This report shows that despite promising to devolve power, the Coalition government's flagship welfare-to-work programme does nothing to change one of the most highly centralised welfare systems in the world. ippr is calling for a radically devolved, localised welfare-to-work system.

The Coalition government's new Work Programme concentrates overall power in Whitehall and hands responsibility for supporting jobseekers to a small number of welfare-to-work providers. This further risks innovation at a local level being squeezed out of the system.The report explores risks and opportunities presented by the new Work Programme and set out proposals for a more fluid and innovative sub-contracting market to improve support for those furthest from the labour market.

Our report argues that effective back-to-work support requires fine-grained local knowledge and intelligence. We argue that a more enterprising welfare-to-work system could help create new job opportunities for unemployed workers and build stronger links between economic development and workforce development.