Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence



Examination of witnesses (Questions 200 - 219)

TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001

RT HON TESSA JOWELL and MR LEIGH LEWIS

  200. Is that counted in turnover?
  (Mr Lewis) No, we do not count that as turnover. Turnover in our terms is when people actually leave the Employment Service, though in a sense it has the same result, the advisers are not in their job. One route we are using for that is to create a new role of senior adviser, one level up in our structure, so that there is a promotion route, an advancement opportunity for good advisers who will go on advising, they will still be advisers because they will still have their case loads. In addition they will take on an enhanced mentoring role towards less experienced and newer advisers. We have over 50 of those senior adviser posts already in place. We are going to be rolling them out nationally through the year and the ratio, certainly in the adult New Deal, will be about one senior adviser post to seven adviser posts more generally.
  (Tessa Jowell) Some young people who have been on the programme come through and they are taken on by the Employment Service and they themselves become personal advisers. One of the really interesting bits of feedback which has come from the consultations we have been holding on the New Deal tour has been the appreciation of young people of that; those whose personal adviser has come through the same route as they have obviously acts as a good role model but also they feel that they are talking to somebody who really understands what it is like to be them.

Mr Twigg

  201. One of the things we have talked about when you have appeared on this subject before is the public sector's role as an employer in the New Deal programme. Can you tell us what sort of progress has been made in recent months in increasing the involvement of the public sector, in particular the involvement of Government Departments in New Deal?
  (Tessa Jowell) There are two strands in relation to that. The first is to say that eight per cent of young people on New Deal have gone into the public sector, but that is not in line with the public sector's share of the labour market as a whole. We should like to see that proportion increase. About 4,000 have gone into the Civil Service and the proportion now is 1.3 per cent. It is rising rather than falling. Perhaps most encouragingly and in line with what I told you about earlier, about 1,000 New Dealers are now working in the National Health Service. I think—and I give this as evidence from the feedback on the New Deal tour, that there is an increasing interest among public sector organisations about the potential benefits of involving New Dealers. The point is that it applies as much in the public sector as it does in the private sector. The motivation for employers should not be altruistic, it should be that this is a way of delivering services or seeing their business perform better. That is the sort of message which very slowly the public sector is beginning to absorb. Just before Christmas, I took part in a conference which was organised jointly with the Association for Local Government (ALG) where local authorities were engaged very directly in how to increase the participation of their members in the New Deal and to get out the message from those which were already using the New Deal quite extensively of its benefits. I think that if we move to develop more transitional labour markets as the programme moves to its next stage, we shall build more public sector collaboration as we have seen in the Environmental Task Force, the work of Groundwork for example, the ILM in Manchester where 300 young people are employed by the City Council as part of the City Ranger scheme; short-term transitional employment, working for the local authority but the performance in terms of those young people moving into jobs subsequently is very encouraging. We are very heavily engaged in this, but the good news is that local authorities are also engaged in this. There will be great benefits to be gained.

  202. Most of the examples you gave there were local government examples. Are you satisfied that all central Government Departments are doing their best?
  (Tessa Jowell) We are seeing the numbers increase and we intend to continue to press Government Departments to do what they ought to be doing and to benefit from the employment of New Dealers. That is a process which will continue. We shall continue to chase, to harry, to persuade and also to provide the evidence of the benefits, benefits like those I referred to, that the Employment Service can show in the employment of New Dealers as personal advisers.
  (Mr Lewis) I am sure the Committee and certainly Ministers would expect the Employment Service as an employer to be an exemplar New Deal employer and we have sought to be so. We have taken on more than 500 New Dealers as employees of the Employment Service. The really good news is that well over 130 have already progressed through the procedures of fair and open competition to permanent employment with the Employment Service and that 30 of those have already been promoted through our normal procedures to at least one grade higher. I am delighted with that but we have not done it out of sentiment, we have done it because those people are really good and are helping us to deliver the pretty challenging targets and objectives we are set. That is the message I take with me to fellow colleagues elsewhere in central Government.

Judy Mallaber

  203. May I turn to gateway? The recent report by Professor Millar for the Joseph Roundtree Foundation found very varied perceptions of the gateway period among those people who were on it, either on the young people or the long-term unemployed New Deals. What is your view on this? Why are there those different perceptions? Do they just reflect differences between the individuals involved and their needs and abilities? Is it about levels of competence of the personal advisers? Why is it that people are experiencing the gateway period in such different ways?
  (Tessa Jowell) You would expect that. Generally the New Deal gets very good satisfaction ratings from young people who take part in it. One of the keys to the success or the reported success of being on the programme from young people is the relationship with their personal adviser. Where the young person gets on well with their personal adviser, they are likely to feel that this has been a success for them. If they do not get on well, they are less likely to feel positive about it. It is possible to overstate the degree of variation in experience and the fact that 60 per cent of young people are in work by the time they reach the end of the gateway, the end of the four-month period, is a pretty good reference for the effectiveness of that phase. Young people also like the gateway to work courses. We do not yet have any formal evaluation of the programme but certainly anecdotally—and it is no more than that—they are courses which are received very positively indeed.

  204. What has been the impact of the introduction of the basic skills training in the intensified gateway? Do you think that is likely to have implications for how long people will be in the gateway when they are on New Deal, which is one of the continuing issues we have looked at?
  (Tessa Jowell) The basic skills screening is part of the first stage of the New Deal and basic skills deficiencies are grounds for early entry to the New Deal. I am keen that we ensure that we activate that entitlement for all the young people who need it. The delivery of basic skills training through the New Deal has been part of the programme since the beginning. As the focus on basic skills has intensified, we are looking to much more consistency in the early screening of young people, so that we can ensure that all those who do not have a level one qualification, cannot reach level one, in other words that they are above functional illiteracy, we are not talking about a very high level, are given the help they need. For some young people that is through short courses and that is sufficient. There is also, through the full-time training and education option, access to longer term courses but they are still a minority of the total courses which are provided as part of the full-time training and education option. My conclusion would be that delivering young people onto the labour market with the basic skills they need to remain in work is a key objective of the programme. What we have to ensure is that at every level the screening takes place, the support is provided to engage young people in the training which is available for them and the length of course is commensurate with their level of innumeracy or illiteracy.

  205. I recall you making at a previous evidence session—I think your first one—the very brave statement that you did not want anyone coming out of New Deal illiterate and innumerate.
  (Tessa Jowell) Exactly.

  206. What evidence do you have so far on the effectiveness of the training programmes within the gateway programmes.
  (Tessa Jowell) In relation to basic skills?

  207. Yes.
  (Mr Lewis) We have to recognise that we are in here for a long haul. We are seeing increasing numbers of young people being successfully identified as having a basic skills need by their personal adviser. We have introduced what we call a client progress grid which is a much more systematic assessment tool to enable advisers to reach a judgement as to whether the young person sitting in front of them does or does not have, at least on the face of it, a basic skills need or basic skills deficiency. We are getting ever better at being able to refer those people to appropriate provision in the gateway phase of the programme. We have to get better still in truth. Anybody who has sat with an adviser for any length of time, as probably members of the Committee have, will know that where a young person has a really fundamental lack of numeracy or literacy, that is pretty easy to detect, but actually it is where their level of numeracy or literacy is above that but still leaves a great deal to be desired, that particularly by the time they have got into their early twenties young people have often found quite sophisticated coping strategies for not displaying that too outwardly. We have had to recognise that our advisers have needed more support and more skill and more training to help them assess where there is, at least on the face of it, a basic skills need. We are getting better at that and the numbers going into that kind of provision are increasing.
  (Tessa Jowell) The aim remains that young people leave the New Deal numerate and literate at a level that means they are capable of not just taking on an entry level job but staying in work and then being able to benefit from in-work training. There is a second point that we have learned in delivering basic skills training. That is that it is more acceptable to young people if the training is provided in work as part of work experience, as close to work as possible. The week before last when I was in the Wirral I met with a small group of young people on the New Deal, all of whom are undertaking basic skills training. These were 19, 20-year-olds, who had moved beyond the point where this was a guilty secret. I hope that next time I come before you I can provide you with some evidence on the degree of progress which we are making in this area, but you will be aware that the New Deal and the work we are doing on basic skills through the New Deal, is a small part of the Department's much broader basic skills strategy in which a very high level of investment is being made to deal with the level of illiteracy which affects seven million adults in this country.

  208. Are you yet getting any feedback, or is it too early, from employers on whether this intensification of that skills training is making them have more job-ready applicants coming to them?
  (Mr Lewis) That was one of the key motivations behind the introduction of the gateway to work course in the gateway. It is the case that in the early days of New Deal we did have some employers saying that some of those young people referred to them did not have that basic level of skill which would enable them to be readily employable. That is one of the reasons why the gateway to work course is now a much more systematic system to ensure that young people who are referred to employers do meet their key skill requirements. That is also why of course we have been developing a number of sectoral gateways in industries such as construction, retail, security and so on, so that we can pin down much more definitely and clearly the minimum skill requirements which employers in that sector need, even for entry level jobs, and ensure that those young people referred to them do increasingly have those minimum skill requirements. This is of course in the end not a science; you cannot absolutely guarantee that you can achieve this with 100 per cent of young people on every single day, but I do absolutely believe that we are getting seriously better at this and that is reflected in the employer feedback we are getting.

Mr Twigg

  209. Has the Government made any assessment of the impact the programme has had on the employability of those young people who leave the programmes and do not go into unsubsidised employment?
  (Tessa Jowell) The evidence is that retention is actually higher among young people who go through the subsidised employment route. It tends to be higher but they also tend to be the less disadvantaged young people on the programme. This links back to what I was saying earlier about linking basic skills training or positioning it as close as possible to work. We are very, very keen to build on the subsidised employment route and to expand the extent to which the employability training I have described to you is built into work experience. All the evidence is that that is how you maximise participation and you strengthen the likelihood of retention.

Judy Mallaber

  210. May I go back over some other questions we have talked about on a number of occasions and specifically about the Environmental Task Force option, just go over an update on where you think we are on all those issues we have discussed before? First of all, why do you think that fewer people are entering employment from the Environmental Task Force option than from any other option? What progress has been made in developing the use of intermediate labour markets within the option and what are you now thinking about in relation to whether we could transfer that option and the voluntary option into intermediate labour market schemes providing participants with a wage? They are all issues we have discussed before, but maybe you could tell us how you are currently viewing those issues?
  (Tessa Jowell) In relation to the Environmental Task Force, in the context of the Innovation Fund we have been involved in discussion with Groundwork particularly about the scope for the development of intermediate labour markets. There is also evidence that the young people who go onto the Environmental Task Force tend to be among the most disadvantaged and therefore may well be the young people who will benefit most from a longer period of paid work and training in the way that an intermediate labour market will provide. The evidence from intermediate labour markets is that the critics say they are expensive. However, in the absence of an enormous amount of evaluation of the evidence, if you look at the experience of intermediate labour markets on a case by case basis—I just want to check the figure for the Groundwork ILM—given that they are working with some of the most disadvantaged young people, they are securing into-work rates which I think are very encouraging: 40 per cent and higher. The figure is even better than that. Groundwork say that 60 per cent of participants at the end of their ILM are moving into full-time employment at the end of their placement and I think it is fair to say—and you can make these judgements, I am sure you have met young people on the Environmental Task Force, as I have—that these are young people who would not have got into work had they not had the benefit of this very intensive period of help and support. Just to give you some illustration of the sort of ILM programmes which are running, the projects range from regeneration and environmental work to the restoration of furniture and white goods for local people, specifically Groundwork projects include the renovation of a very rundown housing estate in Leeds, improving home energy insulation in Nottinghamshire and improving local parks and gardens in the Black Country. I referred earlier to the City Ranger programme which Manchester City Council run, where they act as city centre guides, they provide an alert when there are broken paving stones and street lights and so forth, being useful citizens and improving the quality of the environment. This is a range of programmes. The candidates for the Environmental Task Force will be beneficiaries of the more intensive focus on employability which I described earlier.

  211. What has been the impact of making 20 per cent of the payments to Environmental Task Force providers dependent on participants obtaining employment? Is that likely to influence drop-out rates?
  (Tessa Jowell) This is a lesson we are applying across the board in tightening and focusing contracting.
  (Mr Lewis) We have certainly seen a substantial increase throughout 2000 month by month in the proportion of entrants to the Environmental Task Force who have been going into jobs, either directly on leaving the option or after a period on follow-through. That is pretty encouraging. It is not yet as high as we should like. Just to be absolutely clear, we want it higher and Ministers want it higher, I want it higher. It has gone up by approaching 50 per cent over the last year. When you consider that we are dealing inevitably with a group of people entering the Environmental Task Force who tend to have yet more barriers to employment on average than the group which enters the New Deal, 60 per cent of whom leave from the gateway into work, the Environmental Task Force tends to take on board some of the people who have some of the most severe disadvantages. The figures we are seeing are beginning to encourage us. We want to see them still higher, but we have seen a consistent movement over the last year in the right direction. To come to the heart of the question, one ingredient, not the only ingredient but one ingredient in that, has been to increase the degree of incentive for providers in terms of job outcomes.

Chairman

  212. What about the wage aspect? How important is that to the success? It was one of our recommendations two years ago that the Environmental Task Force and the voluntary sector option would benefit from something like a wage.
  (Mr Lewis) Yes.

  213. Do you agree with that assessment? Do you have evidence that that is part of the more recent success you were quoting?
  (Mr Lewis) It has certainly been an option from the very outset as you know that both the environmental and voluntary sector options can be provided on a waged basis. It can make the options more expensive to deliver in individual cases but there is a lot of evidence that it also boosts participants' motivation and morale. I would not like to say off the cuff whether we have seen that as one of the key ingredients. It is certainly something we have always been very ready to encourage.

  214. Let me turn briefly to the full-time education and training option. There seems to be a persistently high drop-out rate, well over 80 per cent in some areas. Why is this figure so high? Is it purely because of the nature of the client group or other problems with poor provision would you say?
  (Tessa Jowell) It is important to just get the figures clear about full-time training and education. About 40 per cent of young people on the programme go onto the full-time training and education option. The drop-out rates are certainly not at the level that some of the wilder claims have made, the point being that some young people do leave the programme while they are on it, they leave their course in order to get a job, but 45 per cent actually complete their course and of those a proportion, about 35 per cent, will get jobs while they are actually on the programme. That figure increases if you include the impact of the full-time education and training option with the impact of follow-through where the proportion going into work then rises to about 40 per cent. It is reasonable to assume that very few young people who leave university get a job on the day they graduate. By and large they will go on to do something before applying for jobs and so forth. Making a judgement about the effectiveness of the full-time training and education option at the moment at which a young person leaves, whether they step into work the day after the finish their course, is almost certainly not fair. All that said, I have expressed to you before my concern about the variation in the quality of the full-time training and education option. We are seeing a substantial improvement in the performance of the option already, the proportion going into jobs as evidence of this rising from 31 to 35 per cent, on the back of strenuous efforts to improve performance. We are proposing to publish performance league tables so that the contractors are aware of the performance. We are very keen to build on the leadership of colleges which become the kind of beacon that Lewisham College has become in its association with NewTech, where what you get is a college which is taking what employers want seriously and moulding and shaping their courses and their training to what the labour market needs and what employers want. That is the journey of change that we are on and that is where we want to get to. We shall withdraw contracts and I can certainly give you the figures already for contracts which have been withdrawn from full-time training and education providers which are simply not up to scratch and are not delivering to an acceptable standard.

  215. That is a very clear statement which I welcome. May I put that perhaps a slightly different way? Could it be that the programme's emphasis on getting people into jobs actually conflicts with the ability to construct courses which have validity in educational and training terms in their own right?
  (Tessa Jowell) What we should like to see is more flexibility in the way in which courses are delivered. I do not think that a young person should be faced with a choice of taking a job or continuing with their course. Colleges which are really attuned to the reality of their local labour market will look at more flexible ways of delivering the teaching, in the evenings, Saturday classes, ways of continuing to engage those young people so it is not a choice between going into work and leaving the course half way through or giving up the opportunity now of going into work in order to finish the course.

  Chairman: I had another question on funding which we might correspond with you about.

Mr Twigg

  216. When you appeared on the subject before we talked about the impact of New Deal on disadvantaged clients. I do not want to go into all the areas we covered before but focus particularly on reaching homeless young people. I am interested in reading about and taking evidence on the Homeless Routeway to Employment Scheme. Could you tell us a little about the relationship between that scheme and the New Deal and how it might perhaps be able to reach some of the young homeless, rough sleepers in particular, that New Deal has not been able to reach?
  (Tessa Jowell) I actually launched this programme about four months ago. What it is intended to do is to provide specialist advice and help for young people who are not currently on the New Deal in order to increase their chances of being able to participate in the programme. It will be through community organisations and voluntary organisations that we are going to learn more and build more experience of how we reach these young people who are homeless or they are drifting—they may not be street homeless, they may be staying with friends, no fixed abode—getting hold of them and using the New Deal as one step in providing greater stability in their lives. As I indicated, the Homeless Routeway to Employment is just that, working with homeless organisations and the Camberwell Foyer who provide the accommodation to provide the help with employment. What the Employment Service cannot do is become a multi-purpose agency helping unemployed people. The key is to show flexibility and capacity to collaborate which I think the Homeless Routeway to Employment is beginning to show. Again, as with so many of the things we have talked about this afternoon, the drive on basic skills, help for the disadvantaged. We are still at an early stage. What I would ask you to remember is that these are all lessons that the New Deal itself has thrown up as part of the continued drive to do more, get to places where help has not been previously available and to engage some of the most disadvantaged young people who are at the moment beyond the reach of any agency at all.
  (Mr Lewis) One of the research reports published as part of the evaluation programme has been precisely on the degree to which New Deal has been able to reach out to homeless people, rough sleepers. It actually had quite a lot which should encourage us there because it suggested that where we can reach out, where we can make contact and establish contact and draw such young people into the programme, then you can really get some remarkable success stories. Perhaps as you would expect the hardest group though are those young people who, however it has happened, are entrenched homeless, they have been rough sleepers for a very long time. The most difficult problem is first of all to identify them and even bring them information about the programme. That is something the report made recommendations on and we are following up. There is some real encouragement there that once you can engage even young people in that precarious lifestyle with an adviser and on the programme you can achieve some remarkable success stories.

  217. May I move back to an area we talked about earlier on people who leave for unknown destinations? You gave us some quite positive statistics on that. Nevertheless the proportion is still quite high. What proposals are there for reducing the number of people who leave for unknown destinations? Does the high level indicate some sort of wider problem with the records maintenance in ES?
  (Tessa Jowell) Let me ask Leigh to deal with the performance and operational aspects of recording people and improving our performance there.
  (Mr Lewis) There are two issues bound up in this question and they are both perennially frustrating ones. The first is a kind of absolute inherent part of our whole system of welfare as it has been for a very long time and that is that people can simply cease to make a claim for a benefit payment and they do not have to tell us or the state or Government in any way why they have done it. They can just cease to claim. That is terribly difficult when people simply stop making a claim and go away from you. That is something which it is very hard to influence. The other bit which is in essence more frustrating is that undoubtedly amongst that group of people whom we record as unknown destinations are people where our systems have simply not been good enough to capture information which actually someone somewhere has known about. Really somewhere in the system we do have some information about the destinations they have gone to; we simply have not managed to capture it in our systems. There in a whole set of ways we have been seeking to make improvements and to try to increase the proportion of people where we do have a known destination. We are making progress. We are beginning to whittle away the group for whom we do not have a known destination. There is no one magical cure-all for that. It is about in a whole host of different ways trying to keep our systems closer to the ground.

  218. Is it right to say that in the most recent survey, which was last year, of those who left for unknown destinations getting on for two thirds told the survey that they had told the Employment Service?
  (Mr Lewis) Yes, indeed, absolutely; that in a sense is the frustration. They believe that they did tell us, whoever "us" is, something about what they were doing next, yet we failed to pick that up. No doubt in some cases, whether they actually told someone and what they told and who they told, you could investigate but there is no doubt that in some of those cases where we do record an unknown destination, nevertheless some piece of information has reached us, has reached a part of the system and what we have done is fail to capture it on our systems. That is what we are trying to improve. We are improving it but it is a long haul.
  (Tessa Jowell) The final key point on this is that the effect of the survey we published last week, which has looked unlike previous surveys at unknown destinations from every stage of the programme, is that we have certainly undercounted the number of young people going into work from the programme by about 75,000. The second point is that the proportion of those whose destination is recorded as unknown who go into work is about the same as the proportion on the programme as a whole. It is identical actually as a proportion on the programme as a whole.

Chairman

  219. I am sure we could keep you a good deal longer but I have one final question for you. We have said how comprehensively evaluated the New Deal has been. Do you know how much the evaluation programme has cost to date?
  (Tessa Jowell) Yes, the cost of the evaluation per person is £7 per New Dealer, but the total cost to date has been £4 million, which is less than one per cent of the total programme expenditure. We have seen on the strength of that about 31 published reports so far. I hope that what we have been able to convey to you this afternoon is the extent to which the evaluation has been fed back into the reshaping and the redesigning of the programme as it is delivered.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed on behalf of all of my colleagues for readily agreeing to come in front of us again and for the way in which you have both dealt with the questions. Thank you.


 
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