Letter to the Committee Specialist from
Action for Employment (A4E) (OP 18)
Note to Work and Pensions Select Committee on
ONE in North Cheshire
1. In response to the Select Committee's
request for input from A4E, we submit the observations listed.
We have steered clear of detail and focussed on high level points
designed to inform the process at a policy level. Further detail
can be supplied on request.
2. Public/private sector partnership can
be a highly effective method of delivering this service. Combining
the strengths, resources and experience of the Civil Service with
the fresh, flexible approach of A4E has resulted in excellent
relationships, excellent performance (jobs and claim accuracy)
and superb client satisfaction.
3. Superb relationships with the voluntary
sector and other stakeholders, through open, honest dialogue have
led to near-universal approval of what A4E are doing with ONE.
This was quickly achieved, despite initial hostility from many
organisations pre-launch, by proactively seeking the input of
these organisations into the initial process design at a local
level so that they felt some ownership of ONE in North Cheshire.
4. A4E's only real understanding of genuine
policy intent has come from high-level constructive dialogue with
the Ministers and more Senior Civil Servants working on ONE.
5. It is disappointing that this approach
is not replicated further down the line. While local Civil Servants
have been supportive, helpful and have undoubtedly played a part
in making the implementation of A4E's ONE pilot a resounding success,
there appears to be pressure to maintain a distance and put up
barriers. Our perception is that all Agency planning has the default
classification of "secret", and that by the time it
is declassified, it is too late to have any influence on that
6. The result is that at a local level,
where the ONE experts in AAE's management team operate, A4E has
been excluded from the detailed evaluation of the pilots and any
strategic planning activity. There has been a lack of openness,
an unwillingness to reciprocate A4E's policy of sharing information
and no real sharing of best practice at practitioner/management
level. Such activity has probably happened at contract management
levelbut without the benefit of primary information sources
and input, its value is severely compromised.
7. The "generalist" approach (where
the same adviser deals with the benefit claim and the work-focussed
interview) has proven to be highly effective in North Cheshire.
It improves individual productivity and thus pilot performanceas
underlined by the job outcome figures in North Cheshire, and the
excellent accuracy of claim form completion statistics.
8. The introduction of the Electronic Claim
Form has helped to significantly reduce the training period required
for the generalist approach.
9. It is A4E's experience is as follows:
the generalist approach is the least expensive and the easiest
to manage; it delivers the best Job Outcomes, the best client
satisfaction (real one-to-one personal advice from start to finish);
it offers staff a more varied role, more individual client understanding
and better job satisfaction. Despite all of this, A4E is actively
being encouraged to operate a different modelwe have been
given no satisfactory explanation as to why.
10. The A4E ONE team highlights the following
as key elements to consider when developing the pilot:
i. Mandatory intervention interviews for
some non-JSA client groups would undoubtedly improve Job Outcome
ii. Whilst JSA clients go through ONE to
make their initial claim, they then go to the Job Centre for their
fortnightly sign-ons and the 13 & 26 week interventions. These
meetings could be conducted by the same ONE advisers who conducted
their original PA meeting. The continuity this would bring is
more in line with the ONE ethos and would ultimately increase
the number of Job Outcomes.
11. A4E has introduced a lot of innovative
ideas and practices to the pilot in North Cheshire, chiefly around
process and environment. But innovation has proved very hard work
to implement in the pilot, the management time and effort required
to introduce the tiniest change is almost prohibitive. Small innovations,
even those with no cost implications, can have significant impact
on performance but are resisted by local Civil Servants who, as
with the "sharing information" issue referred to, have
the will but do not believe they have the authority.
12. Innovation was clearly policy intent,
if it is to happen there needs to be local freedom to exercise
common sense. The approach to innovation within the funding model
is ill-conceived. We are told the intention was to encourage innovationthe
funding approach discourages real innovation and results in the
monies being set aside for innovation being spent on "added
value" style projects. These certainly have merit but are
not innovation. If there is one way of ensuring that an organisation
does not innovate, it is to insist that staff submit detailed
plans and budget for it well in advance. Innovation is a nebulous
process; it is not a planned, packaged and budgeted product.
13. A4E only has access to a small proportion
of the budget for ONE in North Cheshire (essentially, staffing
costs). If we were able to use the entire budget and sort out
our own premises, equipment, suppliers etc., we could deliver
much, much more for every tax pound allocated to ONE.
14. It is impossible to anticipate all the
questions which members of the Select Committee might have about
the running of ONE in North Cheshire, we would be very keen to
discuss ONE with the Select Committee on a face-to-face basis.
Director of Group Development
7 November 2001