I think it’s fantastic, I think it provides a wonderful opportunity to support those people who have been ill, or who have had a mental health episode to get back into work, to help them get into work for the first time. So, I think it is a globally innovative project which can make a real meaningful difference to the lives of thousands of people here in the Sheffield City Region. I think it’s a great thing and I’m really proud to be a part of it.
In Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and generally across South Yorkshire there are people who struggle to get into work who might have disabilities or mental health problems, what are your main concerns in the area?
You’re right, we’ve got 85,000 people across the area who have some form of disability which impacts on their ability to work. That is a lot of people and I think it’s absolutely right that we make sure there is structured, tailored support to help them, and that is what this pilot is all about.
I think it is a really good example of partnership working, obviously we’ve got national government and I am delighted that the minister has been here today, but for us as a Sheffield City Region I think it Is a really good opportunity to bring people together to have a real and meaningful effect on the lives of the people who live in our region. So, I think it’s a great thing and I hope that other parts of the country will follow our lead.
For the people who don’t know, how does the scheme work and how do you support those people who need that help getting into work?
This is specifically about those people who require some additional support to stay in work or to get back into work, so this is quite a significant cohort of the population and I’ve just been talking to some of the people who have already benefited from the scheme this morning.
So, they’ve had tailored support from the working win team to give them health, practical advice in order to mean that they are better placed to either stay in or get into the workplace. So, it’s just common sense, practical support that people can access to help them stay, or get into the labour market. I think it’s something that other parts of the country will look quite enviously at, I think it’s cool that we’re doing it in the Sheffield City Region and it is something that I’m personally very supportive of.
Is there a lot of talent wasted of these people, who are suffering, who are struggling to get into work?
Yes, there is lots of talent wasted in our region and right around the country, people who want to work but have some form of medical disability which prevents them from doing so.
I see often with a lot of people – and I know this from talking to a number of people from my own constituency – with just a little bit of additional support, they can actually lead productive, rewarding professional careers. So I think this is a brilliant scheme which will provide that additional support to help people thrive in the labour market, and I think this is a lead which other parts of the country will follow.
You’ve reached the 100 day mark as your role as the mayor for South Yorkshire and for the Sheffield City Region, how’s that role going so far?
I think it’s going well. I think devolution is a process not an event, I think there are a number of areas where we’ve made real progress so I’m really excited about the work we’re doing on active travel.
I’m really committed to making sure that we get more people into cycling and walking across our city region, and I think in terms of developing a story for our part of the world, in terms of actually attracting investment to grow our economy and improving our transport connectivity, we are making progress. But it is early days, there is a lot that we still need to do, but I am looking forward to working with authorities, with the business communities, with stakeholders, right across our region, to achieve the very best possible results for people that live here.
Moving forward, what are your main priorities – we know you’ve always wanted the Yorkshire wide deal?
My main priority is to continue to be around devolution and securing agreement here in the Sheffield City Region that gives us the power and the resources to do the things that people want to see delivered here. That’s my main focus but there are a raft of other initiatives that I’m working on.
Just one for example is making sure that all our elderly and vulnerable people are properly cared for this coming winter – that’s a bit of work I’m doing with the directors of public health. There’s lots going on, but getting that devolution deal over the line has got to be my top priority, and it is.
I always knew that it was going to be challenging – I’m trying to reach an agreement amongst the local authorities and take that to national government and we have made some progress with that. I always knew that it would be demanding but I think that we have made some progress. It is early days and I’m just going to keep plugging away to make sure that we have that deal agreed and that is what I’m going to be focusing all my effort on.
You’re heading to China soon – tell us a bit about that trip and what you what you hope to achieve?
As Britain leaves the European Union I think it’s incredibly important that as a region we engage with other parts of the world. I’m developing something here which I’m calling a global innovation corridor which focuses on the key anchor sites that we’ve got here – the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
So, drawing that together in a global innovation corridor is something that I want to take to other parts of the world and actually, China is an important merging market for us. It’s really important that we have those relationships and I will be developing those relationships with people from across our area in order to continue to attract investment and create jobs for people. That is a big priority for me and that is something that I am going to continue to work on.