Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 226)

MONDAY 17 MAY 1999


  220. Moving on to a general question, within the time constraints you have had for the basic pilots are there any examples of innovation, of particular ideas that you are pleased with that you are trying to develop, that you have had time to develop within those pilots? For Gareth, have you yet heard of anything at all that the private sector is thinking about that is going to be this innovative approach and they are now looking at experimenting into the future and evaluating what is going on, looking at good practice? David's comments clearly indicated how we could reach a broader range of people, which we are all concerned to do, are there any other examples that any of you have so far that are going to happen or that anybody has thought about that we should be looking to in the future?
  (Mr Shearing) At Chelmsford we are looking at having a call centre arrangement within the council itself anyway and greater IT communications with some of the remoter parts of the borough. It is something that we are doing independently of the Gateway.

Mr Keetch

  221. This should be particularly useful in rural areas.
  (Mr Shearing) It should indeed.
  (Mr Durkan) Shall I answer on the private sector? It is going to be a short one. Yes, we have seen some proposals from the private sector bidders but unfortunately they are in commercial confidence. I have signed the act that says I cannot divulge what they are.

  Judy Mallaber: I will have to go and quiz my Borough Treasurer.

Mr Keetch

  222. Nonetheless, would you have liked local authorities to be able to tender?
  (Mr Durkan) Yes.

  Mr Keetch: Lots of nodding of heads.

  Ms Atherton: Not everybody was nodding.

  223. Is Taunton nodding?
  (Mr Gary) I am nodding, but I am somewhat cognisant of the law which would probably prevent it.

  224. Given any changes that could have been made, you would have liked to have had the opportunity to?
  (Mr Gary) We have been right up front there.
  (Mr Lautman) Local authorities would have liked the option to have been given to them and clearly individual authorities would take their own view as to whether they would be interested directly.

Judy Mallaber

  225. Are there any specific comments that you have on the question of how the pilots should be evaluated, issues that you would like to give to us that we should be taking on board?
  (Mr Lautman) I think there is a very fundamental point which is that we would like to be involved in establishing what the evaluation criteria are. To date we have had no discussions on that. If I can take that peg to pick up an earlier point and say that although discussions were not as frequent and as good as they should have been to begin with, we have now established good and effective liaison arrangements with the DSS and the DfEE and we are satisfied with those in terms of airing the issues that are now of concern to authorities.

  226. Are there any issues you think we should highlight as important for evaluation in our report?
  (Mr Lautman) Clearly there are basic processing data that would need to be collated in terms of the speed in which claims are processed, but I think it is very important the Government also surveys and takes note of the views of authorities on the social services and welfare rights side, other voluntary groups in terms of their experience, what has been the impact on their clients coming through their doors so that they have a rounded picture of the pilots.
  (Mr Bott) In particular, I think it is quite important for the private and voluntary sector variants that when we get to the evaluation criteria, particularly where they will affect the output-based funding, we do not just look at straightforward job placements, that we look at the inputs for the less job ready as well so that we do not have the private sector just dashing for the clients where they can make money quickly.
  (Mr Mackenzie) The Gateway is supposed to be on much more than just the numbers of people placed in jobs or given information and given opportunities to enter paid employment. It is supposed to be about giving people information and supporting people in choices. For many people paid employment is not the course of work that they will want to do. Many people will want to continue being parents, many carers will want to continue being carers and many disabled people will want support to live an independent life with disability and not to be pushed out. Another thing is simply that not everybody is as empowered and strong as some people are. The benefits that are vetted by the Gateway include Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance and we have to be very careful to make sure that people are supported in the choice that they make where they are not required to find work rather than have the thing being assessed simply on the number of people who are moved closer towards the labour market.

  Mr Keetch: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance this afternoon. Your answers are very useful to us. Please do keep in touch with us and pass us any information you would wish us to have. Thank you.

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