Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Northern Pinetree Trust

Northern Pinetree Trust is a small charity, working exclusively within the North East Region. The Trust provides free home based self-employment training and guidance to people with disabilities or long term illness. This short submission is written in the context of the Trust's belief that small specialist organisations have a valuable role to play in Government employment and training strategy.

Northern Pinetree Trust is a partner in the New Deal Personal Advisor pilot operating in South Tyneside and Gateshead under the co-ordination of The Shaw Trust. The Trust is also a partner in an ESF funded project developing home based ITC businesses whereby disabled people, carers and single parents tied to the home can provide on line business support for SMEs.

The submission is based upon the Trust's considerable experience in helping benefit dependent people to become independent through self-employment.

Andrew K Hodson

General Manager

The Single Work-focused Gateway

1. Acknowledging the Need for a Inclusive Support and Guidance Service

1.1 There are a wide range of factors that give rise to unemployment. Each individual has a combination of needs that may, under current circumstances, require support and guidance from several different agencies who do not necessarily work in consort and who may operate schemes, regulations and procedures which conflict.

1.2 This multi-agency approach, whilst allowing for very specialist and detailed consideration of each individual's case, creates barriers that seriously inhibit some individuals' ability to move from benefit to employment.

1.3 A Single Work-focused Gateway provides a potential solution to many of the problems posed by the existing multi-agency approach.

2. The Single Work-focused Gateway Partnership

2.1 If the Single Gateway approach is to succeed it needs to be accepted by, and accessible to, all of the many agencies that provide a range of services to people who are seeking employment and/or receiving benefit.

2.2 Clear lines of communication for both clients and support agencies must exist and there must be a strong emphasis upon individualised support.

2.3 The flexibility and variety represented by the support systems available from existing Government, Local Authority, Health Service, private and voluntary sector organisations must not be stifled by a sausage machine approach to dealing with clients. Those chosen to run the Single Work-Focused Gateways must adopt an approach that recognises the need to provide to each according to individual need.

2.4 The Benefits Agency, often seen by benefits recipients as intimidating and unresponsive, must be allowed to participate freely in reinforcing the Governments agenda of being supportive of those in need whilst being active in persuading all those who are capable of work to look for a job. Efforts must be made to provide an environment in which the balance between rigour in implementing regulations and sensible use of discretion shifts to allow local benefits staff to use their skill and intelligence to respond to individual need.

2.5 The Single Work-Focused Gateways must be aware of all opportunities that exist for people to move into employment. There are many routes such as tapered work placement and supported employment that can be expanded and employed in new and imaginative ways. There must be a recognition that self-employment provides an ideal route for many who are unable to access workplace premises or who have difficulty in coping with conventional patterns of work.

2.6 The role of the voluntary sector in providing expertise and alternative support programmes needs to be recognised and appropriately funded.

2.7 Much has recently been published about the links between poverty, unemployment and health. Effective links between initiatives such as Health Action Zone activities and the Gateways is essential in order to avoid duplication of effort and to provide a seamless service for clients.

3. Linking with other Complementary Schemes.

3.1 A recent call for ESF schemes in the North East that can complement New Deal is welcomed. The effort required to create and manage new and innovative schemes is such that co-operation between providers of complementary schemes is essential if smaller specialist providers are to play a part in New Deal. Partnerships between public and private funding initiatives must be encouraged if wasteful duplication is to be avoided.

3.2 Regional Development Plans should encourage co-operation through identification of opportunities where regional employment can be enhanced by a multi-agency approach.

4. Objectives

4.1 The obvious primary objective of the Single Work-Focused Gateway is in finding employment for all those capable of working. There must, however be recognition of the potential for providing all that pass through the Gateway with some enhancement of their personal circumstances.

4.2 The inclusion of agencies offering sheltered working and tapered support within the Gateway partnership, together with co-operation with Local Authority and Health Service support facilities would allow for an inclusive service that could greatly improve the medium or long term employment prospects for those who cannot pass directly through the Gateway into work or work based training.

5. Timescale

5.1 The two-year pilot precedent set by existing New Deal schemes is a sensible timescale over which to judge the effectiveness of the Gateways.

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Prepared 27 July 1999