In the UK, despite some variation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, government ministers and Whitehall control the main operation of welfare-to-work (WtoW) policy. In contrast to most other developed economies, local government plays only a limited role in Britain. There has been much criticism of these institutional arrangements, the fragmentation of public sector delivery, and the lack of flexibility and devolution in the WtoW system.
However, there appears to be scepticism about local providers’ capacity to design employment services and commission them in ways that avoid high transaction costs and improve employment outcomes. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is particularly concerned that divergent local interests and/or capabilities should not undermine national ‘work first’ policies. This concern has constrained local integration and partnership working. This study examined a range of evidence on devolution of WtoW policies in the UK and in comparator countries: Canada, the USA, the Netherlands and Germany.