Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (ES 16)

  This note provides additional information on points raised by Committee Members during the hearing of oral evidence on 15 May 2002. The question references below refer to those given in the transcript of evidence.

ASSISTANCE FOR THE UNEMPLOYED IN STARTING UP THEIR OWN BUSINESS (QUESTIONS 191-205)

  Responsibility for helping the unemployed, including assisting them into self-employment, rests primarily with the Department for Work and Pensions. Support is provided through the New Deal, and also through funding of the Prince's Trust. Access to the former is through Jobcentre Plus. In a number of areas the Business Links work closely with the Jobcentres, placing a business advisor in the Jobcentre on certain days of the week. In this way people gain access to the Business Link network. In addition, the Local Enterprise Agencies in some areas have been contracted to deliver the self employed elements of New Deal. As partners in delivering Business Link services, New Deal clients are referred by the enterprise agencies on to the Business Links for further help.

  There are a number of routes available for people to find out about the help to start-ups provided by Business Links: either through the Small Business Service (SBS) web site businesslink.org, or the Business Link national number (0845 600 9006), which will automatically route them to their local business link operator.

  The SBS does not have information on individuals' awareness of Business Link services, either unemployed or otherwise. The only awareness figures available relate to businesses. These come from the SME Omnibus Survey 2001-02. This was a survey of approximately 6,000 SMEs (0-249 employees). Business Link awareness by English region is summarised in the table below.

BUSINESS LINK AWARENESS BY REGION

England, per cent, number
  
Level of awareness
  
  
Unprompted
Prompted
Not aware
ALL SMEs
13
55
33
Region
  
  
  
North East
11
60
29
North Wes
11
57
32
Yorkshire & Humberside
8
58
34
East Midlands
11
61
29
West Midlands
14
68
18
Eastern
10
54
36
London
13
46
41
South East
12
52
36
South West
19
49
32


  Source: SBS Omnibus Survey, 2001-02.

  Target: Unprompted awareness: 20 per cent; Prompted/total awareness: 80 per cent.

  The SBS is taking steps to raise awareness of Business Link services. For example, a Business Link national advertising campaign in the spring has led to a 44 per cent increase in the number of people using the businesslink.org website in the three weeks after the campaign compared with the two weeks before the campaign. These figures do not distinguish between individual and business use.

  Data on support provided by the New Deals for individuals setting up their own businesses are collected by the Department for Work and Pensions.

CO-ORDINATION

  Business advisors in the Business Links have an awareness of New Deal and the Jobcentres. On the New Deal provider side, the SBS sits on the New Deal Providers networking group and through membership of this group ensures that providers are kept up to speed with developments in the Business Link Operator services.

  The need for joined up government in this area is recognised. On 6 May 2002, the Small Business Service published its consultation document on a Comprehensive Strategy for Start-ups. The document makes several recommendations. These include achieving greater cohesion of start-up support by setting up a national start-ups forum. This will bring together the principal departments in Whitehall having an interest in the start-ups agenda including DWP. The forum will advise on the development of policy on start-ups and helping people to become self-employed and review SBS performance.

  The document also recommends that the Regional Development Agencies work with the local and regional business support organisations to achieve better integration of their service delivery. The government is anxious that good practice is widely disseminated. Hence, for example, there could be greater use of Business Links advisors in Jobcentres, so that people have access to the wider range of services that they ultimately will require.

  The consultation document also refers to the SBS working with DWP in the production of a booklet promoting self-employment. The booklet will describe the benefits of becoming self-employed, show people what they need to do, and where in Government they can obtain help. The booklet, as well as detailing New Deal and the Princes Trust, will also describe the help available from the Business Links. The booklet will be available from Jobcentres and Business Links, and staff in both organisations will be trained in its use. The consultation document also underlines our intentions to target those in under represented groups and in disadvantaged areas in all SBS services.

  The consultation period runs until the end of July.

Ethnic Minority Business Forum (question 213)

  The Government has fully endorsed the Business Forum's recommendations (listed at www.sbs.gov.uk/embf/reports.asp ) and Small Business Service officials are working closely with the Forum towards the implementation of the recommendations. The SBS is also working with other Government Departments to help implement the recommendations.

Evaluation of the Phoenix Fund (questions 217-219)

THE BUSINESS VOLUNTEER MENTORS ASSOCIATION (BVMA)

  The pilot initiative commenced in January 2000 and was evaluated the following year. Although it was too early to measure the BVMA impact, the evaluation showed there was enthusiasm on all sides, including by clients, for the continuation and expansion of the BVMA beyond the pilot phase. Local Enterprise agencies and other Business Link partners who delivered the initiative on the ground were impressed with the general quality of the volunteers, mentors remained confident that they could make a difference and clients were hopeful that mentoring would help their business, despite being in the early stage of the process. The National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (who co-ordinated the initiative) were confident that the initiative could make a significant contribution to support services for pre and early start businesses.

  In the light of the evaluation the scheme was rolled-out into a fully-fledged initiative as part of the suite of Business Link branded services and continues to provide free mentoring support to pre and early start-up businesses, including those from under represented groups and disadvantaged areas. In the last quarter for which figures are available, 66 per cent of clients seen were pre-start-ups and 37 per cent were unemployed.

  Currently, there are no specific plans for a further dedicated evaluation of the BVMA. Any additional assessment will be conducted within the wider framework of an evaluation of the impact of Business Link delivered services.

DEVELOPMENT FUND

  The first projects started in January 2001. The results of a preliminary evaluation will be available in June.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FINANCE INSTITUTIONS

  The first awards started in August 2001. The results of an initial evaluation will be available in Summer 2002.

  The other parts of the Fund including City Growth Strategies and the Development Fund for Rural Renewal have only started recently and evaluation plans have yet to be finalised. However, internal monitoring arrangements are in place.

June 2002



 
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