The Tees Valley has secured £6m of additional devolved funding from government to support up to 2,500 people into employment.
The funding is awarded to the six combined authority areas with elected Mayors, and the Tees Valley has secured one of the most ambitious and comprehensive programmes.
Launching the initiative, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Over the last four years, the unemployment rate in the Tees Valley has halved. Our economy is growing, and more people are in work providing for themselves and their families.
“Things are getting better, but there remain stubborn barriers to work. This new investment from the government, secured because we have a Mayor, gives us a unique opportunity to address long-term unemployment.
“Today I’m calling on local support services, voluntary organisations and local councils to work together to provide the best possible support to help people back to work.”
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the combined authority’s cabinet member for education, employment and skills led the development of the proposal, following direct discussions with the Employment Minister under the devolution deal.
He said: “This gives the Tees Valley a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to work together to find local solutions to address the most complex economic and social challenges.
“I am confident we will make a real difference to improve the life chances of people across the Tees Valley”.
The pilot initiative will support people aged 30 and over facing the greatest difficulties in accessing jobs.
This includes people who have been out of work for a long period, those who face physical and mental health challenges, and those who have had a claim for Employment Support Allowance rejected.
The initiative aims to support up to 2,500 people over the three-year lifetime of the pilot, move at least 25% into employment, and help the rest make significant progress towards securing work.
As a pilot programme, the combined authority will carry out a full evaluation, to understand which services are most successful, and make the case for future local investment.
Each person will have a key worker. They will be locally based, to ensure that support meets the needs of each individual. By delivering this as a devolved local programme, rather than a remote bureaucracy, more support can be provided through a wider range of existing local services.
This could include specialist services for mental health or addiction, good quality training programmes, financial advice, digital upskilling and literacy, numeracy and language support. Employers will be supported to offer valuable work experience and new job opportunities.
• Pictured above (L-R): Paul Edmonson Jones, director of public health; Sandra McKay, library officer; Christopher Akers-Belcher, Ben Houchen and Val Evens, McMillan centre manager.