For Barnsley to be the place of possibilities, we want to level the playing field so everyone can benefit from work in our borough. The Pathways to Work Commission is part of our commitment to supporting individuals who are currently unavailable to work.
The Commission has the ambitious task of understanding the challenges that our residents and communities face to find practical solutions to make a real difference in Barnsley. We hope to lead the way so that others regionally and nationally can learn from us too.
Barnsley residents are 12% more likely to be economically inactive than the national average. This is different to unemployment. It means that people aren’t taking part in the labour market for a number of reasons. It's often linked to barriers like ill-health or caring responsibilities.
Inclusive economic growth benefits people, families, and communities. However, not everyone can access these. Data tells us that there are thousands of Barnsley residents who want to work but are currently unable to.
To pave the way for innovative solutions to the barriers that people face, we've partnered with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
Under the guidance of Rt Hon Alan Milburn, former Cabinet Minister and social mobility champion, we’ve enlisted leading labour market, skills and health experts to contribute their insights.
Over the course of a year, Commissioners will meet with residents, employers, educators, and the Barnsley 2030 Board. This will allow the group to bring together local, national, and international research and data to help design targeted pathways for residents. With research, fresh data, and expert insights, the Commission aims to learn from successful practices both within the UK and internationally, so everybody can benefit from Barnsley’s economic growth.
The Commission will culminate in a final report. This will make recommendations to national, regional and local government. It may also set out suggestions for future programmes to support residents into learning and work, or ways that employers can create more inclusive workplaces.
Meet the Commissioners
There are twelve Commissioners who each bring unique strengths to this work. By bringing together a group with such diverse experience, we hope to see fresh approaches and impact made possible.
Rt Hon Alan Milburn
Rt Hon Alan Milburn
The Right Honourable Alan Milburn was a Member of the UK Parliament between 1992 and 2010. He served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury where he had responsibility for all aspects of public expenditure and the development of public-private partnerships.
As Secretary of State for Health he led a reform programme of health and social care services. As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster he was responsible for co-ordinating and developing government policy across all departments.
After retiring from politics in 2010, Alan was appointed to review and report on child poverty and social mobility. Alan then became the Chair of the Commission on Social Mobility from 2012 to 2017.
Alan has led a successful business career, working with corporate and government clients across the world. He is senior advisor to PwC’s government and health industries practice. He serves on a number of other corporate boards and chairs Huma the digital health business.
Alan is Chancellor of Lancaster University, one of the UK’s leading higher education institutions. He undertakes work for a number of charities including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where he is vice-chair and the Social Mobility Foundation which he chairs.
Alan has deep personal ties to the area having been born and educated in Barnsley and is looking forward to contributing to this hugely important work.
Alan joined the Evri board in 2018 and has over 20 years of varied experience in financial management, business leadership and corporate strategy. He previously worked at KPMG, Asda Stores, Morrisons Supermarkets and the Crawshaws Group.
Alan handles all the company’s financial functions, including accounting, tax and treasury, audit, corporate finance, commercial finance, and investor relations. He also oversees and manages all legal, public affairs and property functions for the Group.
Ben became Director of the Work Foundation in February 2020. He has 15 years’ experience of working across the public, private and third sectors.
Previously, Ben was a member of the Senior Management team at The National Lottery Community Fund. He was also the Director of Communications and Development at national think tank Centre for Cities. As well as that, Ben has worked as an economic development specialist at PwC.
In 2010 he established and led Future of London and began his career at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Dr Cath Sleeman
Dr Cath Sleeman
Cath is the Interim Head of Data Science at Nesta - the UK's innovation agency for social good. She leads a team of 15 data scientists who provide new insights on Nesta's three missions. These include creating a sustainable future, a healthy life and a fairer start.
Cath has a particular interest in identifying and filling gaps in data ecosystems. Her projects show the potential of novel data and methods to deliver new insights. Her work blends economics, data science and data visualisation.
Dan served as the Mayor of South Yorkshire from 2018 to 2022. He has formerly worked as a British Army officer and a member of the Parachute Regiment.
Dan actively works with businesses and stakeholders to support and develop the Barnsley economy. He campaigns to raise aspiration amongst young people, and to support skills and adult literacy programmes.
Denise is a behavioural economics and experience design expert. Between 1999 and 2004, Denise was a member of the highly successful Great Britain Track Cycling Team. She is a past British Women's Sprint Champion and British 200m record holder.
Before her athletic career, Denise was a Systems Engineer at BAE Systems. She specialised in human-system interaction and cockpit design on the Eurofighter Typhoon. This sparked her career-long obsession with human-centred design. She's especially interested in creating systems and services that are best matched to real human behaviour.
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Jennifer joined the Health Foundation as Chief Executive in October 2013. Before that, she was Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust from 2008 to 2013.
In pervious roles, Jennifer has been Director of Policy at The King’s Fund and the policy advisor to the Chief Executive of the NHS between 1998 and 2000. Jennifer has undertaken research and written widely on health care reform both in the UK and internationally.
Born and raised in the region, Oliver took office as Mayor in May 2022. He was elected on a platform of restoring the pride, purpose and prosperity of South Yorkshire.
After graduating from Leeds University, Oliver began his career at Barnsley Council working on low carbon regeneration projects. Since then, he’s worked in Parliament, in the US Congress and with the charity BookTrust. He was Chair of the Board at Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union and has worked on high-profile political campaigns within the region and abroad.
Salma was Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Strategy and Change at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. She has recently been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.
From her time in health and care systems, Salma brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. She has vast experience of leading innovation and change in organisations and across systems with people at the centre.
Salma is passionate about public services and the role that they play in addressing inequalities. She believes in their role enabling every person to live a safe, connected, meaningful and healthy life.
Salma is also an advisory Board member at the Huddersfield University Business School and Thirteen Housing group.
Dr. Sue Pember CBE
Dr. Sue Pember CBE
Sue started her career as a teacher and has held senior leadership roles in colleges, local authorities and government. Sue started her career in teaching and believes that grounding still underpins everything she does.
Sue is now the Policy Director for HOLEX, the professional body for adult education services, centres and institutions. Her work concentrates on ensuring the voice of adult learners is heard and she is a keen advocate of lifelong learning. Sue's role includes building up an evidence base on why Lifelong Learning is vital to this country’s prosperity.
Torsten is the Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation. He has a background in economic policy. Currently, his research focus is on how to renew the UK’s economic strategy to raise growth and reduce inequality. Before leading the Resolution Foundation, Torsten worked in HM Treasury, as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers during the ﬁnancial crisis. He also worked as the Director of Policy for the Labour Party.
Torsten is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, school governor, and trustee of the Child Poverty Action Group. He is an Honorary Professor at the UCL Policy Lab.
Valerie is the co-founder of Innovation Unit, and the Global Education Leaders Partnership. In the past, Valerie has been a secondary teacher and researcher as well as the Director of Education for Derbyshire County Council. Since then, she's been an adviser in the UK Department for Education (DfE). Now, Valerie works independently to support change programs across the world.
As a regular keynote speaker and facilitator at international conferences and workshops, Valerie draws upon her substantial research and collaborative publications.
Learn more about our recent milestones
Celebrating the launch of the Pathways to Work Commission
Monday 3 July marked the official launch of the new, independent Pathways to Work Commission.
Commissioners were welcomed to Barnsley, meeting the Leader of the Council and our Barnsley 2030 Board. In the morning, the focus was on setting the direction of the project. In the afternoon, Commissioners enjoyed meeting and listening to the experiences of a diverse mix of adult learners at Wellington House. They also met with local businesses and educators to hear about recruitment challenges and to discuss how to build more inclusive workplaces.
There was real energy and excitement from everyone involved. Commissioners are ambitious to support Barnsley in building more accessible pathways into work for all.
Back to Barnsley for session two
On Monday 24 July, Barnsley’s Pathways to Work Commission were back together after the launch in July. With a range of statistical and evidence sessions, their focus was to build an understanding of their data and hear from local practitioners and national experts. This included insight from the Resolution Foundation, the Learning and Work Institute, The Health Foundation, and Professor Fothergill from Sheffield Hallam University (CRESR).
It was great to bring together representatives from the voluntary sector, physical and mental healthcare providers, support services for young people and a childcare provider to share their experience and expertise.
The commission meets with partners in session three
Employment support programmes and initiatives are key to creating good pathways to work. On Thursday 21 September, we welcomed the commission back to Barnsley. Together, the members reviewed the support residents have access to. With guest speakers, they explored national and international best practice.
With a vision to be even better, the commission heard about experiences and insights from partners. This included:
- APM Human Services
- the Institute for Employment Studies
- the Learning and Work Institute
- Working Win
- Resurgo Spear
- Return to Work Carers Project
Employment support is especially helpful for people who want to work but face multiple barriers. Good support is proactive and tailored to individuals.
The commission will continue to identify opportunities for Barnsley. They've a particular interest in how we can lead the way with innovative approaches.
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