Memorandum submitted by Julie Kerksick
Between September 2000 and June 2001, I had
the privilege to study in the UK under the auspices of the Atlantic
Fellowships in Public Policy program, sponsored by the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office. I was situated within the Welfare to
Work Strategy branch of the former Department of Social Security,
and studied the ONE program in particular.
My focus was implementation issues, because
my American experience administering a pilot employment support
program has persuaded me that how public policy is implemented
directly affects not only the success of intended policy, but
also whether policy is actually given a chance to be realised.
I was allowed to study the implementation process from the policy
level to the operations level, by observing claimants' interviews,
conducting interviews with a wide variety of stakeholders, attending
meetings and, when requested, conducting training sessions with
front-line field staff.
ONE TO JOBCENTRE
ONE represented a number of pivotal culture
shifts within both the former departments and agencies that handled
benefits claims and employment services. ONE's goal was to realise
a political commitment to increase the number and proportion of
adults working, reduce poverty, reduce benefit rolls, and foster
a culture of economic productivity and independence. Combining
functions within one office-hence the program's name-required
the Benefits Agency administrators to understand and implement
employment goals and programs, and required Employment Service
administrators to understand benefits claims and procedures. It
also required Personal Advisers to learn how to broach the subject
of employment with clients who are under no obligation to be available
to work as a condition of receiving the benefit-but who may wish
to do so. It intended to provide ongoing help in finding work
to those who wish it-caseloading, in the parlance of ONE.
ONE intended to improve the delivery of service
to claimants by creating a single gateway, and providing more
individual attention through the work-focussed interview.
ONE was also intended to reduce fraudulent or
erroneous claims through the use of face-to-face interviews.
Jobcentre Plus reflects many, if not all, of
the above goals. It is now running, in pathfinder offices, as
of October 2001.
Many individuals within the former Department
of Social Security (DSS) and Department for Education and Employment
(DfEE), and now the newly formed Department for Work and Pensions,
have worked long and hard to pull out lessons from ONE and the
New Deals, to make sure that Jobcentre Plus benefits as much as
possible from earlier investments by the government. Many of the
lessons of ONE have, hopefully, been incorporated into the design
and implementation of Jobcentre Plus.
So I am not trying, from the distance of several
thousand miles, to duplicate or ignore the work of those who have
day-to-day responsibility for designing and implementing Jobcentre
Plus. However, I would like to make two suggestions that focus
on the role and development of front line staff, particularly
Personal Advisers. (I apologise in advance if these ideas have
already been addressed in Pathfinder offices. I have not been
able to follow the unfolding of Jobcentre Plus plans from the
SUGGESTION 1: ONGOING
Jobcentre Plus is a modern service for people
of working age who are claiming benefits. It's there to give people
help and support to find work and become independent.
Jobcentre Plus is at the heart of the Government's
strategy for welfare reform. It will dramatically change the way
we help people, providing a more proactive service to all our
customers of working age . . .
Jobcentre Plus will provide a work focus for
everyone of working age, who is claiming benefit . . .
Anyone who needs long-term support will get
a high quality of service and access to other relevant sources
of help. And we will make sure that our customers receive the
benefits they are entitled to.
(Quoted from the Department for Work and Pensions'
The following is a description of ONE, taken
from one of the handouts available in the ONE offices:
ONE is a new way to claim benefit and find work
a radical new service which gives people of working age real help
with jobs and benefits . . .
The government is modernising the welfare system
to help people become independent, and get away from dependency
on benefits. The aim is to find a fair balance between what people
put into the system and what they get out of it. Everyone who
can work will be given help to find a job, and those who cannot
will get the support they need.
ONE gives people in-depth, individual help from
a personal adviser, and encourages them to make the best use of
their skills and abilities.
Obviously, there is a good deal of overlap in
the vision statements of both ONE and Jobcentre Plus. It should
be instructive, therefore, to look at ONE's experience in successfully
translating the vision into operations, with an eye toward implementation
of Jobcentre Plus.
As of June 2001, ONE had not produced significant
impact on employment outcomes for currently economically inactive
(non-JSA) clients. (There were many reasons for this, including
time constraints. My focus here, however, is on what I believe
is an underlying problem.)
Policymakers expressed disappointment. They
had hoped to see more non-JSA clients move into work, as neither
anti-poverty goals nor improved productivity goals can be met
if the current number of "workless households" holds
steady or grows.
This lack of outcomes is not completely surprising,
however. Contained within the clear vision statements are multiple
policy goals, some of which represent significant shifts in the
social contract. The underlying terms of the social contract have
not changed; ie the fundamental rules about who must work
have not changed.
But there has been a shift toward encouraging
people who are not required to work, to consider it. There has
not been an abandonment of the economic safety net of assured
income. There has been, rather, an effort to shake up the way
that safety net has come to mean growing numbers of people of
working age see no connection between themselves and the labour
Yet these intended shifts, while seismic in
some ways, are also quite delicately nuanced in the translation
from policy to operations. How are Personal Advisers supposed
to talk about work to someone who is applying for Carer's Allowance?
Sickness benefit? Mothers or fathers whose partner has recently
left the family?
In the actual operations, many ONE advisers
found themselves confused or uncomfortable with the brave new
world of a work-focus. Not because they disagreed with the policy
goals; but they were uncertain about how to marry the goals of
helping people get their benefits and steering them in the longer-term
There are many other factors involved in the
success or lack of success of ONE. This point does not ignore
those. Helping front line staff fully comprehend the policy goals
and potential contradictions is necessary, but not sufficient,
for ultimate success.
The first step toward successfully implementing
the multiple policy goals embedded in both ONE and Jobcentre Plus
is to ensure that front line staff fully understand these goals,
and how they affect their daily interactions with clients/customers.
This requires engaging staff members in discussions, not just
as they begin their term of employment, but over time as they
Managers and policymakers sometimes confuse
their delivering information with a discussion. They are not the
I noticed one very interesting phenomenon regarding
ONE. Everyone I met could tell me the basic policy intentions
of ONE: "Work for those who can; security for those who can't"
was the shorthand. But it was only policy-level staff, managers
and trainers who ever stated the link between the work-focussed
policy and the larger goal of reducing poverty. I never heard
front line staff make this connection. Yet this link is critical
to the ultimate success of encouraging non-JSA clients to move
Advisers can make this link, of course. But
it requires time and dialogue to do so. It also requires opportunities
over time to think about how the policy is working on the ground.
How are the policy messages delivered?
Quarterly or semi-annual discussions of larger
policy goals provide staff and managers with the chance to match
their experience with their theoretical expectations. Such sessions,
which can be done in as little as a few hours, can provide mutual
learning between staff and managers. They can also allow people
to step back and look at larger patterns and see how their individual
efforts fit in, or fail to contribute to the larger goals.
Such sessions can be facilitated at the local
level, or can involve regional managers or trainers.
SUGGESTION 2: ADAPT
Work was already well underway to re-design
training for Personal Advisers at the time I completed my fellowship
in June 2001. By now, much of what follows may be moot. But in
the event that the work is ongoing, I offer the following thoughts
on the role of staff and how their training should be delivered.
Front line staff have traditionally administered
comparatively clear procedures with clear goals. Clients claim
benefits, qualify for them, and secure them or not. Clients seek
work, find out about job openings, and attempt to secure work.
A work-focussed system requires a fundamentally
different role of Personal Advisers. Interactions with clients
may lead in very different directions, based on clients' situations,
needs, limitations and prospects. Interactions between Personal
Advisers and clients that start with job searches may encounter
some barrier to work that was not at first obvious to either staff
or client. Clients who did not at first appear to seek work at
all may, in fact, want work or job training once someone makes
Personal Advisers, whether they deal with a
very general population or specialise in a particular sub-group,
must understand how to develop very different plans, and implement
very different requirements, among clients who may neither know
or realise what is available to them, how benefits can help them
develop and implement work plans, or even what they want.
Jobcentre Plus is focussed on work, but acknowledges
that not all clients will be appropriate candidates for work at
the time they come into the office. Even with those who are immediately
available for work, there may be significant challenges that must
be understood and addressed.
Training for Advisers is not now, and should
not be, seen as something that is completed within the first few
months of employment on the job. The skills required are complex,
and must be built on over time through a variety of methods.
In the experience of ONE, there were many criticisms
of the training from staff, managers and trainers themselves.
Many of these criticisms may have been addressed in the next generation
design of Jobcentre Plus.
There are many possible ways to deliver training,
and not just one right one. However, one bottom-line requirement
in my experience is to consolidate what staff learn by providing
individual observation and feedback. While managers might do this,
and should do some, they might not be well suited to this kind
of individual feedback. Trainers might be better suited to it.
Yet most people I interviewed in this area felt it was not realistic
to have such labour-intensive training.
But whatever changes are made in the content,
it is imperative that training and management structures be in
place to consolidate Advisers' learning over time. This should
include individual feedback that builds on Advisers' strengths.
Learning to talk about work, or explore personal
circumstances with a wide variety of individuals, is more likely
to be accomplished with one-on-one critiques. It is difficult
to imagine building a substantial corps of competent Advisers
without some investment of training resources. Itinerant trainers
could provide the right balance of support and criticism. Managers/on-site
supervisors may be equally well suited to provide this, though
they themselves must have good skills in effective feedback and
Whether it is done through supervisors or trainers,
it is Priority One to provide staff with training that includes
follow-up on an individual basis, using the actual interviews
to help the Adviser get better.
Thank you for your consideration of these ideas.
I am grateful for the opportunity that allowed me to learn so
much of your systems, and am applying much of what I learned to
my work here in the US. I would be happy to answer any questions
or provide additional information if requested.
The New Hope Project
12 November 2001