The news last week from the Office of National Statistics that Glasgow is top in the UK this year for workless households adds to the persistent image of a city with deep-seated problems around long-term unemployment and associated issues around deprivation which hark back at least to the 1980s.
Over the last 40 years, virtually the entire infrastructure of the heavy industry that characterised Glasgow has disappeared, taking with it the firms and skills that have been in the area for decades. Glasgow has re-invented itself through refocusing on commerce, retail, shopping, services, IT, arts and culture all leading to an image of a vibrant city.
But whole areas of the city have not shared in this renewal. The consequence is unemployment or low-paid work is significantly high in some districts with many families experiencing inter-generational unemployment where the norm is dependency on welfare benefits.
The fusion of long-term unemployment, welfare dependency and serious social issues added to few educational qualifications is self-sustaining and difficult to break out of.
Glasgow has a commendable track record and much experience of providing an array of services around crisis work and recovery in areas such as addictions, homelessness, trauma and criminal justice. The next step must be to motivate people out of dependency on services and benefits. Recovery programmes in the social care field tasked with building up people's social skills, confidence and aspirations must be linked with practical, realistic inputs encouraging and stimulating people onto volunteering, further education, training and - the holy grail - employability.
Rosemount Lifelong Learning's Time for a Change Programme, which is being rolled out in north-east Glasgow attempts to meet these challenges. This programme aims to improve the confidence, core skills, financial management, tenancy sustainability and employability of participants.
The need to link crisis intervention and recovery/social care programmes with education and employment, is essential, as is ensuring all unemployed people can access employability programmes but it can only be done at people's own realistic pace. You can't go from needle exchange to working in a call centre in one go.
Building up confidence and social skills at people's own pace will provide more solid long-term dividends in terms of sustainable employment and community regeneration.
Programmes such as Time for a Change attempt to meet these challenges and provide a balance between people's individual needs, while continuing to motivate them into employment, education and training. The problem at present is that all such programmes, at least in the third sector, are subject to short-term funding, depend on a constant series of match funding arrangements and can be dependent on short-terms shifts in policy.
This combination substantially militates against the sustainability and planning of these programmes. Programmes striving to get people back into work and the full citizenship that education and employment brings with it must be backed up by funding streams which last for a minimum of three years and, optimally, for five years. One final but vital ingredient in this is childcare. The provision of childcare is essential not only to get on the first rung of acquiring skills and qualifications, but also in allowing people to sustain progress including employment.
Funding good programmes to develop local skills, encouraging education and employment, promoting local enterprise and providing childcare will cost money. But the dividend to be reaped in reducing the level of workless households, deprivation, poverty, dependency on welfare and regenerating communities will leave a positive legacy that will last for generations. What are we waiting for?
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