do is broker the jobs better and match up job seekers with local businesses.”

The final strand is making sure no youngster leaves school without the right qualifications and something to do next.

“We are lucky in Islington because we have jobs here,” said Cllr Watts. We have one of the most thriving job markets in the world, it’s not like some other areas of the country where the work isn’t there.

“We need to make sure the benefits of our buoyant economy are spread out evenly and fairly.Islington should be somewhere people can live and work, not just some kind of dormitory.”

Cllr Khan said: “Islington has long-standing problems around unemployment, which is far higher than it should be end a major cause of poverty.

He added: “Today we are calling for radical change to help get local people into jobs they can keep and ultimately enjoy.”

Ms Semple said: “Work transforms the lives of local people and their families, at the same time recruiting locally can bring big advantages to employers and companies. We found plenty of evidence people out of work want to work, but face obstacles like a lack on confidence or child care they can’t afford.”

The commission’s progress will be monitored in a year.