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Responsible Recovery: A social contract for local growth

A new ResPublica report

The latest report from ResPublica, Responsible Recovery: A social contract for local growth, calls for a more joined-up approach to government policy on welfare, poverty and employment.

Arguing that we need localism that creates work and opportunity, rooting recovery in the communities that are most crying out for it, the report calls for a 'social contract' between residents, local business, service providers and the wider community, which would account for the needs of local labour markets, community networks and social assets.

Market failure, inequality and deprivation are real and must be tackled, and government has a vital role to play in order to maximise the productive potential of our poorest neighbourhoods. But regeneration is not just a matter of reviving housing markets, providing transport infrastructure or devolving financial responsibilities. The starting point should be to understand and engage with the people who are most affected by poverty in the places where they live, working with them to create solutions that work in the context of their lives and strengthening the links and assets that are already important to them.

Written by ResPublica Associate Julian Dobson, the publication argues that we need to see people as the solution, not as the problem.

The report makes a raft of recommendations which would engender ‘a more robust economic localism’ whereby policies are tailored to local business needs, welfare, housing and other forms of social support and security within communities:

  • In implementing its Universal Credit reforms, the report urges the DWP to separate the Jobcentre Plus benefit agency and employment service functions, in order to open up employment service provision to local providers. The ‘right to challenge’ within the Localism Act should be extended to employment support and training services.
  • The report endorses the ‘Community Allowance’ which would allow benefit claimants to do short term paid or unpaid community placements without affecting their benefits. It calls for national and local policy to recognise the value 'stepping stone' temporary or voluntary jobs in providing skills and services to the community.
  • The DWP should incentivise sub-letting of rooms in ‘under-occupied’ homes, by modifying the rules on lodgers so there is no benefit penalty or income tax from letting out a spare room.
  • The DCLG, DWP and local authorities should work together to offer long term ‘community deals’ in which local organisations can act as the budget holders and delivery agents for a wide range of central and local government services.
  • The DWP and DCLG should set up a joint taskforce to examine the scale and nature of informal, undeclared work and consider how it could be put on a more formal footing without penalising the skill and entrepreneurship that exists within poor communities.
  • Social landlords and local authorities should invest in mechanisms which reward community action, from time banking schemes to rent reductions or bonus schemes for tenants and residents who organise or take part in voluntary activity in their communities.

The report is supported by Trafford Housing Trust, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, Cross Keys Homes, and the Placeshapers Group.

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