Memorandum submitted by Reed in Partnership
Limited (OP 21)
Reed in Partnership has delivered the ONE (North
Nottinghamshire) service since November 1999, placing over 1,500
people into work, and achieving accuracy and promptness levels
consistently above 90 per cent. Since the introduction of a more
innovative funding model in June 2001, the service has been significantly
enhanced (over 1,000 placements in 2001), which has been reflected
in the results with the office now the best performing pilot over
the last quarter across the range of contracted performance measures.
ONE provides a more effective customer
service to those accessing its services
has been a key factor in the success
The original capped funding model
stifled the potential to achieve work focus, build in innovation
and reward performance improvement
Increased scope for innovation has
greatly enhanced the service and results achieved
Start-up time for contracts was too
Knowledge and skills levels required
by staff were underestimated
Differing IT platforms impacted on
service quality and evaluation
Where offices are not co-located
with Jobcentres the concepts of the one-stop shop and continuity
of adviser contact are eroded
The short contract term resulted
in loss of key staff seeking greater security which impacted on
A more relaxed environment with access
to internet cafe-style services, soft seating and job search areas
(with telephones) is more conducive to customer service and work
There is a need for additional specialist
provision (and resources) for unemployed people with significant
barriers such as mental health, severe disability, and substance
The lessons identified have important implications
for the development of Jobcentre Plus and are critical factors
in the successful implementation and delivery phase. But the most
important factor is the culture which underpins the way these
services are delivered.
We believe that the Private/Public/Voluntary
approach is the right one, but the overall management approach
and culture that the private sector brings provides the "business
focus" required to maximise the innovation, staff development,
understanding of business culture and results focus that will
provide the customers with something different and significantly
better than previous models.
1. ONE is delivered from five offices of
which two are co-located within Employment Service JobcentresMansfield,
Sutton in Ashfield, Alfreton, Ollerton and Shirebrookhandling
32,000 claims per year. We also provide an outreach service to
access and assist those clients who are socially excluded, and
have developed a bespoke Reed Discovery Programme to assist non-JSA
(Jobseeker's Allowance) clients, in particular lone parents and
Incapacity Benefit clients.
2. North Notts is an area with many economic
and social difficultieshigher than average unemployment
levels, homelessness issues, drugs and substance misuse, mental
health problems and a high proportion of Incapacity Benefit clients.
3. The area was originally built up around
the coal industry, which was replaced by a prosperous textile
industry. But this industry started to decline over the last few
years as orders have dried up and production has been transferred
overseas. This has been reflected in last two years by unprecedented
levels of redundancies from the textile industry and other key
employers such as those in the manufacturing sector. This has
impacted on the ONE service with increased client flows and the
need to deliver from employer premises.
4. This section provides a general assessment
of the ONE model and then lists specific highs and lows of our
experience to date.
5. The policy intention of providing all
new benefit claimants with the opportunity to access appropriate
help (in a proactive manner) in moving closer to the world of
work has been achieved. And non-JSA clients have found the service
refreshing in that it does not assume they cannot work and offers
support to them. The support element for those who "cannot
work" is equally as strong with expert advice given across
the full range of benefits. Accessing these services from a single
location has made the service even more streamlined.
6. The involvement of the private sector
(Reed in Partnership) offers additional innovation, enhanced performance
and an employer engagement culture predicated on a demand led
employer approach. However, the capped contract proved restrictive
and long and drawn out negotiations over output related funding
proved stifling, resulting in poor outcomes and little innovation.
7. With ONE, from the first interview work
has been put at the forefront of the service. However, when claims
volumes increased due to unprecedented levels of redundancies,
time constraints and a capped funding model restricted the amount
of additional resource that could be invested which undermined
the work-focus element in favour of process to meet output related
funding targets around quality and speed of date of claim (DOC),
which carried greater payment returns than job starts. Any opportunity
to recover the work focus and placement results was undermined
by clients being required to sign fortnightly in Jobcentres, therefore
not continuing the relationship with the original PA (Personal
8. ONE in North Notts has successfully delivered
its objectives despite the contractual and other restrictions
outlined. However, there is so much more that could be achieved
with a more flexible contract approach that enables the best of
the public and private sector to be harnessed effectivelyas
demonstrated by the results achieved since innovation funding
and output related measures were re-structured.
9. This would require a longer contract
and greater levels of funding that shares the risk more equitably,
encourages innovation (not tied to outcome payments in some cases
to allow learning to emerge) and reward "overachievement"
when results are even more successful. This would ensure that
the private sector could increase their investment in the knowledge
that reward for higher performance would offset the investment
made. Employment Zone contracts epitomise this approach and the
outstanding results are clear for all to see.
10. The short contract term in itself created
complications and difficulties for private sector contractors.
Both direct recruits and secondees are continually aware of the
period of the contract and therefore commitment to ONE varies
depending upon the length of time the contract has to run. High
quality staff either returned to their parent department or found
other jobs in the market place, as they wanted greater security.
Loss of such high quality staff inevitably had an impact on the
quality of service provided and increased the financial risk to
the contractor. The upside for the public sector departments was
returning staff who were highly trained, as feedback from competition
11. Lessons from implementation and delivery
can feed into the Jobcentre Plus agendaespecially when
reviewing the short timescales for contract negotiation, implementation
and generally getting ready to deliver this complex service. This
report highlights some of the lessons to be learnt and also the
areas that could have been delivered differently.
12. Following the introduction of innovation
funding and a restructured output related funding package, considerable
success has been achieved through our Discovery programme for
lone parents and Incapacity Benefit clients and the outreach service,
leading to improved placement levels of non-JSA members. The pilot
being the number one performer across the range of indicators
reflects thisover 1,000 placements in 2001 and high levels
of non-JSA placements including disadvantaged Incapacity Benefit
and lone parent cases through our voluntary Discovery programme.
13. Implementation was achieved within an
extremely short timescale (nine weeks from contract award to go-live).
Contract negotiations proved difficult, but all parties endeavoured
to find suitable solutions and it is a credit to all involved
that ONE commenced on schedule.
14. A strong partnership approach has been
achieved (and is essential) in North Nottinghamshirethe
Private, Public and Voluntary sectors all play a key role in ONE
delivery. It has also enhanced joint working between the five
15. We have generated a real commitment
to and passion for the ONE vision within the multi-agency team,
with staff highly motivated by the opportunity to really make
a difference with the new service.
16. The ONE service did deliver an integrated
benefits and advice service from the start. The wide range of
benefits that ONE covered (including Housing Benefit and Council
Tax Benefit) provided a real `one-stop-shop' for help and support
in finding work, benefits advice and a point of contact for new
17. Client feedback has confirmed that the
service has streamlined the benefits service and provided an easier
gateway for clients claiming benefits. Most clients have noted
the positive customer focussed approach that ONE offered and a
more work focussed and professional environment.
18. A capped funding model that restricted
the real added value that Reed in Partnership can offer with innovative
ideas and approaches designed to complement deliverysuch
as the Reed Discovery programme now in operation and the Explorer
outreach bus. The restrictive nature of a capped funding model
forced the pilot into a basic service-delivery approach that had
less of the innovation originally outlined in our original proposals
for the pilot. The ONE vision has not been realised to its full
19. Performance related targets that did
not produce or encourage a continuous improvement culture. In
fact the opposite occurred as unprecedented redundancy levels
forced the pilot to focus on the basic service around benefits
advice and new claims processespayments tied to these indicators
were higher than those for job placement.
20. Inability to capitalise on the integrated
IT solution (The ONE Application) for tracking ONE clients, storing
vacancies, matching clients to jobs and enhancing the ONE service
as delivered using government systems. SEMA Group was a consortium
member which helped develop the IT system to be used. Application
and implementation were hindered as the various systems had to
be put onto separate IT servers preventing them from reading or
sharing information. This had the negative effect of requiring
the double keying of client records onto two or three systems,
a practice that impacted negatively on the service. Future projects
of this type would benefit from robust planning arrangements involving
all key agencies and partners.
21. Our experience of delivery sites in
North Notts has been mixed, dependent on whether they were co-located
within Jobcentres or were stand-alone ONE office. Stand-alone
offices have generally been of a poor quality and in some cases
stock crown buildings that had been empty for a number of years.
Also, the location of these offices has been poor, with some not
in high street locations. The fact that Jobcentre locations are
generally more accessible and provide the same vacancy information
as the stand-alone ONE sites has made it difficult to attract
clients back to ONE after their initial claim, a problem exacerbated
by the fact that JSA clients are required to sign at the Jobcentre
once per fortnight. This has made it harder for PAs to develop
positive, ongoing relationships with their clients. In future
it is recommended that the contractor undertake fortnightly signing
activity, to encourage ongoing contact.
22. Co-located sites allow for repeat client
visits to ONE staff and in cases where BA benefit processors are
on site, has facilitated the development of benefit knowledge
within the ONE team and the sharing of information regarding the
time currently being taken to process claims and for payments
to be generated. It has also been beneficial for advisers to obtain
on the spot advice surrounding benefit complexities. Co-located
sites would be preferable if other office accommodation is of
a poor quality and not easily accessible.
23. With ONE, all concerned underestimated
the required levels of staff knowledge and capability. Knowledge
training provided by public agencies was not tailored specifically
to the ONE service and proved inadequate. It appeared that training
materials were not generated specifically around the ONE process
design. A comprehensive training and development programme needs
to be developed, underpinned by accreditation.
24. A flexible multi-skilled adviser workforce
that can deliver the service across all roles has proved essential
to the success of the pilot. However, the development of specific
adviser skills aimed at assisting non-JSA clients, who have particularly
difficult barriers to address, has proved effective this year.
This was not possible where claims volumes were at unprecedented
levels and additional staffing was unavailable outside of the
pilot sites. Having a larger District based model would create
greater resource flexibility.
25. Full participation brought new challenges
with the compulsory involvement of non-JSA benefit clients. Preparations
for full participation went more smoothly than original go-live
of the project as experience and knowledge had increased and timescales
for change were more generous. Key to successfully engaging the
new client group was the involvement and education of partners
within the voluntary and welfare rights sector. Group meetings
with question and answer sessions were used to raise awareness
of ONE and most of the fears and uncertainties were covered. A
Social Review Board was set up with representatives from welfare
rights groups and other voluntary sector partners to gauge how
ONE was working for non-JSA clients. This group meet on a regular
basis. This further strengthened the partnership within the area
and provided an independent source of honest and frank client
feedback to improve our service. The partnership approach provides
a significantly improved service, but all parties must engage
fully and understand each other's requirements as businesses in
their own right.
26. During 2001 the main focus has been
to help non-JSA clients move closer to work (whilst still improving
JSA placement results). Providing a dedicated approach for this
group has proved extremely positive, particularly as it is offered
on a voluntary basis. As Jobcentre Plus intends to do, the ONE
service strikes a balance between helping people move from benefits
and dependence to work and increased independence with clear and
tangible support for benefit recipients that require state support.
It has clearly benefited the people of North Notts and brought
together private sector expertise with the Benefits Agency, Employment
Service and five Local Authorities to provide a seamless service.
Providing a clear policy framework to operate within that reflects
the varying needs of the client groups is essential, along with
a range of partners who can bring their best abilities to each
part of the service.
27. Marketing the ONE service to employers
is difficult when they may be wishing to develop long-term relationships
that extend beyond the life of the contract. ONE is also marketing
a similar service to that provided by the Employment Service and
employers have had difficulty in understanding the difference
in service when in many cases they are the same clients and vacancies
are advertised in the same way. Employer engagement needs to be
more coherent and the marketing literature and approaches need
to provide a more "holistic" view of the services available
and how they complement each other.
28. The IT systems used within ONE require
staff to undertake multiple entries into the various systems rather
than one overarching system. The current systems, particularly
the Labour Market System (LMS) fail to provide the level of management
information that supports the business decision-making process.
Future IT systems need to be flexible enough to run query reports
determined by the user rather than the mandatory reports currently
available. Service specification should drive the IT, not the
other way round.
29. IT desktop systems also need to include
Internet access for advisers so that they can provide increased
customer service such as non-LMS vacancies and information on
voluntary groups and specialist provision. The introduction of
Job Points in Jobcentres has so far demonstrated that given enough
information clients are willing to travel further to secure employment.
Internet access to regional on-line newspapers and recruitment
agency advertised job vacancies provides wider opportunities for
clients. It would also support the Government's own modernisation,
ICT and UKonline agendas. A broader range of public access systems
need to be made available to support jobsearch and employment
30. Programme provision is currently aimed
primarily at JSA clients. This needs to be opened up to non-JSA
clients and be delivered flexibly to meet the needs of this client
group ie delivered locally, accessible to disabled people and
linked to specialist provider facilities. If we wish to engage
"economically inactive" clients, a broader range of
provision needs to be made available that is not constrained by
eligibility and duration of unemployment. Specialist provision
for those with mental health, severe disability and long-term
sickness needs to be significantly improved.
31. The benefits of the private sector include
its business, performance and customer service cultures. All staff
contribute to the performance and success of the ONE service.
Clients are treated as true customers, and with dignity. Reed
in Partnership's culture of "making a difference" is
evident across all its operations. There is a work first ethic
but also a desire to treat clients as individuals.
32. When provided with greater contract
flexibility and the scope for true innovation, this performance
culture and improved customer service can be clearly demonstrated
by our improved job placing performance in 2001 against 2000.
In the period 1 January to 31 December 2000 we placed 409 JSA
and 37 non-JSA clients. This year (up to 30 November) we have
achieved 1,029 JSA and 137 non-JSA clientsan improvement
well in excess of 100 per cent.
33. The private sector also makes greater
use of recognition, celebration and reward with employees to bring
the best out of them. This is undertaken at all levels within
Reed in Partnership with individual, team and programme awards
to ensure that performance is improved and employees demonstrate
the appropriate values and behaviours. As our public sector secondees
would confirm, they feel "liberated" to realise their
full potential through the culture and approaches taken by our
We also believe that we are more innovative
and able to identify and try new approaches, often within short
timescales, with decisions being taken quickly through a management
structure which enables innovation and effectively manages risk.
This is evidenced by our Reed Discovery programme, the design
of Discovery House for our members, and our outreach service,
provided from a double-decker bus which had to be implemented
and delivering results within two months. And most importantly,
it is evidenced by the feedback from the members we are helping
back into work and the employers who work with us to achieve our
National Operations Director