Examination of witnesses(Questions 140-160)|
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
140. Christopher Melvin, do you have anything
to add to that? How are you finding the tension between benefits
(Mr Melvin) I would not necessarily agree with my
colleague from Deloitte on the streaming issue. There is an opportunity
to stream people but in the labour market where we have worked
with ONE, which is North Nottinghamshire, where some 12 months
ago there were many redundancies, when textile companies were
closing in significant numbers and thousands of people were being
made redundant, when people walked through the door of the ONE
office, what they wanted was to know that next week someone would
pay their rent and that they would get some money to buy food
and the basics of life. Once that was out of the way, then they
were very happy to engage in a discussion about how they got back
into the labour market. It is my own view that if we were not
able to give them satisfaction on the very basics, we would not
have had a realistic discussion about their engagement with the
labour market because all they would have been worried about was
where the rent was coming from next week. Having said that, once
you have satisfied that first need, then there is an opportunity
to give people an individual service which would depend upon how
far they are from the labour markets when they enter the ONE office
and that is what we have endeavoured to do over the last couple
(Mr Lovell) I think the tension you are talking about
manifests itself in the pressure that hits the front-line advisers.
It does not manifest itself in the service delivered to the client
and that is the way we have designed the service delivery. What
we are describing is a triage approach to every individual as
they walk through the door, which is essential. The pressure comes
from the conflicting performance evaluation targets which we take
back to the management level rather than the adviser. We do not
necessarily put pressure on individual advisers to achieve percentage
accuracy targets particularly for job placing. We put pressure
on advisers to understand their clients, to understand what they
need to do to improve their position, be it the very basic needs
and getting the completion of the client right, because that is
essential and then focusing on support services or work-related
activity. The tension comes not actually in the delivery of the
service, but in the pressure it creates for front line advisers.
If you manage that effectively, you can improve the service very,
very quickly. I just think that is an important distinction to
make about where that tension exists. If you have a generalist
service, that quickly works its way out of the system, but it
continues to be there.
141. Do you think the Department is right to
say that under Jobcentre Plus case loading by personal advisers
should not focus on JSA clients but on the economically inactive?
Yes, no or maybe?
(Mr Melvin) I think they should focus on both. All
individuals who are out of work should get a service which gets
them back into work.
(Mr Granger) I concur with Christopher's answer.
(Mr Lovell) I do too; the distinction is not helpful.
142. May I come back to the tension between
work focus and benefits? Richard, you said that Mencap and Dial
UK would not engage with you because it was a work-focused interview
and would not engage on the benefits. That is going to be one
of the main purposes of the Jobcentre Plus.
(Mr Granger) Absolutely.
143. Is that going to be a problem or is it
just a specific problem in the Leeds pilot or has anybody else
found that as an issue?
(Mr Granger) That is the same situation as Keith Wylie's
position regarding the provenance of people working in this sector.
That is potentially a policy position but pragmatism should prevail.
I would imagine that those organisations will concede the point
on a practical front whilst retaining their position on the principle.
What is important in my opinion is the quality of service which
is delivered and the sustainability of the outcome; the sustainability
of the employment placement. That is about the quality of personnel
and the availability of opportunities in the local job market.
(Mr Melvin) The ONE service has shown in North Notts
that when we have given those organisations the opportunity to
look at the service, talk to the people who have benefited from
it and have some input as to how it is designed, they have come
round to the fact that asking someone to attend a work-focused
interview is a realistic obligation to receive benefit.
(Mr Lovell) Every district needs to be proactive in
going out to those organisations to overcome that hurdle.
144. So you need to sell it to them and sell
(Mr Lovell) Yes, at a local level.
145. How do you think that we can engage with
economically inactive clients more to get them into work? Both
Reed and A4E mentioned the initiatives you had both had in working
with non-JSA clients, but all three of you mentioned the difficulties
you have had in trying to work with those clients. How can we
best engage the economically inactive?
(Mr Lovell) There are two principal things.
Treat them as a customer. One of the comments made by secondees
to us is that the message we put out to them was "Treat them
as you would expect to be treated when you walk through the door
of that service facility" and we had two competing cultures
coming together to do that. We had to treat every individual as
a person and think about what it is they require when they walk
through the door. That is an obvious statement but I am afraid
the process and procedures and mechanisms in taking these types
of initiatives to the front line do not support that. The management
and culture must reinforce that in Jobcentre Plus. The second
thing is to target them more effectively. We are doing this on
a New Deal for Disabled People pilot. The civil servants can be
very protective about the way we contact individuals. There is
so much more that can be done about directly engaging the economically
inactive in a whole variety of ways which are different, which
are fun, which talk about what we are trying to do when they walk
through our doors in the context of improving their life because
that is what we are here to do. You can direct market them, for
example. You can encourage them in a variety of different ways
and not get lost inside the policy message of what we are doing
but begin to sell a way of life and approach to life to those
individuals. That is the only way to engage the economically inactive.
(Mr Granger) I have four points. The first is about
the location. Service needs to be delivered from appropriate and
accessible locations. It is probably a case for a full-scale estates
review. Quite a lot of the locations are connected in people's
minds with a very different type of system, often from before
the Second World War. That needs to be reviewed. Secondly, the
nature of the service which is delivered. Two parts to that. Attention
needs to be personal and the more an individual has challenges
around sustainable employment, the more personal the service needs
to be. My final point. Good service costs money. A connection
between programme spend and cost of administration, to look at
the cost holistically, would address that. You cannot get away
from the fact that delivering good service to members of the public
comes at a greater cost than delivering poor service.
(Mr Melvin) Simply, you need to offer them something
they want. You have to offer them something they are prepared
to engage in. It is my belief that the vast majority of economically
inactive people want to work. It might not be the first thing
on their mind but somewhere inside them they want a job, they
want to be able to enjoy themselves, they want to engage with
their communities through work, they want the support network
of work. You have to offer them something they want and it is
early days because we have just been running this non-JSA pilot
for six months in North Notts, but we are beginning to see some
good results from that. Another piece of what we are doing in
Harringay for Turkish and Kurdish refugees who are on similar
benefits is that we do not have to market to these people any
more because their families, their friends, their brothers, tell
them that if they come and see us we will find them a job. That
is what they want from the service. As long as you employ people
that they can recognise, they can communicate with, local people
or people who meet the ethnic mix of the people you are trying
to serve, then it simply is providing what the majority of these
people want and that is work.
146. A couple of quick issues: one is IT and
the other is single personal advisers. Taking those in reverse
order. Single personal advisers, that is advisers dealing with
benefits and the labour market stuff. Yes or no? Should that be
split or carried on together? Secondly, in terms of IT, from each
of you, what are your three key lessons for Jobcentre Plus from
your IT experiences under ONE?
(Mr Lovell) Together; absolutely, definitely
100 per cent. Have I emphasised that one enough? IT: flexibility,
look at the contracting methodology with key partners because
much of that is outsourced, and the structure for achieving what
needs to be achieved for these pilots is not in place. Review
it and make sure it fits. If you cannot do that, be prepared to
cannibalise systems to work and be flexible.
(Mr Granger) Technology: manage the technology providers
with the same approach that was given to us in Leeds and you might
get more technology delivered. Put systems which are web-enabled
on top of the legacy systems. We know these things can be delivered
in six to 12 months. It has been very frustrating seeing them
being late. Put systems in which have a business case for a couple
of years which can be thrown away. Combined advisers: absolutely.
We have lots of experience from the States that this is the only
way to help people. The person is not split in two, they do not
have benefits and labour market problems, they are a person.
147. It is not too much for one adviser to have
all that information in their head.
(Mr Granger) No; absolutely not.
(Mr Melvin) Yes, I would say on the adviser side,
keep them together and then have within your teams specialists
so everyone is a generalist but each individual is a specialist
in a particular benefit. Then with something slightly arcane a
team member can go to the person sat next to them or to the left
or right. That is how we have worked it. On IT, the important
thing is to look at what service you are trying to deliver and
then spec an IT system to support it, rather than try to spec
a service around the IT system you have.
148. A series of questions about contract issues.
Do you think that in meeting the ONE objective the concentration
on job placement targets as a key performance measure is correct?
(Mr Melvin) Yes.
(Mr Granger) It is correct but it should not be the
(Mr Lovell) Yes.
149. Getting benefits paid to people accurately
and on time seems to be a very sensible performance measure. Do
you all agree with that?
(Mr Melvin) Yes.
(Mr Granger) Yes.
(Mr Lovell) Yes.
150. To what extent do you think that output
measures are the correct approach to assess and remunerate performance,
or should there be other ways to do this?
(Mr Granger) My opinion is that it should be centred
around the outcome, not the output, the outcome for the person.
That will lead to a much more harmonious relationship between
programme spend, administrative cost, satisfaction for members
of the public and staff satisfaction.
151. Would you disagree with that?
(Mr Melvin) No, I would look at exchequer benefit,
service to the individual and value for the public purse.
(Mr Lovell) I would agree.
152. Do you each know how your performance compares
to each other and to the other pilots? If the answer is yes, could
you tell us?
(Mr Melvin) I do not off the top of my head, but I
have access to the information and I would certainly be happy
to give it to you.
(Mr Granger) We have some information made available
to us. I question the statistical validity of the information
and I question the statistical validity of the evaluation process,
much of which has not been made available to us.
153. Could you expand on that very briefly?
(Mr Granger) To compare North Nottinghamshire, with
high unemployment, with Suffolk, with mobility problems and small
offices, with Leeds with mobility problems for some of the population
and lots of employment opportunities for others, I have not seen
a set of statistics around job placement performance for example,
around staff performance and around cost which have actually been
normalised correctly. Nor have I seen any statistics which deal
with the fact that the pilots all started off from a different
position. Some started long before the PVS pilots. Some have had
a lot more technology and estates investment. Some have a lot
more experienced civil servants working in them. I have not seen
a set of statistics that I am comfortable with.
(Mr Lovell) We addressed this two years ago and got
a similar response to the one Andrew mentioned, that is that it
was "commercial in confidence". I would say after that
it drip fed in terms of information. I would agree that it is
probably not statistically robust. I am all for transparency on
it. I should like to know whether we are at the top of the pile,
middle of the pile. The reason that is important is so that we
can gauge and benchmark what we need to do in our locality, not
so I can say we are worse or better than Deloitte or Reed. It
is not necessarily well understood sometimes, that that level
of transparency is beneficial to all of us. Too much of this is
"commercial in confidence" and blah, blah. We do have
access to statistics which I do not know off the top of my head
but half the time it is "Are we meant to know, or are we
not meant to know about relative performance?". I could answer
yes, and then say, but I do not actually know.
(Mr Melvin) I believe it should be in the public domain.
154. One of the things we were slightly surprised
about was that the ONE pilots were supposed to run for two years
and then be evaluated and then Jobcentre Plus was to be rolled
out. Somehow the evaluation has not been completed. That is to
your disadvantage as it is to ours. If you are willing to try,
subject to Richard's important qualifications about whether you
are comparing like with like, and willing to share that and put
it all into the public domain, I think that would be Brownie points
to you but also very, very valuable for us.
(Mr Granger) Our data is all
available. We have been collecting the data and supplying it from
day one. There is nothing to hide there.
155. But there is a future in this.
I expected to find you almost scarred by this process and you
all look quite alive really.
(Mr Granger) Do you mean this Committee or do you
mean the ONE pilot?
156. If Jobcentre Plus is the future,
you all seem quite sanguine about this, subject to more resources.
There is an issue about that. Government does not have unlimited
resources. If you threw money at this anybody could get it right.
What we are expecting you guys to do is bring something new to
the table. Evaluation is supposed to tell us what that is and
what difference it makes if any. You cannot expect unlimited resources
either. Do I take it from you that you would not necessarily expect
(Mr Melvin) Absolutely not.
(Mr Lovell) No.
157. But that if you got some more stable
longer term contracts and you got some of the contract issues
sorted out, you would still all be up for this.
(Mr Granger) Yes; absolutely.
(Mr Lovell) Yes and free up more of the existing resources.
158. What is the question we need to
address to the Minister when we see him in a few weeks' time on
(Mr Lovell) There is an obvious one. How do you engage
the knowledge we have back into Jobcentre Plus because it is lacking.
We have offered it and it would be a travesty not to take the
learning that has been evident across all the pilots. There are
different things to be taken from each going forward into Jobcentre
Plus. We would love to be involved. You still have three highly
motivated organisations to add value to this.
(Mr Granger) I would like to offer the successful
implementation experience from ONE scaled up on a national level.
I think that is today's challenge and that was a very positive
experience for everybody regardless of their provenance and that
needs to be leveraged.
159. Do you think the Department has
not got this clocked?
(Mr Granger) I would not say that.
160. How diplomatic.
(Mr Melvin) My question would be: how can we as a
country engage the best of the public, the private and the voluntary
sector to improve the service of benefit payment and sustainable
jobs to those who currently are not working?
Chairman: Thank you, that has been fascinating
and very helpful to us. I know you have put a lot of effort into
this and we appreciate that very much. It has been a very, very
helpful part of the work we are doing in this inquiry. Thank you
very much for your attendance and for the work you have been doing
in the pilots. Thank you.