The ongoing crunch in living standards, the rollout of Universal Credit, rise in in-work poverty. All of these make providing better support to tackle low pay more essential. Cities and providers across the country are starting to rise to meet this key challenge of the 21st century. But there is so much more to do.
This week it was announced that Crossrail in London will be named the Elizabeth Line when it opens in 2018, in honour of the Queen. The high cost of public transport is one of the perennial bugbears of Londoners. But while this is unlikely to get better anytime soon, Learning & Work Institute's flagship Ambition London programme aims to help low paid Londoners boost their incomes.
Some 700,000 Londoners are paid below the London Living Wage, many struggling to make ends meet. Low pay is more prevalent in sectors like retail and social care, which are the two we're focusing on.
Over the next two years, we'll be working with Local Authorities, colleges and training providers, and other partners to test new forms of training, coaching and other support aimed at creating better career ladders and helping low paid Londoners climb them.
So it was that this week we held the first meeting of our new Progression and Advancement Network (PAN), aimed at helping those delivering progression projects across the country to share best practice and discuss common challenges.
We heard from Working Links about the work they are doing in Plymouth to tailor language to engage employers worried about losing their best staff, talking about talent development rather than career progression. And we heard from Hounslow Council and Timewise about how letters from Local Authorities helped to engage in-work Housing Benefit claimants in accessing career development support.
We also brought together, through our Ambition London Forum, key policy makers and influencers to discuss how all of this could be built into policy and funding structures and mainstreamed.
This is no fringe debate. It is the next frontier of welfare reform. As Universal Credit gets rolled out, more people in low paid work will fall under 'in-work conditionality', required to undertake activity to increase their earnings.
This can be a good thing if there is a positive offer to people, one that they want to take up. But right now, no-one knows what works or what that offer should look like. That's why trials are springing up across the country, and why cities are taking the lead in trying to tackle in work poverty. And it's why Learning & Work Institute have set up the new Progression and Advancement Network, to bring together learning and build the evidence base. We hope to be testing new forms of support in the Autumn.
If you're involved in a progression project focused on people in low paid work anwhere in the UK we'd love to hear from you.
Watch this space.