Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Joint Memorandum submitted by DfEE, DSS, ES and BA Officials (SG 6)


  The Prime Minister announced the introduction of the Single Work-focused Gateway at the Labour Party Conference in September 1998. Subsequently, a DSS/DfEE command document entitled A new contract for welfare: The Gateway to Work was published in October 1998. This set out the proposals in more detail.

  The Gateway to Work explained what was meant by a Single Work-focused Gateway: a bringing together of the Employment Service, Benefits Agency, local authorities and other welfare providers to give benefit claimants of working age a more seamless and coherent service. The document also outlined the Government's priority to forge an entirely new culture which puts work first. This means a fundamental shift in the way we support clients of working age: work for those who can, security for those who cannot.

  A series of pilots will test cut the Single Work-focused Gateway approach. Four of these will be operational from June 1999, with a further eight, testing two variants on the basic model, beginning in November 1999. In these pilot areas, all new claimants of working age who are out of work will be given a personal adviser, who will be able to provide information and support in a number of areas, including work, benefits, tax credits, housing and training. The aim will be for the personal adviser to help the claimant plan a route back to independance, whilst also ensuring that other welfare needs are identified and they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

  From April 2000, subject to the successful passage of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill, work-focused interviews with the personal adviser will become a condition of receiving benefit. The personal adviser may defer or waive an interview, where the requirement is inappropriate to the individual's circumstances. However, we believe that for most clients, participation in interviews is a modest and reasonable requirement. We also believe that most clients will welcome the opportunity to talk their situation through with an adviser.

  A cross-Departmental Ministerial group, chaired by Andrew Smith (Minister of Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities), leads work on the Single Work-focused Gateway. Implementation is being led by a project based in Sheffield. The total amount being invested in the pilots is £112 million. £79.5 million of this has been allocated from the Treasury's Invest to Save budget.

  This memorandum is intended to put the Single Work-focused Gateway into its context, to describe its aims and principles and how it is intended to work, and to provide information in some further areas in which the joint committees have already expressed an interest.


  The Green Paper New Ambitions for our country: A New Contract for Welfare, was published in March 1998. It identified key problems with the existing system and put the case for reform. In particular, it gave five elements to the Government's approach to help those not in work:

    —  Introducing a direct programme of help to key groups through the New Deal, rebuilding welfare around the work ethic backed up by Employment Zones. Young people, lone parents, the long-term unemployed and people who are disabled or have a long-term illness will be the beneficiaries.

    —  Developing an individualised, flexible service for those out of work with personal advisers providing tailor-made packages of help.

    —  Tackling the barriers to work faced by workless households, including low skills, fears about the time lag between benefits and wages, the perverse incentives which discourage people from moving from benefits to work and the lack of access to affordable childcare.

    —  Ensuring that work pays. The [then proposed] Working Families Tax Credit offers more generous support to working families; lower taxes for lower-paid workers will provide incentives; the [then proposed] national minimum wage will ensure fair pay; and a modernised National Insurance scheme will promote work and cut red tape.

    —  Changing the nature of the relationship between government and claimant. It is the responsibility of government to provide positive help, it is the responsibility of claimants to take it up.

  Since the publication of the Green Paper, the Government has made a start on moving towards this approach in a number of areas and will be building on this in the coming months:

    —  The New Deal for Young People, which became a national initiative in April 1998, and by the end of January 1999 had already helped over 55,000 18-24 year olds to find work.

    —  The New Deal for the Long-Term Unemployed which had helped about 7,000 people find work by the end of January this year.

    —  The New Deal for Lone Parents, which was implemented nationally from October 1998 and in which 32,000 lone parents have already participated.

    —  The New Deal for Disabled People, which is being piloted in 12 areas of the country.

    —  The New Deal for Partners of the Unemployed, the voluntary element of which was introduced in pathfinder areas earlier this year, and will become a national initiative later this month.

    —  As announced in the Chancellor's budget in March, there is also to be a New Deal for people over the age of 50, which will begin with pathfinders this autumn.

    —  The introduction of the National Minimum Wage from April this year.

    —  The introduction of the Working Families Tax Credit, the Childcare Tax Credit and the Disabled Person's Tax Credit.

    —  The new 10p starting rate of income tax.

    —  There will be a housing green paper forthcoming this autumn.

  Piloting the Single Work-focused Gateway will be a key element in shaping the future direction of welfare reform.


  The Single Gateway is intended to contribute to the achievement of the following success measures from the Welfare Reform Green Paper:

    —  A reduction in the proportion of working age people living in workless households; and an increase in the number of working age people in work;

    —  An increase in the proportion of lone parents, people with long term illnesses and disabled people of working age in touch with the labour market;

    —  An increase in the proportion of customers who regard the service as personalised and tailored to their individual needs;

    —  An increase in collaboration between the Employement Service and the Benefits Agency to promote jobs not benefit dependency.

  Within this context, the Single Work-focused Gateway aims to:

    —  help deliver the Government's principle "work for those who can—security for those who cannot";

    —  change the culture of the benefits system towards independence and work, where appropriate, rather than payments and dependence;

    —  increase the level of sustainable employment by helping more people into work;

    —  put more benefit recipients in touch with the labour market (through the intervention of their Personal Adviser);

    —  improve the assessment and delivery of benefits to ensure clients receive an individual service that is efficient and tailored to their needs.

  At a local level objectives for the Single Work-focused Gateway (SWFG) pilots will be to:

    —  increase access to the labour market for benefit recipients;

    —  improve the service to people of working age entering the benefit system;

    —  develop a culture based on supporting independence and work;

    —  maintain the security and integrity of the benefit system; and

    —  provide value for money for the taxpayer.

  These objectives encapsulate the principles which lie behind the Single Work-focused Gateway. These principles fall into two broad categories: those related to the labour market and those related to customer service.

  Aside from claimants of Jobseekers Allowance, benefit claimants are not currently obliged to undertake any work-related activity. Benefits put people into boxes according to the circumstances which are causing them to claim disability, lone parenthood, caring responsibilities, and only those who are "unemployed" are provided with encouragement or advice to find a way off benefits and back into the labour market. This can have the effect of marginalising people from the labour market and encouraging an attitude of dependency.

  The new approach of SWFG will change this by building on the success of Personal Advisers in the New Deal initiatives. These have shown that those attending interviews and making contact with the system respond positively and often find employment. By making a work focused interview a condition of benefit at the start of the claim, the Single Gateway aims to nip dependency in the bud. It will introduce an environment where the system works with all clients, without categorising them, to help them towards independence and work where possible—while recognising that work will not be an achievable goal for all. It will then periodically remind people of the help on offer by further interviews triggered by changes in circumstances.

  As part of this new approach, customers will receive a much improved service. Currently, clients may have to give the same information many times over to different people to establish their claims for benefit. By offering a single, integrated route into the benefit system, the Single Gateway aims to offer streamlined, efficient client service.


  The Single Work-focused Gateway is focused on people of working age who are not currently working or who are working fewer than 16 hours a week on average and who are seeking to claim any of the following benefits: Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Invalid Care Allowance and Widows and Bereavement benefits. The Single Gateway process will happen in two stages.


  When someone claims one of the benefits listed above they will be helped by a member of staff who will establish their personal details and decide which support is likely to be appropriate in their particular circumstances.

  At this initial stage the member of staff will:

    —  collect basic information, including verifiable personal details, reasons for claiming benefit and other details necessary for the processing of the benefit claim;

    —  where it is appropriate, explore whether there are any suitable job vacancies available, which the client could pursue immediately;

    —  allocate clients to a Personal Adviser and arrange the initial work-focused interview;

    —  organise any special needs necessary for the Personal Adviser interview, such as communication support, interpreter or home visit;

    —  establish which benefits the client is potentially entitled to; and

    —  issue the appropriate benefit claim forms and advise the client of what additional evidence/information they may need to provide to support their claim.


  The primary objective of the work-focused interviews will be to help as many people as possible to find work, take up training or undertake activity designed to help them move towards independence. The work-focused interviews will be carried out by a personal adviser.

  All clients entering the Single Work-focused Gateway will be allocated a Personal Adviser. An appointment will normally be arranged for an initial work-focused interview to take place within three working days. In some cases, an immediate work-focused interview with a Personal Adviser may be inappropriate or insensitive (for example in the case of someone in the early stages of recovery from a major operation or distressed due to recent bereavement). In these situations, the interview may be deferred until a later date.

  Personal Advisers will have a continuing relationship with their clients. They will continue to monitor the client's progress and offer support. This will include a series of interviews, triggered by changes in the claimant's circumstances in which the claimaint will be required to take part. However, claimants can have more regular interviews if they wish, and we anticipate that they will want to take up the help which is offered to them. In the case of those claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), this will supplement their normal contacts with the Employment Service. Clients will be able to contact their Personal Adviser about work related issues and any enquiries they may have about their benefits. They will be able to report any changes of circumstances affecting their ability to work or their benefits to their Personal Adviser who will co-ordinate action to ensure that changes and queries are dealt with promptly.

  In interviews with their clients, Personal Advisers will undertake an in-depth investigation and analysis of the individual's personal circumstances and explore ways of overcoming any barriers to work. Personal Advisers will also ensure that the client gets the support they need, including specialist help or advice, and help with any benefit.

  The exact content of Personal Adviser interviews will depend on the client's personal circumstances. The Personal Adviser will undertake all or any of the following, depending on the needs of the client:

    —  take the client's details and confirm their identity for access to benefit systems;

    —  discuss the client's circumstances and barriers to work and work with the client to plan how to overcome these barriers;

    —  explain the advantages of working, including providing a personalised calculation of potential in-work income;

    —  discuss appropriate job vacancies;

    —  arrange job or training interviews;

    —  arrange specific training or help for eg CV writing;

    —  give advice about in-work benefits and tax credits;

    —  provide informatin on support or specialist services that may be available and where appropriate arrange meetings or give details of how they can be contacted;

    —  provide information about benefits the client may be entitled to and advise client of their rights and responsibilities when claiming benefits;

    —  take beneft claims for SWFG benefits and ensure claims and supporting evidence are passed to the relevant organisation for procesing and decision making;

    —  identify the need for any other interventions and arrange them as necessary (eg New Deal, home visits required for benefit reasons etc);

    —  encourage completion of child maintenance application forms;

    —  agree the Jobseekers Agreement with JSA clients and explain the usual arrangements for fortnightly review and ongoing support from the Employment Service;

    —  help non-JSA clients develop a personalised action plan which will say what they will do to improve their employability or their independence;

    —  agree dates for next interview as appropriate; and

    —  review what has happened since the last interview and whether the action plan needs to be revised.

  The Personal Adviser interviews will be face to face. They should take place in a welcoming and unscreened environment, conducive to building the relationship between Personal Adviser and client. The Personal Adviser role requires particular skills and attributes in dealing with people sensitively. They will need to earn the trust of the client and to help them open up and share relevant information so that the Personal Adviser can provide the appropriate help or advice. Consideration will be given to meeting special needs, for example due to disability or domestic needs, to any security requirements or the need to protect claimant confidentiality, when determining where the interviews will take place.

  Single Work-focused Gateway clients who have queries relating to other benefits and services will be directed to the relevant specialist support. The Personal Adviser may undertake to find out information or progress the query on the client's behalf but this will depend on local arrangements. The key principle will be that clients are not passed from "pillar to post" when they make an enquiry or need help.

  Personal Advisers may also continue to provide early in-work advice and support to clients who get jobs. Many people (especially those who have never worked) find the initial transition from benefit to employment and independence difficult. The Personal Adviser will help them through this stage until the client is firmly established in employment.


  The New Deal initiatives operating in the pilots are the following: the New Deal for Young People, the New Deal for the Long Term Unemployed, the New Deal for Lone Parents and the New Deal for Partners of the Unemployed. The New Deal for Disabled People is being piloted in separate areas.

  Ministers want to provide the best and most integrated service possible to claimants in the SWFG pilot areas. This means that those eligible for New Deal help will have access to it at the same point in their claim as those in non-SWFG areas, but will of course already have benefited from the initial work-focused interview.

  Our aim is progressively to integrate the Single Gateway with subsequent New Deal provision, for example working towards continuity of Personal Adviser support where appropriate. Our initial attention must be concentrated on getting core delivery right, with good handover arrangements to the New Deals. We shall adapt a by step approach to integration, starting with New Deal for Lone Parents.


  From November 1999, we will be piloting two variants to the basic model, each in four areas of the country. These will test the use of call centre technology as a means of making initial contact with the system, and the involvement of the private and voluntary sector in leading the delivery of the SWFG.

  The variants will not test different models for the Single Work-focused Gateway. Instead they will test different ways of delivering this model. These different ways were selected with the SWFG aims of improving customer service and "joining up" provision in mind. This is within the context of the Modernising Government White paper, which stresses that provision of services to the public should reflect the way that people live their lives with different public services working toegether, not in isolation.


  The call centre will follow the Basic Model, but in preference to face to face or postal contact will test the impact of providing a wide range of services by telephone, including data gathering. The call centre pilots will make use of current technology, such as textphones, to support delivery and will operate a call back facility. Clients will be sent a copy of appropriate benefit claim forms pre-printed with the details that they have provided, together with advice about what to do next. The Personal Adviser interviews will then be carried out face-to-face, as in the basic model.

  This variant will build on existing and planned initiatives in local authorities, the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency which already make greater use of telephones to deliver an improved service.

  The call centre will operate as a virtual organisation rather than a centralised unit. This will involve one office in each of the four pilot areas being set up as a Call Centre site, but being linked through harmonised IT and telephony into a single Call Centre across the four sites, which will be seamless to the claimants by phone. This will allow the best use of existing staff and accommodation. The service will operate using a local call rate (not freefone) for incoming calls and will be available from 8.30am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday.

  The supply route for support and advice for the Call Centre will be ADAPT who will be required to provide a managed service. This will include joint management of the Call Centre and the provision of technical solutions. The procurement will not result in any outsourcing and there will be no transfer of staff. The ADAPT partner will not be involved in line managing Call Centre staff. The competition for the Call Centre service is taking place between February and June 1999.

  The Call Centre will be staffed with existing or newly recruited ES/BA/CSA/LA staff who will continue to belong to their "home" organisation. Postings will be either on detached duty, loan or secondment terms.

  The Call Centre will primarily be used to deliver the initial stage: Registration and Orientation (R&O) by telephone, which will include gathering information to support benefit claims and Child Support applications.

  In delivering R&O, the Call Centre will split the phone call in two (a short incoming call, followed by a full R&O in an arranged call back). This will enable the demand of incoming calls to be managed and will allow the lengthy interview to be conducted at our expense, not the claimant's.

  A residual R&O service will be offered face to face to all those claimants who cannot or will not use the phone. For claimants without phones, private phones will be available in SWFG outlets; for people with hearing difficulties a minicom service will be available in the Call Centre; and for those whose language is not English a translation service will be available in the Call Centre. The Call Centre will also have the ability to comply with the Welsh Language Act.

  At a later stage, it is envisaged that the Call Centre will offer further services. These may include:

    —  Reporting changes of circumstances; and/or

    —  Becoming a contact centre managing incoming post from claimants which will allow better use of staff resources within the peaks and troughs of call demands.


  Ministers wish to harness the enghusiasm, expertise and knowledge of the private and voluntary sector in leading the delivery of the SWFG in four of the 12 pilot areas. The specific objective of this variant is for the private and voluntary sector organisations to work in partnership with each other in developing innovative and flexible ways of delivering SWFG. The successful consortia will also need to work in close partnership with the public sector, ie the "client side" of ES, BA and the local authorities, to ensure seamless delivery. However, it is up to bidders to form their own partnerships and to decide how they want to involve the many different interests in the actual delivery of the Single Work-focused Gateway.

  Innovative proposals are being invited (as a minimum) for the delivery of the Registration and Orientation stage of SWFG and the initial work focused interview by personal advisers. Proposals are also being encouraged in the following main areas:

    —  additional help and support in areas such as childcare, specialist help for disadvantaged groups, enhancing New Deal for Lone Parents, coaching for job applications and interviews;

    —  work focused help for non-Jobseekers Allowance claimants who request it voluntarily after the initial interview, including and in addition to the compulsory repeat interviews from April 2000 (subject to legislation); and

    —  opportunities to add value to core Employment Service and Benefits Agency functions, for example handling front of office customer enquiries about benefits, in partnership with ES and BA, but without taking over the management or control of these core functions. Proposals in this area will be developed in consultation with the Agencies.

  Successful bidders must be able to meet the specific needs of all of the client group and are expected to provide a SWFG service to the same standard as the other pilots. In these pilot areas, it will be the successful private and voluntary sector bidders rather than the Employment Service, Benefits Agency and local authorities who will be in the lead developing partnerships which will bring a full range of specialist advice guidance and expertise to SWFG delivery. Strong encouragement is being given to shortlisted bidders to embody partnership principles in their approach to the operation of SWFG through:

    —  a statement of requirement that emphasises the need for partnership working at all levels to ensure a quality service for all clients;

    —  final bid assessment areas that clearly point to partnership as being a key element being sought when assessing bids;

    —  a negotiation stage, of the competition process that is centrally co-ordinated but conducted locally, and which encourages the development of partnerships in the local context.

  The purpose of the negotiations with bidders is to enable them to develop proposals that are innovative in design, take account of local issues and are acceptable in terms of being feasible for implementation by November 1999. We therefore anticipate that all the final proposals we receive will be broadly acceptable.

  It is proposed that the focus for final assessment should be on the following three areas:

    —  innovative ideas and the potential for added value within SWFG;

    —  breadth of partnerships including proposals for working inclusively with other private/voluntary organisations and the public sector; and

    —  value for money—ie the balance of quality, cost and risk and the potential to bring additional sources of funding to add value.

  The following key high level assessment areas have also been communicated to all shortlisted bidders:

    (a)  the extent to which the strategic policy underpinning SWFG is carried through into the proposals and their credibility;

    (b)  the extent to which proposals show an understanding of the client groups and local economy—meeting the needs of the entire client group and with the capacity for individual tailoring/claimant motivation;

    (c)  proposals/additional potential for innovation and added value;

    (d)  proposed approach for working with local private/voluntary and public sector partners at strategic, advisory and delivery level—including proposals for working with ES, BA and LA client side;

    (e)  proposed management and organisational arrangements/structure;

    (f)  how the quality of provision will be assured;

    (g)  proposed costs—including proposals for funding and payment mechanisms; response to any agreed incentives; plans to secure additional funding in order to support enhanced delivery;

    (h)  proposals to meet the defined critical success measures;

    (i)  evidence of performance in previous relevant contracts with the agencies, local authorities or other organisations (through access to management information, taking up references etc).

  Detailed criteria to underpin these areas will be developed and agreed with the SWFG Project Board over the next few months as the specification is refined.


  A clause in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill will enable us to require claimants of income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, widow's and bereavement benefits, incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and invalid care allowance to participate in Personal Adviser interviews as a condition of receiving benefit. Claimants will be required to take part in an interview at the point of claim and further interviews at certain trigger points during the claim, such as when the youngest child of a lone parent reaches school age. The exact trigger points will be specified in secondary legislation. Claimants will be considered to have taken part in an interview if they provide information in areas which affect their employability (for example, previous work history and current barriers to work). There will be no requirement on claimants (other than those claiming Jobseekers Allowance) to undertake any further action. They will not be required to seek work or to take any job.

  The legislation does not cover claimants of Jobseekers Allowance, who will be subject to the same requirements as they are now: in other words, being available for and actively seeking work.

  Subject to the successful passage of the Bill, we intend to introduce this requirement into all the pilot areas from April 2000.


Criteria for selection of pilot areas

  The selection of pilot areas was based on a set of criteria which included the following:

    —  sufficient numbers and range of clients (for example: jobseekers, lone parents) to allow meaningful evaluation;

    —  no "competing" pilots which would influence the local labour flows;

    —  a range of labour market types (for example: urban and rural, high and low unemployment);

    —  the ability to match pilot locations to control locations;

    —  whilst recognising that no local authority, Benefits Agency or Employment Service area would be completely without new commitments, selection sought to avoid conflicting pilots which could distort evaluation results and influence local labour flows; and

    —  areas were sought where there were already good joint working arrangements between local authorities, the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service.

  All pilot areas are based on Benefits Agency boundaries. The Benefits Agency, Employment Service, local authority, Child Support Agency and Inland Revenue areas involved are listed at Annex B.

  Ministers from both Departments have undertaken a programme of visits to the pilot areas. These visits have included meetings with staff and managers who will be responsible for delivering the policy, local authorities, trade unions and groups representing client's interests.

Single Work-focused Gateway delivery sites

  The Single Work-focused Gateway basic model will be delivered in a variety of premises belonging to the Employment Service, the Benefits Agency and Local Authorities. Not every available ES, BA or LA site will be used. The delivery sites were selected on the basis of a number of criteria and on the advice of local Benefits Agency, Employment Service and local authority managers. These included providing high quality environments by June and every centre (ie town) with an ES, BA or LA site having at least one SWFG delivery site. The sites were chosen on this basis so as to avoid inconvenience as far as possible. In other words, it was sought to make them accessible by public transport. For people who are unable to attend an office alternatives will be available, although home visits would be an exception rather than the norm.

  The choice of delivery sites for the private and voluntary sector pilots is a decision for bidders. We will not know for certain which sites are selected until the announcement of the successful bidders in September.

  All four call centre variant pilot areas have identified a preferred location for the call centre and work is ongoing with Estates Strand to finalise the selection. In each area the call centre will be in open plan accommodation with comfort heating and cooling with space set aside for rest areas for staff. Up to date telephony and new IT together with new furniture will provide R&O staff with the tools to test the Welfare Reform principle of "a way for people to make initial contact with the system . . . carrying out parts of the process with greater use of the telephone".

  In the call centre pilot areas local implementation teams have been provided with guidance to choose the most appropriate sites for Personal Advisers in their area. Further work to firm up initial views is ongoing to ensure the sites fully meet the selecton criteria for delivering PA activity.


Post Filling Guidance

  Guidance has been issued on how to fill Registration and Orientation and Personal Adviser posts for the basic model variants; this covers:

    —  detailed job specificatons and descriptions for both the Registration and Orientation and Personal Adviser posts outlining the relevant competencies required and draft job adverts;

    —  a set of guiding principles outlining how staff from different partners will work alongside each other covering issues such as Terms and Conditions of Employment (staff will remain on their current employers terms and conditions), arrangements for appraisal, eligibility for promotion exercises etc;

    —  joint selection procedures for selecting staff with the right skills and knowledge for the Single Gateway posts regardless of which partner currently employs them;

    —  the selection process itself and how this should be handled jointly at a local level;

    —  monitoring arrangements for the post filling exercise.

  The post filling process has now begun (the first adverts went out on 5 March), staff from the Employment Service, Benefits Agency, Child Support Agency and local authorities have been invited to apply. Sifting and interviewing are to take place during April with the aim of identifying successful candidates by end April/early May.

  The selection process will involve sifting and interviewing against an agreed competency framework and will be a joint process. Information has been given to all staff on how to provide evidence of their suitability against combined competence frameworks. Implementation teams have provided, where necessary, workshops on how to submit evidence of competence to help LA candidates who may not be used to this method of selection.

  Local authority candidates will be able to apply for Single Gateway posts, even wher LAs are not yet opening their own SWFG outlets. Successful candidates from local authorities will work under a secondment arrangement to cover both funding and management.


  Both Registration and Orientation (R&O) and Personal Adviser posts have been graded by both Agencies. Registration and Orientation posts have been graded at Executive Officer/B3 in BA and at Management Pay Band 7 in ES (which is one of the ES Management Pay bands that falls within the overall Executive Officer grade). Personal Adviser posts have been graded at Executive Officer/B3 in BA and at MPB6 in ES (which is also ES Management pay band that falls within the overall Executive Officer grade).


  People from differnent Agencies who fill SWFG adviser posts will be paid at different rates for doing the same job because they will remain on their own "home agency" terms and conditions during the pilots. We will be reviewing this situation during the course of the pilots.

  Agency pay scales already differ for staff doing comparable jobs, and they also differ within Agencies for staff doing the same job, depending on the length of time and performance. Civil Service agencies and Local Authorities have devolved responsibility for pay and grading and issues on pay comparability between agencies, or between agencies and LAs, should be seen in the context of those arrangements, rather than SWFG.

Recruitment for the Call Centre Variant

  Intitial planning has begun on how to approach post filling in the call centre variant and guidance for managers is being drafted (due to be issued mid April). The vacancy filling process will be similar to that used for the basic model. There will be joint agency/LA sifting and interviewing, with posts advertised across the partner agencies/LAs in the Call Centre variant Districts.

Recruitment for the Private/Voluntary Sector variant

  Until such time as bids are received from the private and voluntary sectors for delivery of SWFG services, it is not possible to determine exactly implications for staff. However, a commitment has been made that staff wil not have to transfer out of their organisation if they do not wish to, and if they choose to be seconded to another organisation, this will not harm their opportunities for returning to their original one.

Consultation with unions

  There has been extensive consultation with Trade Unions throughout the development of these arrangements and this will continue.


  The success of the Single Work-focused Gateway will ride on the expertise of the people who are running it. Advisers will be supporting a diverse client group, with diverse needs. This calls for a wide variety of skills, which in turn requires thorough training. The Personal Advisers involved in the Gateway will be thoroughly trained in the relevant competencies, knowledge and skills. The Employment Service, the Benefits Agency and the Child Support Agency are working together to produce a programme of learning for personal advisers. Through the pilot schemes, we will be testing and refining it, to make sure that it works in practice. We are also consulting outside organisations (such as Gingerbread, Scope and Carer's National Association) and other Departments (such as the Department of Health) to get their expert input into the training process.

  Advisers will bring a good deal of existing expertise to their roles. Those who come from the Employment Service will be well versed in identifying vacancies and matching claimants to them. Those from the Benefits Agency will be more used to dealing sensitively with disabled people, lone parents and widows. Those from local authorities will know more about issues related to housing. In addition we hope that a number of SWFG Personal Advisers will be recruited from existing New Deals and so will already have expertise in providing support to clients.

  It will therefore be important for advisers to identify the strengths they already have and to work on areas about which they know less. To help them to do this, Personal Advisers and their line managers will work through the SWFG Learning Assessment Framework which will assist them to identify the appropriate learning to achieve the level of competence required to become a SWFG personal adviser. This learning will be arranged by managers and delivered locally.

  All Personal Advisers will attend a SWFG specific training event. This event will last between 4 and 5 days, and will cover, amongst other things, working in partnership, the SWFG processes and the role of the adviser within the processes, the purpose and content of the work-focused interview, what the SWFG will mean for claimants, benefits, caseloading and contacts and an overview of the technology to be used. SWFG specific training commences in late April 1999.

  Every Personal Adviser will be invited to attend an event to give them information and advice to deal effectively with the special needs of some SWFG clients including, eg: bereavement, caring for sick relatives and children, drug and alcohol problems, disability issues, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS issues etc.

  In addition to these core events SWFG Personal Advisers will undertake additional training in those areas necessary to ensure that they have the appropriate balance of skills (for example some ES staff will need additional training in BA administered benefits, some BA and local authority staff in interviewing and submitting clients for jobs).

  Within the Single Gateway, advisers will also have the scope to draw on the help of specialists, such as Disability Employment Advisers in the Employment Service. Personal Advisers will continue to undertake training once they are in post to build on the skills they have. In addition, advisers will be working towards NVQ Level 3 in "Guidance", gathering evidence of competence from work-related activities.


  There are two main aims of the evaluation of Single Work-focused Gateway:

    1.  To test the feasibility of delivering Single Work-focused Gateway in the different variations (the Basic model and its two variants, the Call-centre and Private/Voluntary sector models); and

    2.  To test the effectiveness of the different models in improving both the quality and quantity of the labour market participation of people of working age.

  In line with the objectives of SWFG, the main questions that the evaluation will seek to answer are:

    A  To what extent does Single Work-focused Gateway put more benefit recipients in touch with the labour market through the intervention of their personal adviser?

    B  To what extent does Single Work-focused Gateway lead to an increase in the sustainable level of employment by getting more benefit recipients into work?

    C  To what extent does Single Work-focused Gateway ensure that more claimants experience an effective, efficient service that is tailored to their personal needs?

    D  To what extent does Single Work-focused Gateway change the culture of the benefits system and the general public towards independence and work rather than payments and financial dependence?

    E  How cost effective are the different Single Work-focused Gateway models?

  As the introduction of SWFG involves radical changes to information gathering and review processes associated with benefit delivery, an additional objective of the evaluation will be to consider the impact of SWFG on the security and intergrity of the benefit system and the extent to which this is maintained.


  Of the three possible approaches to evaluating the Single Work-focused Gateway pilots, the most appropriate is to use comparison areas. This involves comparing the outcomes of participants in the pilot areas with those for similar people from other, comparable areas.

  In addition, the evaluation will seek to compare results from the non-compulsory and compulsory phases of Single Work-focused Gateway (for the basic model in particular), to attempt to identify the independent effect of introducing compulsion to the pilots.


  It will be possible to use existing data sources: first, to help monitor SWFG; secondly, to look at its links with other aspects of the Welfare Reform programme; and thirdly, to answer some of the evaluation questions.

  However, as the SWFG pilots are testing out a new approach, no existing sources will be able to monitor fully SWFG, or provide answers to all of the evaluation questions. Most of the questions will need to be answered by collecting new data as part of the SWFG evaluation.


  The evaluation will comprise four complementary elements: a delivery evaluation; a policy evaluation; cost-benefit analysis and a database.

  The delivery evaluation will have two components: social research and operational research. Social research will be conducted with SWFG claimants and staff to assess people's experience and views of the services and difficulties with delivering the service. Operational research will examine the cost and operational effectiveness of the different variants.

  The policy evaluation will test the impact of Single Work-focused Gateway in improving labour market participation of people of working age. It will comprise a programe of quantitative and qualitative research including a survey of SWFG claimants (in pilot areas) and non-claimants (in control areas); in-depth interviews with SWFG claimants, and research with employers.

  Cost-benefit analysis will draw upon data on labour markets, benefit receipt and other elements of the evaluation to measure effectiveness and efficiency of Single Work-focused Gateway.

  The SWFG evaluation database will support the formal evaluation of SWFG through the provision of specialist analysis and a flexible sampling frame for evaluation surveys; provide regular and ad hoc analyses to help monitor Single Work-focused Gateway and answer questions on it prior to the results of formal evaluation being made available; and provide a means to look at the joint impact of Single Work-focused Gateway and the various New Deal initiatives.


  Management information (MI) will provide timely and regular information on the progress of SWFG in a fixed format, covering a set reporting period. The database should be able to provide similar information, but in a more flexible way: it will complement MI information and be a cost-effective way of building up a rich source of data that can support other aspects of the evaluation.

  We will need to build up a sufficient amount of MI data to make a statistically reliable assessment of the impact of SWFG on movements on and off benefits, which is likely to take until early spring 2001.


  It is essential to wait for the operation of the pilots to stabilise before attempting to evaluate them. We need to wait for a minimum of three months (preferably more) before starting fieldwork in order to allow each pilot model to stabilise.

  Where new data is being collected for the evaluation, fieldwork will begin in November 1999, and will end in summer 2001. The busiest periods of fieldwork will be winter 1999-2000 (for the non-compulsory evaluation), and autumn 2000 (compulsory evaluation).

  Early, qualitative findings on the non-compulsory pilots should be available at the end of 1999, for the Basic model, and by summer 2000, for the two variants. Quantitative findings on the non-compulsory pilots (for the Basic model only) should start to emerge from autumn 2000.[1]

  The first, qualitative findings on the compulsory pilots should be available in winter 2000-01. Quantitative findings on the compulsory pilots should start to emerge from summer 2001. Final reports from all elements of the evaluation should be available by mid-2002, with summary information available by the end of 2001.

1 The dates listed are when findings will be available internally. The exact publication strategy is still to be decided but results will be made available as soon as possible. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 14 June 1999