Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-250)

PROFESSOR ALAN MARSH, MS VICKY DAVIES AND MS CLARE JOHNSON

WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002

  240. Would you, as a result of the pieces of research you have done about the difference and the objectives that are set out for Jobcentre Plus as opposed to the ONE pilot, which could be argued to be less challenging, have any views about that? Were you concerned about that in any aspects of the work that you did?
  (Ms Davies) I am actually currently working on a Jobcentre Plus evaluation, so I should have a view of this. Given my concentration on the ONE evaluation preparing for today it has completely gone out of my head, so I will need to come back to you at a later stage.[1]

  241. That is fine. Is it a surprise to you that Jobcentre Plus is being proceeded with before the proper evaluation of the ONE pilot has been completed?
  (Professor Marsh) Chairman, as you know better than anybody, a very big political decision has been made. The business of giving people benefits and the business of advising and assisting and case managing them into jobs has been merged. Departments have been merged, the instruments of doing this have been merged, it therefore follows these two services will be delivered at the same point. We as evaluators would have had to have found some catastrophically negative effect to put the brakes on that movement, and we did not.

  Chairman: You are beginning to sound suspiciously like a politician.

James Purnell

  242. A very quick question. To vastly over-summarise your evidence, you are both saying that the claimants found that the experience was better but the difference in outcomes was not as great as one might have hoped for, but there were some changes in outcomes. Just to put that in context, is that something that one would expect in a pilot because of training and set up problems—do they struggle normally to match the previous model, or is that something that we should find disappointing in terms of outcomes?
  (Professor Marsh) I think it is encouraging they both point in the right direction. There was some evidence of an initial impetus to job-getting amongst some groups, it was still a relatively brief intervention we were asked to concentrate on at the ONE interview. Remember also, it is not as though there was nothing going on elsewhere, there were no big pilots going on in controlled areas but over the last five years, at the risk of sounding like a politician, an awful lot has been done to boost case management, increase work incentives, advertise work benefits, which the controlled clients were exposed to and were responding to. The work deserves careful study and broadly it is pointing in the right direction.

  243. Thank you.
  (Ms Davies) I think the one thing that we would like to say is that although the picture we presented here is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, on either side, if you like, there is considerably more detail we have not had the opportunity to go into. It is now not the time or the place. What I think some of our research does show, in some cases, is how the services are delivered, aspects of the services that work well—where personal advisers establish relationships with their clients, where clients feel they can go back or should go back to them. There is definite direction on how that should be managed. There are clear impacts on clients' behaviour and their attitudes towards work: it is just unfortunate that that has not translated into bigger numbers. The quality of what is being delivered is quite important and we have some very solid evidence on what appears to work.

Mr Dismore

  244. We have heard a lot of evidence so far from everyone involved in the project that a lot of the emphasis has been on process rather than outcome. Effectively the findings that you are portraying today suggest we have a very positive response in terms of process and not very positive in respect of outcomes. This is effectively what you would expect, bearing in mind what we have been told about the way the whole of the monitoring was more geared to the process than the outcome. If we see that lesson has been learned, and that Jobcentre Plus is now going to start to focus on outcome, is that going to effectively deal with that issue?
  (Professor Marsh) Yes, I think so. If I had anything to say about that, certainly my experience of looking at some of the models of delivery that have influenced, not determined, but have influenced this design, those obtaining in Wisconsin and California and elsewhere in the United States, the engagement with local employers is the key. They are on first name terms with every employer within miles, I think that is probably one of the ways forward if I were to make a recommendation, but it is not my habit to do so.

Chairman

  245. Let me tempt you. What are the two or three things you would want to see enshrined for the new system from the pilots? What would be the two or three important things you picked up from the work you have done that you would build into, enhance and protect in the new system that is getting rolled out for this year?
  (Ms Johnson) This is something that we anticipated we might get asked.

  246. We are getting too predictable as a Committee or I am getting too predictable as a Chairman.
  (Ms Johnson) Our thoughts very much revolve round the role of the personal adviser in delivering the process to secure the outcomes. Our thoughts were that personal advisers need further training, more training to deliver that which they are charged with delivering. Connected with that, there is the imperative for personal advisers to have their own knowledge and information about benefits and the range of advice and support that they can offer to individuals. In addition to that, knowledge of and access to information about the wider range of support and very specialist sorts of benefits and referral agencies which might apply to a smaller number of cases, but which you could not possibly expect each individual personal adviser to hold themselves. Very clear to us, although we were not evaluating the delivery of ONE per se, was that personal advisers need to have time in each individual session but also in having a series of sessions to work with clients over a period of time to, first of all, challenge their attitudes towards work which will then translate into changes in behaviour and eventually the outcome, which we hope will be sustainable. Those are our thoughts.

  247. That is helpful.
  (Professor Marsh) There is a significant opportunity with respect to lone parents to make getting maintenance payments part of the welfare-to-work strategy, because they are now discounted entirely against working families tax credit payments, and the great majority of lone parents who work claim WFTC. If they can receive even modest amounts of child support payments at the same time, they will have a standard of living in work which will compare reasonably favourably with a single earning couple. That would be a great advance. I think that is a forum for changing the culture about supporting lone parents in work from public resources, WFTC, to private resources from the non-resident parent, and that is clearly a lead to follow up on. For sick and disabled people, I am anxious about the intervention of the appeals system. I have studied people leaving incapacity benefit and that muddied everything. Of course it is supposed to be there, of course it is necessary to be there, but I think somehow personal advisers are going to have to be engaged differently with people who on one hand are looking for a job and on the other are appealing against failing the personal capacity test, and that is something that is going to have to be sorted out.

  248. So when we meet the Minister in a week's time, what bit of advice have you got for him?
  (Professor Marsh) I would agree with my colleagues that the work-focussed training that advisers are going to have to have is very considerable. I would say put huge resources into training, try to retain people in these jobs for a long time, make them specialists, make them masters of several fields, as they have to be, and find ways of having a working relationship with all of the local employers, and put them into teams. I have the impression, and I may be corrected by other people giving evidence, that they work too much on their own. In California the teams compete with one another.

  249. Vicky, Clare? Questions to the Minister next week?
  (Ms Davies) I would support what Alan has said. There is a big issue about personal advisers' ability to discuss work in a meaningful way with non-JSA clients, with lone parents, carers and others, the whole gamut of clients who are not actively seeking work. I think that is critical because, as we have said today, a lot of the interviews were not particularly detailed although work-focussed in content, and that really has to be the main focus.

  Chairman: And lots of research to do now and in the future no doubt. We will put in a word to the Department for you! Seriously, thank you very much, it has been a very instructive and interesting session. We are very grateful for the work you have done, it has informed the work of the Committee enormously. Thank you very much.


1   Please refer to the supplementary memorandum submitted by ECOTEC which follows this oral evidence, page Ev 96. Back


 
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