Select Committee on Work and Pensions First Report


The role of caseloading

32. As originally envisaged, ONE Personal Advisers were expected to have a continuing relationship with their clients, monitoring their progress and offering support. It was anticipated that roughly half of all claimants entering ONE would choose to have further meetings with their Personal Advisers.[61] Such voluntary meetings are known as 'caseloading meetings' to distinguish them from compulsory meetings triggered by certain life events. This was the dimension of ONE which promised to reap most reward, with Advisers being able to work on a one-to-one basis with clients to help them gain independence. Based on his research on delivery, Mr Kelleher told us: "It is at the second personal adviser meeting that the real opportunities to deal with work come out, and it could be argued that it is best to wait for the second meeting because the real job seeker may never come back because they have already found a job. It will be the expectation that subsequent meetings in caseloading will reinforce the work part of it...the work focus is something which grows during the relationship."[62]

33. In reality, as the DWP admits, "caseloading has proved one of the least successful areas of the ONE process."[63] Because work in processing new claims dominated the process, staff reported there was little time for caseloading. In the Buckinghamshire ONE office visited by the Committee, Advisers told us that they had only an hour a week available for caseloading.[64] In the Leeds ONE office, a PVS model visited by the Committee, staff openly accepted that they had essentially become a new claims service.[65] Within the PVS model, the contract drawn up by civil servants was biased towards the processing of new claims. Mr Christopher Melvin of Reed in Partnership told us: "the majority of funding is based on the front end of the service, the start-up interview, the work-focused interview, and there is little funding for ongoing caseloading."[66] Although the system of funding applied to the PVS pilots only, the values represented in the contract funding regime are indicative of the general priorities imposed within the ONE pilots as a whole. The quantitative research indicates that only around a third of lone parents, sick or disabled clients and JSA clients had had a follow-up meeting with a Personal Adviser in the four/five months after claiming.[67]

34. In an effort to increase caseloading in the ONE pilots, refresher guidance and an aide memoire on caseloading were issued to staff, and progress monitored. As a result, figures for caseload interviews attended by JSA clients increased by 11 per cent, and for non JSA clients by 31 per cent between April and September 2001.[68] This is encouraging. Within Jobcentre Plus, the intention is to target caseloading on people claiming benefits other than JSA, and provide additional support for JSA clients only where "it is clear that there is a specific barrier which can be overcome through additional interventions." An Action Plan will be developed for each client which sets out the steps and time-frames within which both client and adviser will work together to move the individuals towards work.[69]

35. We believe that caseloading has not worked within the ONE pilots, principally because of time constraints, with new claims work being given top priority. Greater targeting of caseload help with Jobcentre Plus may assist; but we are still not convinced that Personal Advisers will be able to devote a sufficient proportion of their working week to ongoing employment related activity with clients. When pressed on the time allocations for caseloading, the Minister could only tell us that it was early days - "we will be able to make an assessment of how much time is needed."[70] When pressed again on the limited time available to staff to devote to caseloading, Mr Lewis responded by giving details of the greater time allocations for initial Personal Adviser interviews, and adding that "then we have available, to us and our advisers, the existing programmes like the New Deal for Lone Parents, on to which our customers can go if they wish to follow through."[71] The evidence from the Minister of State for Work and the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus does not reassure us that caseloading will receive the attention it deserves within Jobcentre Plus. We recommend that:

  • Personal Advisers have a clear allocation of at least a third of their time to devote to ongoing work with clients and employers, with this time allocation built into the costings for Jobcentre Plus;
  • all non-JSA clients should be required to undergo a second work-focused interview, 8 weeks after the start of their claim, to review their personal circumstances and the support, if any, which they need to increase their independence and ability to enter the workforce in the future.

36. A key consideration in the development of a caseloading strategy within Jobcentre Plus will be the relationship between front line Personal Advisers and the various New Deal programmes. Used effectively, referrals to relevant New Deal programmes could give space to allow Personal Advisers to concentrate on other clients. There is considerable scope, as has already happened in some ONE areas, for enabling lone parents to have access to New Deal for Lone Parent Personal Advisers from the start. The various New Deals for unemployed people offer intensive support in preparing for work - but access is constrained by rules linked to periods of unemployment (although there is scope for early entry for certain groups). Personal Advisers would appear to have a role in early identification of barriers to work, and working with jobseekers in the period before they become eligible for the New Deal.[72] In the case of Incapacity Benefit claimants, the DWP has advised that "caseloading will generally be through the New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) Job Brokers."[73] This arrangement seems more problematic, given that the NDDP is primarily concerned with job placements. Many Incapacity Benefit claimants are a considerable distance from being job-ready. The treatment of Incapacity Benefit claimants is discussed in more detail below. We recommend that the Government clarifies the relationship which will exist between the caseloading activities of 'front line' Personal Advisers within Jobcentre Plus and the work of the various New Deal programmes in respect of lone parents, Incapacity Benefit recipients, and unemployed people. Protocols should be developed to help Personal Advisers know how and when best to refer their clients on to other schemes and agencies.

Reintegration assistance for those furthest from the labour market

37. Both ONE and Jobcentre Plus are committed to working with economically inactive groups, including the long-term unemployed. They include people with caring responsibilities and with disabilities, as well as those with multiple disadvantages - people who have experienced homelessness, the prison system, mental illness or drug problems and those with literacy and language problems. They can be clients with fairly profound problems, which, as Mr Kelleher pointed out to us, cannot necessarily be dealt with in a single meeting or even a series of meetings with a Personal Adviser, and where there are no "quick wins" in terms of getting people into work.[74] The obvious answer is to refer such people to specialist services which can assist either by helping clients overcome specific barriers to employment or by offering employment support tailored to the needs of clients furthest from the labour market.

38. In the ONE pilots, appropriate and effective referral proved difficult to achieve in practice on a consistent basis. The delivery research evaluation found that external sources of advice and support did not feature much in the observed activities of Personal Advisers, and Personal Advisers did not refer many clients to external agencies. The lack of contacts with agencies and inadequate knowledge of what might be available was evident in Personal Advisers' work with clients.[75] Evidence from Mr Richard Kramer of Mencap confirmed the delivery research. Mencap has a series of 'Pathway' employment projects, working with the learning disabled. Three Pathway projects were located in ONE pilot areas. However, despite the best efforts of Mencap to draw the attention of the projects to the ONE pilots in Suffolk and Leeds (both private sector pilots run by Deloitte Consulting), no contacts were forthcoming. It should be said that Mencap was full of praise for the Warwickshire ONE pilot (a Basic Model pilot), which did refer clients with learning difficulties to the Pathway project in the area, all of whom obtained employment as a result.[76]

39. We are pleased to note that within Jobcentre Plus, Advisers are being encouraged to get out of the office and visit specialist organisations to whom they are able to refer people who need additional and extra support.[77] These connections are vital if Personal Advisers are to harness the resources available to help the least job-ready. However, we are struck by a more fundamental problem. In assisting people who are furthest from the labour market, there appears to be a missing level of infrastructure on which Personal Advisers should be able to systematically draw: a comprehensive spectrum of external organisations (local and national) specialising in supporting and reintegrating such people into the labour market.[78] Within the New Deal programmes for the unemployed, for example, there are a variety of funded pilot projects supporting treatment for drug addiction, offering intermediate employment for the hardest to help, and giving outreach support to ethnic minority communities where unemployment is high. But such provision is patchy and not available throughout the country, and it tends to be funded for time-limited periods and to be tied to New Deal eligibility conditions. Provision more generally appears ad hoc and haphazard, often depending on hard-working and underfunded charitable organisations.

40. In the Netherlands, we were impressed by the use of the private sector to develop specialist reintegration programmes for the hardest to place.[79] Dutch local authorities have a duty to make arrangements for 'Phase 3' and 'Phase 4' clients (see above, para 28) by contracting with private companies for the delivery of appropriate services. In the UK, we consider there is a role for both the private and voluntary sector in offering the specialist support for those furthest from the labour market - which needs to be funded. We recommend that the Government should consider awarding Jobcentre Plus areas a specific budget to contract out their caseloading activities for groups which are furthest from the labour market to local public, private or voluntary organisations which have the commitment and specialist skills to move these people closer towards employment. In return, the organisations which contracted with Jobcentre Plus would be required to fulfill targets linked to job placements and moving people closer to the labour market.

People in receipt of Incapacity Benefit

41. People with disabilities are about seven times more likely to be out of work and claiming benefits than non-disabled people: 2.7 million long-term disabled people were out of work and receiving benefits compared to 1.6 million other people. Yet of this 2.7 million out of work and on benefit, 1.1 million say they would like to work now or in the future.[80] The Government has introduced various measures aimed at assisting people with longstanding impairment or illness who want to work to do so. Measures include Incapacity Benefit changes designed to reduce the financial disincentives to work; a new 'Capability Report' designed to provide work-focused information about clients' conditions and impairments; and the introduction of the New Deal for Disabled People, which offers job-broking help to disabled people who want to work.

42. The question of how to support more sick or disabled people into work is a large one and beyond the scope of this Report. However, our inquiry into the work of the ONE pilots has highlighted some key problem areas which need to be addressed.

43. First, as discussed above, Personal Advisers find it difficult to have a conversation about work with people who are sick or disabled.[81] We are pleased to note that, within Jobcentre Plus, more effort is being made to increase disability awareness among Personal Advisers.[82] But as our recommendation above[83] makes clear, we have concluded that Personal Advisers also need more specific skills training to discuss work in a positive and constructive way with such clients. Mr Leigh Lewis, Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, told us it was not realistic to expect a Personal Adviser to be able to cope personally with every conceivable disability problem which any individual may have. He thought it was important that Personal Advisers knew the point at which they should refer people either to Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) or to the New Deal for Disabled People.[84] Disability Employment Advisers work as part of Disability Service Teams, around 50 of which currently operate within the Employment Service. Alongside Occupational Pyschologists, they provide work-related assessment guidance and help assist disabled people to access or retain employment. We recommend that the Department publish its plans for how the Disability Service Teams will work within Jobcentre Plus, including the role of DEAs in relation to the work of 'front line' Personal Advisers.

44. Second, little use is being made in the ONE pilot areas of Capability Reports. The Capability Report was a new innovation, introduced in ONE pilot areas in November 1999. The report is intended to be work-focused and is designed to identify what labour market activities the person might be capable of, despite their health problems or disabilities. A Capability Report is automatically completed in the ONE pilot areas for all Incapacity Benefit claimants who are called for a medical examination (called a Personal Capability Assessment (PCA)). New research from the DWP[85] shows that there was low awareness and understanding among ONE Personal Advisers about the purpose of the Capability Report, and how it was produced. Little training or guidance had been given to Advisers or managers on how the Capability Report should be used. Although Incapacity Benefit claimants were required to attend a Personal Adviser meeting following a PCA, in practice these interviews were frequently deferred by Advisers. Since the research report was completed, both the ONE pilots and Jobcentre Plus have taken steps to improve training and guidance, and to stop deferrals of mandatory interviews following a PCA. It is very disappointing that the Capability Report has so far failed as an effective tool to assist claimants and advisers in discussing work capabilities. We recommend that the Government publish the steps it intends to take, in the light of the evaluation report it commissioned, to ensure that Capability Reports are practical and useful documents for claimants and their employment advisers.

45. A third and very fundamental issue was highlighted by the DWP research on Capability Reports. This was the attitude of ONE Personal Advisers to Incapacity Benefit clients. Although the intended role of the Personal Adviser was to work with a variety of clients giving work-focused advice tailored to their needs, in practice Advisers felt that the ONE pilots were driven by placement targets. The research found that, "rather than being able to help all clients in their move towards the labour market, the main priority was to meet given targets for placing clients on Jobseeker's Allowance into jobs."[86] As a result, Personal Advisers generally caseloaded very few, if any, clients on Incapacity Benefit.[87] The issue of targets, and the extent to which they drive behaviour, is discussed below. The reluctance to caseload Incapacity Benefit claimants also stemmed, said the researchers, from the belief, discussed above, that it was intrusive to discuss the idea of work, and also from the view that, to assist such people, intensive activity would be required to address the significant barriers which people would have. Advisers felt they did not have the skills to do such work.

46. The failure of Personal Advisers to engage with Incapacity Benefit clients is a major shortcoming of the ONE pilots. The solution lies partly in ensuring that Personal Advisers are given sufficient time for caseloading activities; partly in ensuring that targets are set which give incentives to Advisers to work with long-term sick and disabled clients; and partly in building up specialist support services to which Personal Advisers can refer claimants. But it also lies in giving Advisers the proper training - in motivating people and in confidence building - for them to begin to engage with this group.

47. A fourth issue concerns the arrangements for caseloading Incapacity Benefit clients within Jobcentre Plus. The DWP told us that for Incapacity Benefit clients within Jobcentre Plus "caseloading will generally be through New Deal for Disabled People Job Brokers."[88] The implication is that Personal Advisers themselves will not generally have Incapacity Benefit claimants as part of their caseloads. We are concerned by this approach. It is clear that many people who have experienced long-term poor health lack confidence and motivation when it comes to re-engaging with the world of work. They need a good deal of support and encouragement to begin to take steps towards employment. New Deal for Disabled People Job Brokers are primarily focused on achieving sustainable job placements. But a first step towards work might be voluntary work, a part-time job lasting only a few hours per week, or training. We consider that within Jobcentre Plus caseloading should be used to work with Incapacity Benefit clients to build confidence and motivation and to assist them to begin to take steps towards employment.

61   DWP Research Report No 154, para 2.1.3. Back

62   Q. 266. Back

63   Ev 108, para 75. Back

64   See Appendix 15. Back

65   See Appendix 14. Back

66   Q. 137. Back

67   DWP Research Report No 156, sections 2.4, 3.4 and 4.4. Back

68   Ev 136, box 3. Back

69   Ev 108, para 75. Back

70   Q. 322. Back

71   Q. 323. Back

72   See QQ. 266-7. Back

73   Ev 100, para 22. Back

74   QQ. 256-7. Back

75   DWP In-House Research No. 84, p.58. Back

76   See Ev 22. Back

77   See Q. 320. Back

78   A recent DWP report, Mapping Employment Focussed Services for Disabled People , DWP In-House Report No 93 reported that the exercise had only been moderately successful, because the process of identifying and recording employment-focused services for disabled people was difficult and very time-consuming. Even exercises carried out at local level proved hard to gather. A profusion of projects and services exist; but the researchers observed that "the picture is dynamic as lack of secure funding leads to closure, and as new funding sources and policy demands influence the nature of services provided". Back

79   See visit note Appendix 16. Back

80   Disability Rights Commision: DRC Disability Briefing May 2000, cited in New Deal for Disabled People: National Survey of Incapacity Benefit claimants, DWP Research Report No 160. Back

81   See, for example the comments of Ms Clare Johnson, Associate Director of ECOTEC, Q. 236. Back

82   See Q. 320. Back

83   Para 26. Back

84   Q. 324. Back

85   Evaluation of the Capability Report: Identifying the work-related capabilities of incapacity benefits claimants, Legard, Lewis, Hiscock and Scott, DWP Research Report No 162. Back

86   Ibid, para 3.3.1. Back

87   Ibid. Back

88   DWP memorandum, Ev 100, para 22. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 20 March 2002