Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. So it is done independently?
  (Ms Casey) Yes.

  61. Why did you not do the same with the rough sleepers count because part of the problem seems to be with the figures, that these organisations have cast doubt on them precisely because it is you doing the count?
  (Ms Casey) But we do not do the count. Therein lies the issue, that we do not do the count.

  62. Were you not out on the night of the count?
  (Ms Casey) I am regularly out on the streets either doing outreach and some of my team, including me, from time to time go out on counts, yes, but we do not do the count.

  63. The count is done by the Rough Sleepers Unit officials and agencies like Shelter and Crisis and so on, is it not?
  (Ms Casey) It is not actually. In many areas of the country it is done by local authorities in partnership with outreach organisations, sometimes soup runs, hostel workers. There are as many independent people involved. Sometimes a member of the Rough Sleepers Unit will be there, sometimes they will not be there. The critical people are the people who are responsible for submitting the figures to the DTLR and they are the local authorities or the charities, Homeless Link in London.

  64. My next question is about page 29 of the report, the fifth paragraph down entitled `Integration' which says "Rough sleepers willing to accept assistance can expect to have a key worker to put together a package of help tailored to their individual needs . . . ." Could you talk a little bit more about rough sleepers willing to accept assistance? What is a rough sleeper who is willing to accept assistance and what is one who is not?
  (Ms Casey) One of the interesting things that the National Audit Office report picked up on was the need for us to focus—I have forgotten where it is in the report—by "us", I mean the country, on helping some of the most vulnerable people come inside, people for whom actually all other initiatives were coming and going really. In other words, people particularly with drug, alcohol and mental health problems. There is a real necessity to ensure that for a very long term rough sleeper, someone who is desperately vulnerable with all sorts of problems, you do have a package of help available to that person that will mean, for example, they might move directly into their own permanent home, they might move into hospital for a bit, once they have done drug detox and rehabilitation they then may move into something like supported housing or into a hostel which is drug free. In areas where we are trying to make sure that very vulnerable people get help the package of care that you give that person is the critical difference, is it not just bricks and mortar, it is trying to work out the approach that will help that human being off the street and permanently.

  65. We are running out of time.
  (Ms Casey) I am sorry, I could talk for Britain on this.

  66. The question of where you count and where you do not count, for example in a city like London where do you not count?
  (Ms Casey) Every attempt is made to count everywhere humanly possible, frankly.

  67. You do not count in the whole of Greater London?
  (Ms Casey) Local authorities in different areas of London. For example, Waltham Forest did a count. Other areas do estimates. Mainly local authorities pick where they have a problem, they identify that.

  68. It is all done on the same night, on the night of your big count, is it not?
  (Ms Casey) Throughout the country people organise counts in different ways. The South West tried to bunch all their counts together.

  69. What concerns me is the problem is being made less visible rather than going away. What would you say to that?
  (Ms Casey) I am pleased to have the chance to say this because if you look at our August progress report you will see that over 3,000 rough sleepers have moved in during the course of the preceding year. So even though from 1998-2001 you see the 1,850 street count, then we came down to 1,600, then 1,100, then 700 during the lifetime of this report, what lies behind that, which is the information we have, is the total number of people that were being helped over the course of the year, and it was 3,000, so throughout the country an awful lot of work is going on out there by charities and local authorities as well as many others to actually help people move off the streets permanently.

  Mr Bacon: Thank you.

  Chairman: Thank you, Mr Bacon. David Rendel.

Mr Rendel

  70. Thank you, Chairman. I think we might give Ms Casey a little rest for a while. I will start with Ms McDonald but I may come back to Ms Casey later.
  (Ms Casey) I do not mind.

  71. Can I ask Ms McDonald first of all, it has always struck me, being one of the too rare MPs who have come from industry rather than through professional public service into this job, that one of the main differences between the Civil Service when you go into it and industry is that in industry you tend to go into a job when you graduate or whatever and move around between lots of different departments and maybe lots of different companies indeed certainly during the first 20 years or so of your career. To what extent is the Civil Service now trying to make the practice of moving people not just into different jobs within a department but frequently between whole departments to give them that breadth of experience?
  (Mavis McDonald) It is trying to do that. It has always been the practice to do some of that but there has been a greater focus on that as part of the Civil Service Reform Programme. It is also trying to build up people's experience through secondments or interchanges or shadow experiences. I think it is also implying to people that really the whole range of what you might do, so people have been encouraged to be part of the Millennium Volunteers' Programme, for example, is to get out there and broaden your range of experience. I think too that one of the big changes of culture has been almost that we have been encouraged to go out more to talk to people directly ourselves and to get more junior staff out on platforms where they have got to explain to people what they are doing.

  72. That is a lovely qualitative answer but what I would like to know is if you start off in one department, in DTLR or whatever, what are the chances that you will have experienced more than, say, three other departments, not just changing names of the departments but three other departments, during your career over the next 20 years?
  (Mavis McDonald) It very much now depends on what you want to do because internally most of the posts are advertised and you need to promote yourself to move into another department as well as working on your establishment. I think three departments most people would not have experienced.

  73. As many as three they would not have experienced?
  (Mavis McDonald) No.

  74. So a maximum of two departments would be the most people would have experienced?
  (Mavis McDonald) Some people would have experienced more. Some people would have moved in and out of, say, the Treasury or the Cabinet Office, but probably not more than two.

  75. That surprises me and I raise it in relation to this particular report because I would have thought it would be hugely easier to get joined up working going properly if you had people who had experience of a wide variety of departments. Is that not correct?
  (Mavis McDonald) The number of people who are working on policy in Whitehall is rather smaller than the whole raft of the Civil Service. A lot of people are working in agencies with particular task and service delivery. There is quite often interchange between those as well, but the more important ways of bringing people together are changing behaviour, what counts as being good practice in policy making in setting your own objectives, in helping ministers set cross-cutting objectives for spending reviews, for example. So actually failure to see that you are working in a silo is not acceptable any more. I think it is that change of culture across the whole of the Civil Service that is much more important than where you might be at any one point in time.

  76. Do you not think, for example, that it would help to have somebody who had, for example, once worked in Social Services but is now working in the Department for Education? They might be able to see ways in which child care would be better handled because they would have had experience of the other department.
  (Mavis McDonald) Certainly, and we do encourage that and advertising posts and opening up posts across the service has actually led to people being much more focused in terms of pursuing jobs that they particularly want to do because they know they bring the skills to bear. We have opened up a lot more but you asked me about the total and I gave you my best estimate on the total. I would expect increasingly as we move forward that in the senior Civil Service in particular we will be looking for people who have different kinds of experience in different types of areas.

  77. So if people want to get on in the Civil Service they had better learn that just two departments is not going to be enough in the future?
  (Mavis McDonald) That is very clearly behind the Civil Service Reform Programme's focus on broadening experience, the interchange policies and so on. We have got a significant number of people, something just less than about half of the senior Civil Service, who have got some kind of experience of the kind I was describing to you outside the Civil Service as well.[3]

  78. Can I move on to invest to save. How much money has so far been invested?
  (Mavis McDonald) About £400 million.

  79. How much money has so far been saved?
  (Mavis McDonald) Not all of the projects within the programme are set up to save money in the sense of cutting back on existing programmes, they are much more about cost-effective type approving and about how you get better outputs as well or better rationalisation.

3   Note by witness: My response was made on the basis of general experience. Statistics of this kind are not maintained. Back

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