Examination of witnesses(Questions 120-139)-|
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
120. How can you do it and they cannot?
(Mr Lovell) I do not know.
(Mr Knight) I do not know
(Mr Lovell) One point to make is that you asked what
percentage of money was tied to innovation and notionally in the
contract it is 15 per cent. In terms of what depends on innovation,
the entire funding we receive depends on innovating to make sure
we deliver the service. That is the point I made earlier. It is
lost in trying notionally to allocate a percentage of funding
against innovation. It was an admirable attempt, but I do not
think it is one that works.
121. You have generally gone round this particular
issue so I shall put the question straight to you. What does the
Department need to do if it wants to free up the scope for experimenting
and innovation? You have mentioned giving you uncapped contracts
and so forth. Is there anything else it needs to do?
(Mr Lovell) I feel passionately about this one, so
I shall give one response. You must remember that in terms of
the funding portfolio we received for ONE, the majority of it
really relates to staffing costs. We know we could get the same
property we are operating from in Rutland at one third of the
price charged to Government, because when you come along the Government
are paying and landlords hike up the rent. It is an unfortunate
consequence and what happens, because we were quoting at the same
time. There were estate issues. If you were to take the funding
wrap and have an innovative pilot, take it into an environment
which you would design specifically for this, rather than re-designing
a Jobcentre to do something, I understand what Chris is saying
about an open pot and it is not, it is about two-way risk. We
enter into contracts like this with the Employment Service as
well, where we say there may be a notional cap but it is significantly
higher because you over-achieve anticipated performance output.
There is a place for that in ONE; but being much more open about
the entirety of the budget which is available to an organisation,
we could have created significant savings, we could have created
a significantly different programme which felt very different
and delivered more value for money from what we did if
we had access to other arms of the stream. That was not feasible
at the time the project was initiated and I understand that and
that is something which can be taken forward with Jobcentre Plus.
(Mr Granger) Having the same contract management structure
across different pilots would be a start. The pilots were managed
very differently and we have the evidence of that from the disparities
between Leeds and Suffolk. Dealing with the disconnect between
local management and central management would also be very helpful.
We found ourselves in a situation where some contractual decisions
were being taken in London; some were being taken in Sheffield;
some were being taken in Leeds; different ones were being taken
in Suffolk; local authorities were having different opinionsseven
of them in Suffolkto each other and to ES and BA. Dealing
with a unified contractual management structure, which is consistent,
will produce consistent results and that is why I believe there
are differences in the phenomena you have seen around accessing
(Mr Melvin) I would agree with all that has been said.
I would just reiterate that we need longer contracts which will
encourage us to invest. They should not be capped, so if we provide
a better level of service with better outcomes, we are rewarded.
All I would add is that officials need to be given the freedom
to make decisions. The point has been made that it is not really
a negotiation when a group of officials come and say "That's
what's on the table, take it or leave it".
122. Did you make as much money out of the contract
as you expected to?
(Mr Melvin) No.
(Mr Granger) We did not enter into this to make money.
We entered into it to prove we could deliver a better service,
in the hope of having the opportunity to assist in the implementation
of a national scheme.
Chairman: That is a very interesting answer
to a different question.
123. Did you make as much money as you expected
(Mr Granger) We did not expect to make
any money out of it and we have not made any money out of it.
124. Did you expect to make any money out of
it and did you make any?
(Mr Lovell) We did not have a view. I know that sounds
an incredibly naive answer but I shall tell you why. When you
enter into these contracts you are blind on the funding structure
and we are used to entering into those types of contracts with
ES in particular. Ultimately, once we had got under the skin of
that, we made a reasonable return. We are satisfied with the way
it has gone. The point is that you get economies of scale as you
get the expertise and experience.
125. When we visited the Employment Service
in Sheffield, they said they would give us a list of innovative
projects which they had agreed with you. It subsequently turns
out that they are saying the list is labelled "commercial
in confidence". Has any of you any objections to us seeing
(Mr Lovell) No. It is the first I have heard. No.
(Mr Granger) No.
(Mr Melvin) No.
126. You are happy for us to see the list.
(Mr Melvin) Yes.
127. Does that mean we can produce it in our
evidence so it becomes a public document?
(Mr Granger) It might be interesting
to check the accuracy of it.
(Mr Lovell) Yes, it might be interesting to check
128. You are happy for us to see this and you
would like to see it as well.
(Mr Lovell) I should like to see it.
I have a list here of our innovations.
129. Did you just say you would be interested
in seeing it?
(Mr Lovell) Yes
130. Have you not seen it either?
(Mr Lovell) I would imagine it probably
cross-references against the things we have been paid for out
of the innovation pot, but that would not be a complete list of
131. You must have all seen your own innovation
(Mr Granger) Yes.
(Mr Lovell) Yes.
132. But you have not seen each other's.
(Mr Granger) No.
(Mr Lovell) No.
(Mr Melvin) No.
133. Do you want to see each other's?
(Mr Lovell) There's an interesting question
I had not anticipated.
(Mr Melvin) May I just make the point that in terms
of innovation, if you are going to publish a list, what is in
that list from the Employment Service is unlikely to be the true
scope? What we delivered in terms of innovation is not simply
that which has been paid for from the innovation pot, but several
things from the core funding, which we have added to the service,
which we would claim were innovative.
134. I am still a little confused about this.
You all know what your innovation is. If you send us a list and
then you release the ES from any question of confidentiality we
shall all be able to see what the innovation is and that is in
everyone's interests. Are we all agreed?
(Mr Melvin) We are.
(Mr Lovell) No problem.
(Mr Granger) Yes.
135. If we publish what we get from the Department,
if we get something from the Department, you can put in a supplementary
(Mr Melvin) Yes.
136. We are not trying to be clever here. We
are just simple seekers after the truth.
(Mr Melvin) The point I would make is
that people like Mark and myself communicate fairly regularly.
We pretty much know what we are each doing. We do not have a problem
with this "commercial in confidence" thing because we
are in a business where our prime motivator is to help unemployed
people or people on other benefits.
Chairman: It is what we would rather have expected
adult people to do, but we were told it was confidential and we
thought maybe that was your fault. It clearly is not and that
is what we needed to know.
137. I want to return to basics and examine
the ONE vision. It is a very, very exciting vision with staff
working in a holistic way, with an individual following them through,
advising everybody, not just the unemployed, to overcome the barriers
which prevent them working. What I should like from you is just
how easy it has been in practice to achieve that vision. I shall
start with Christopher Melvin. In your introduction to the Chairman's
questions at the beginning you did say how much you welcomed the
concept of a one-stop-shop. How easy have you found it in practice
to deliver that vision?
(Mr Melvin) For a number of clients in
North Notts we have been able to do it, but sadly that is probably
not the majority. The first thing to recognise is that for those
people who are on benefits other than Jobseekers Allowance their
engagement after the work-focused interview is voluntary and therefore
it is our responsibility to encourage them to engage as much as
possible. I would add that the majority of the funding is based
on front end of the service, the start-up interview, the work-focused
interview, and there is very little funding for ongoing case loading.
That is where we have put some of our innovation money and achieved
good results. If you compare it with Jobcentre Plus, where you
have what I would argue is a more holistic service in that people
will have opportunities to join things like New Deal for Lone
Parents and there might be an opportunity for people on the appropriate
benefit when they come in to see a lone parent adviser initially.
With Jobcentre Plus the whole service is going to be delivered
from one side. With ONE you have pretty much had the front end
of it. Because of estates issues in our own experience, where
we are not in some of the siteswe operate from five sitesco-located
with the Employment Service, then we have a greater obligation
to try to encourage people to come back because they are probably
more used to going into a Jobcentre-type environment which is
a national organisation which has a high degree of recognition
of helping people on benefits back into work. We have managed
to achieve it, but it has been hard work. If Jobcentre Plus is
implemented in the way it seems to be, it should find it easier.
(Mr Granger) We think overall that the pilots we have
been operating have been successful in terms of a step change,
a radical improvement in the service that the public receive and
also job satisfaction for the staff working in them. Estates are
a key part of that and if you visit the premises which Leeds City
Council made available for the pilot in Leeds, in Great George
Street, you get one experience. If you visit Woodbridge in Suffolk,
you would see something very, very different. In terms of connectivity
around the service, there are always going to be boundary problems
because, especially with the non-JSA population, their challenges
are more complex; they need more time and they need more specialist
advice. The challenge for Jobcentre Plus is going to be deciding
where to draw the boundary to serve the majority extremely well
and there will be a disconnect with serving people who need specialist
services beyond that majority.
(Mr Lovell) I agree with you. I think it is exciting.
I think it is different. I do not think that has changed. In terms
of implementing all of those things, we have found it not easy
and not difficult; in the middle. We made sure that every member
of the teamand it is sustaining this that is the difficult
bit, particularly because you are delivering it in the middle
of a Jobcentre where you are surrounded by a different culture.
The passion, the energy, the determination, the commitment, the
flexibility, exist there. I still enjoy very much going to meet
the people who deliver our ONE service, because they fill me with
that energy again. When I forget we are here to service a client
then they remind me. We have found all the things you are talking
about in delivering our service and we are still passionate about
the generalist approach. That can work. I see elements of Jobcentre
Plus where people are beginning to segregate out specialisms,
and I do not think that is the right approach. I agree with you
that the concept is a strong one and its application can work.
You need the support of the other agencies you are working with
to do it and Richard has made a very pertinent point that there
are different approaches in different areas and that will be so
in the national roll-out of Jobcentre Plus. We have found it as
we expected. It is tough, it is challenging, but it is fun.
138. Nice to know it is fun working for the
Government in this way. May I explore a little further the tension
which you have also all outlined between work focus and benefits?
Richard, in answer to an earlier question, you mentioned that
one of the frustrations for staff working in the Leeds office
was having to concentrate on benefits. You said if somebody had
been laid off on the Friday, they turned up on the Monday, a lot
of time was spent dealing with benefits which was the immediate
concern and it might be a week later before they returned for
the work-focused interview. By that time presumably they may have
found work themselves, but that was in what you described as being
a jobs market which was buoyant. What are each of you finding
in the areas you are working in and how are you coping with that
tension between benefits and work and is there any way that tension
can be overcome?
(Mr Granger) You will have seen the submission I made
to Tessa Jowell last summer on this topic. It is our opinion that
it would add a lot to the service to be freed up from having a-one-size-fits-all
process and being able to stream people according to their work
readiness and benefit needs. Frankly the other side of the coin
is also true. There are people who turn up on a Monday morning
with a benefit need who are not at that time employable. It is
not good use of anybody's time to have a conversation with them
about employment. It is good use of time to make sure there is
the highest degree of accuracy with their benefit application
and agree with them a personal contract around the timetable to
have a conversation when their personal barriers change through
training or the passage of time. We strongly recommend that treating
people as individuals rather than people who go through a standardised
process will produce a better outcome.
139. Would you then also be relying upon the
judgement of the personal adviser who saw them at that initial
(Mr Granger) I believe that civil servants working
in front-line public service have very good judgement about these