Select Committee on Social Security Seventh Report


1.  We would recommend the government give serious thought to future delivery opportunities such as one stop shops (paragraph 3).

2.  We believe there are great potential benefits to both the community and the government to be obtained from such an approach (paragraph 4).

The nature of the pilots

3.  While not appropriate for everybody, we recommend that Ministers should consult with organisations such as the Prince's Trust to ensure that self-employment is offered as a real option for clients under ONE (paragraph 7).

4.  We commend the Government on the ONE initiative, which we welcome as a big step towards a more integrated, efficient and customer-focused service (paragraph 11).

The choice of pilot areas

5.  We understand the reasons why the present pilot areas were chosen, but the Government will need to bear in mind during the evaluation the fact that the pilot areas are not fully representative of the country as a whole (paragraph 16).

6.  We recommend that, even at this late stage, the Government should give consideration to adding a pilot area which covers a predominantly London Area or Northern City geographical type (paragraph 16).

Impact on core services

7.  We recommend that the Government should publish its strategy for developing relationships with employers and improving the range and quality of vacancies, particularly in the context of the new client groups being targeted by ONE (paragraph 18).


8.  We conclude that ONE interviews offer positive advantages to all those claiming benefits. We take the view that the requirement to attend an interview is not onerous in itself; but the element of compulsion may well be necessary to bring along those people who are demoralised, isolated, or lacking in confidence, in order to connect them to the help and encouragement which is available (paragraph 21).

9.  We welcome Government assurances that compulsion will not extend beyond a work-focused interview for people claiming benefits other than Jobseeker's Allowance (paragraph 22).

10.  We recommend that the invitation to attend a ONE interview should be positive in tone rather than threatening, and should make clear that, in the case of people claiming benefits other than Jobseeker's Allowance, the choice of whether to act on the advice and information given in the ONE interview is theirs (paragraph 22).

11.  We recommend that, in addition to repeat invitations to attend an interview, an attempt should be made by ONE staff to establish personal contact with a person facing loss of benefit, either by telephone or a home visit, before the claim is ended or benefit is reduced (paragraph 24).

Exemption and deferrals

12.  We recommend that during the period of the pilots there should be continuous monitoring of decisions on exemptions and deferrals both to inform on-going training of staff and to develop a model of best practice which can be used by all the pilot areas and which can form the basis for national guidelines on exemptions and deferrals in any national roll-out (paragraph 29).

13.  The quality of the ONE service should be judged, among other things, on the quality of the decisions taken on exemptions and deferrals, and on the follow-up action taken when a person fails to attend an interview. We recommend that research should be carried out on the quality and consistency of decisions in these areas, including an analysis of the impact of the decisions made on the clients affected (paragraph 30).

The provision of benefits advice

14.  In order to make the most use of the advice and information they are given, we recommend that clients should be given a written summary of the work-related and benefits advice offered during an interview (paragraph 33).


15.  We recommend that the Government should move as soon as possible to common terms and conditions of service for all ONE advisers. Ministers should also consider the implications of the different structure of rewards and incentives for staff in the voluntary and private sector organisations that may be engaged in the ONE Service under the second variant (paragraph 35).

16.  We agree with the "generic" role being given to ONE advisers, but we draw attention to the onus this puts on the Departments and Agencies to offer in-depth training and continuing support to advisers to meet the special needs of their clients (paragraph 36).

17.  We recommend that, during the life of the pilots, special effort should be made to encourage the recruitment of personal advisers with knowledge of disabilities. All advisers should receive adequate disability awareness training. We also recommend that the Government should monitor the impact of ONE on the work of Disability Employment Advisers to ensure that an adequate number of staff is in place (paragraph 37).

Partnership working and the role of local authorities

18.  We are disappointed that organisations dependent on public funds (including local authorities) have been excluded from tendering for the private and voluntary sector pilots (paragraph 42).

19.  We recommend that a local authority led pilot should be introduced, where local authorities are given the opportunity to bid for the pilot being located in their area (paragraph 42).

20.  We consider that the full participation of local authorities in the pilots is essential for their success. The ONE pilots are a central Government initiative, designed to test out new ways of delivering Government services with a view to national implementation. The Government should therefore ensure that the core costs of local authorities involved in the ONE pilots are fully met. Full participation by local authorities in the pilots should not be constrained by a lack of adequate resources, and the extra costs should not fall on local council tax payers in the pilot areas (paragraph 43).

The importance of IT improvements

21.  The Government is right to move cautiously in developing new (and expensive) IT systems. Nevertheless, if ONE is to work well on a national basis, a commitment to substantial investment in IT will be needed to make the vision of a more integrated service for the public a reality. We recommend that the Government should also give attention to future methods of client access, including the potential that media such as digital television offer for interactive, electronic access to a range of Government services, including the ONE Service (paragraph 45).

The scope of the start-up meeting

22.  If the start-up meeting is to be seen as anything more than a reception service, we are concerned that insufficient time may have been allocated for the interviews and that problems with daily scheduling may occur (paragraph 46).

The role of personal advisers

23.  We would welcome a wide remit for ONE personal advisers—the extent to which they are able to assess their clients' needs and offer a wide range of advice and support to help clients meet those needs will be central to the success of ONE. In our view, they will only be able to do so if their caseloads are not overloaded (paragraph 48).

24.  It will be important to ensure that the teams are composed in such a way that the full range of relevant expert knowledge, whether benefit or labour market related, is displayed (paragraph 49).

25.  We recommend that the Government should ensure that local user groups are actively involved in developing specialised training for personal advisers and, where appropriate, delivering that training (paragraph 50).

26.  We recommend that, in the light of these concerns, personal advisers from each team should receive specialist training on how to provide a sensitive and effective service for clients with mental health problems (paragraph 51).

27.  We welcome the development of a diagnostic tool for use in the New Deal Gateway and recommend that, once established, it should be made available for use by ONE advisers (paragraph 52).

28.  We welcome the fact that personal advisers will be able to provide ongoing support for clients moving into work, and we recommend that eventually this should go beyond the initial stages of settling into a job and focus on improving the job retention and job progression of clients who remain on in-work benefits (paragraph 53)

29.  It will be important to ensure that, while ONE remains a client-focused service, it does not become too client-led. We welcome the fact that clients will be able to ask for additional meetings with their personal advisers, but advisers must have the autonomy to balance the demands placed on their time and resources by all their clients (paragraph 54).

30.  We recommend that the pilots should be used to consider the possibility of developing a suite of Gateway-style options for non-JSA clients, based on the needs identified through the adviser meetings, for use in any national roll-out (paragraph 55).

Call Centres

31.  The Government has told us that a residual start-up service will be offered face-to-face for those clients who cannot or will not use the telephone, and we believe that it is important that this service be maintained. Clients who would benefit from a face-to-face start-up meeting must not be coerced or cajoled into using the telephone in the call centre pilots when, for whatever reason, they would prefer not to (paragraph 56).

32.  We welcome the intention to recruit start-up advisers who are fluent in languages other than English and we believe that these staff should be properly rewarded for this work and receive appropriate training on how to operate as intermediaries, if they are to work as interpreters as well as advisers (paragraph 57).

33.  We recommend that ONE should follow Benefits Agency best practice guidance in the use of interpreters (paragraph 57).

34.  It will be important for ONE staff to reflect the ethnic makeup of the communities with which they are working, and also that all staff should receive training to reflect the language and cultural needs of an ethnically diverse community (paragraph 58).

35.  We believe that the need for start-up interviews to be conducted by advisers from outside the client's area should be avoided wherever possible (paragraph 59).

The private and voluntary sector variant

36.  We are concerned that the number of bidders invited to submit bids in the pilot areas has diminished and that the choice of bids may therefore become limited. We do not believe that contracts should be awarded unless bidders can satisfactorily demonstrate that they can add value to the basic ONE model (paragraph 60).

37.  We welcome the opportunity to evaluate the contribution that the private and voluntary sector could make to ONE, but we believe that, in the absence of any initial expectations about the level of service they will be able to provide, or indeed the nature of that service, proper evaluation of the private and voluntary sector will be all the more important (paragraph 61).

38.  We believe that a proper evaluation of private and voluntary sector involvement in ONE should take into account the level of public sector resources invested in bringing the private sector up to speed on the delivery of services in which it has hitherto had only limited involvement (paragraph 61).

39.  We recommend that decisions on bids by private and voluntary sector organisations should be taken as close to the local level as is practical and consistent with financial accountability (paragraph 61).

40.  We recommend that, once the private and voluntary sector contracts have been awarded, the Government should publish full details of all the bids that were shortlisted (paragraph 62).

41.  Given the level of concern that has been expressed, we would urge the Government to proceed with caution on the issue of output-related funding. Any incentive scheme for private and voluntary sector providers must take into account the full range of clients and the full range of useful outcomes. We also recommend that the Government should evaluate the impact of output-related funding on the experiences of all sub-sectors of the client group (paragraph 63).

The evaluation process

42.  We recommend that the evaluation process should make every effort to assess the impact of ONE on the most deprived areas within the pilots (paragraph 67).

43.  If ONE is to be a valuable initiative for all of the targeted client groups, it will be important to develop criteria for measuring the progress an individual makes in getting in touch with the labour market which are more relevant than simple job placements (paragraph 68).

44.  We recommend that the Government should publish the clear measures which it intends to use in assessing the reduction in people's detachment from the labour market (paragraph 68).

45.  We recommend that as part of the evaluation process independent benefit checks should be carried out on a selection of ONE participants to identify the quality of the benefits information and advice which they have been given and to identify the effect of ONE on the take-up of benefits (paragraph 70).

46.  We recommend that the Government publish the measures by which it intends to evaluate the success of ONE advisers in assisting people who are not able to work towards greater independence (paragraph 71).

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