Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Institute of Welfare


  I understand that your Committee is due to take oral evidence from the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell, MP (Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities) in respect of the New Deal on 17 May 2000. My representations concerning this subject, on behalf of the Institute of Welfare, were previously addressed to Mr Archy Kirkwood MP (Chairman of the Employment and Social Security Select Committee) in a letter dated 20 June 1999. I have attached a copy for information though this was published as Appendix 27 (pages 196 and 197) of the Select Committee's Report on The One Service Pilots and Single Work-Focused Gateway Pilots on 20 July 1999.[1]

  Personal Advisers of the Employment Service are expected to undertake a whole range of new and evolving skills on behalf of clients under the New Deal programme. During the past year I, together with other colleagues and associates, have monitored developments with great interest. This has also involved me in speaking directly with members of Employment Service staff in Somerset (ie a pilot county for the Benefits Agency's ONE initiative which also places great emphasis on Personal Advisers).

  The above process has, understandably, produced critical observations relating to the role and performance of Personal Advisers. These have included a lack of face to face (ie mostly telephone) contact, indifferent interpersonal skills, the need for more training/competence, social issues not being identified, little or no ongoing support for clients at the workplace and an absence of "Joined-up-Government". Comments of this nature are also representative of those from our own client base who have had direct experience of the New Deal programme. Subsequent referrals from such clients to us, as occupational Welfare Officers, for support and advice once starting or resuming employment, verifies the premise that Welfare to Work should be complemented by Welfare at Work.

  It is my Professional Body's view that organisational achievement in the form of Investor in People awards should be supplemented by personal recognition of the efforts of staff engaged in delivering the New Deal and ONE. In particular, this relates to the important function of Personal Advisers operating within the Employment Service and Benefits Agency. This can be best achieved through Continuing Professional Development. The Institute of Welfare's Professional Accreditation programme is the only scheme currently available in the country to meet the Government's requirements for an accredited welfare work qualification in the care services.

  Personal Advisers should be encouraged, though not compelled, to attain professional status as offered by the Institute of Welfare, through a process of assessing the value of existing work based learning and/or applying appropriate academic rigour (ie at NVQ Levels 3 and 4). This would serve as a significant career development opportunity and provide a tangible reward for administering new and demanding duties. Moreover, it would add public credibility to the Employment Service by virtue of having their staff's extra and high profile responsibilities subjected to external scrutiny by an independent Professional Body, concerned for ethical and professional excellence in delivery of welfare and support services. Issues of competence and integrity can only be enhanced by such provision.

  In addition to the foregoing. Personal Advisers should be encouraged to exercise best practice in "Joined-up-Government" by referring vulnerable clients, when possible, to occupational welfare practitioners (ie who operate predominantly in the Public Sector and are exponents of interpersonal skills) who can ensure continuity of support. Long standing personal, social, health, debt issues etc can then be addressed by Welfare Officers who are multi-skilled in the areas of advocacy, mediation an counselling etc.

  The Institute of Welfare believes that official recognition of our accreditation scheme, and the unique role of our members, will help put into place the last, and vital, piece of the New Deal programme, namely: to ensure that clients remain in work rather than return to benefit dependency. I therefore ask your Committee, in consultation with the Minister, to recommend this positive course of action to Government. This submission has been copied to the Minister (who may also wish to discuss the ideas advanced with her Benefits Agency colleagues for their staff), your Clerk and all Committee members for prior consideration. Thank you in anticipation of a favourable outcome.

Institute of Welfare

April 2000

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