Select Committee on Works and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Annex B

Letter to Carolyn Pratley at Deloitte Consulting from Clare Dodgson, Chief Operating Officer, Employment Service

  Dear Carolyn,

  Thank you for your letter to Leigh Lewis dated 18 December 2000 in which you provided him with details of the barriers to innovation that you have encountered in the Leeds and Suffolk ONE pilot areas. Your letter has been passed to me by Leigh for reply as this now falls within my responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer for the Employment Service. As you may be aware Leigh is now the Chief Executive Designate for the new Working Age Agency.

  I know that following your meeting with Leigh and your letter there have been continuing discussions both locally and nationally on the issues involved in taking these contracts forward, including the perceived barriers to innovation. While this practical action was in train and given the absence of a decision on the future operation of output related funding (ORIF) for ONE which would allow innovation to move forward, it did not seem appropriate to provide you with a formal response to your letter.

  You will know that in February Ministers came to a conclusion on the future operation of ORIF for ONE, which Mike Day communicated to Richard Granger at the time. Discussions are still continuing on how ORIF arrangements will operate in respect of the Deloitte contracts in Leeds and Suffolk to secure the sort of innovations we all want to see. However now that we are clearer how the arrangements for bringing forward and paying for innovation will work, I thought that it was right for me to give you a written response to the points you have raised.

Fixed Meeting Times

  You questioned the necessity to follow the length of client meeting times set out in the ONE contract. The contract gives estimated timings for the average length of advisory meetings within the Basic Model variant. This was intended to provide PVS Partners with a guide to the length of time work-focussed meetings may take, not to act as a constraint on your operation.

  Ministers sought involvement from the private and voluntary sector in the ONE pilots because they wanted to see how you might introduce innovation into the pilots. This certainly could include altering the structure and timing of meetings. If you feel that an improved service could be offered to ONE clients in Leeds and Suffolk by varying the length of individual meetings you should approach the respective Contract Manager with details of your proposal for this innovation. I believe that Richard Granger has already raised this issue with the Contract Manager in Suffolk and received a positive response. The next step will be to present more detailed proposals to the Suffolk Pilot Management Group.

  You also raise the issue of contingencies to deal with short-term unexpected increases in the number of clients requiring access to the ONE service. As you point out the ONE contract sets out a number of steps which you should undertake to deal with short-term increases in the number of clients. As I am sure you will appreciate, unexpected increases in client flows will have an impact on all the partners within the pilot area and it is important to work jointly with them through the Pilot Management Group to explore ways of effectively handling the increased volumes. In drawing up your contingency plan you already have worked jointly with ES, BA and the LAs to ensure that a strategy is in place to maintain a high level of customer service at times of increased demand for the ONE service. Clearly it is important that effective contingency arrangements are in place given the pressures that the present foot and mouth emergency is putting and will continue to put on operations.

Approvals Process for Innovation

  The ONE PVS contracts were drawn up to meet the very tight deadlines for the implementation of the ONE service on 29 November 1999. I agree that there have been isolated incidents where delays have occurred with both Partners and the Agencies/LAs when approvals have been sought by Partners for changes to the ONE service—you give the example of the Opportunity Centre in Leeds. This is an area where we do need to see some changes.

  In response to your concerns I have asked colleagues within the ONE Expert Domains to explore ways in which we can streamline the approvals system to provide a more flexible approach and remove unnecessary barriers to future innovation. You have already had sight of the draft ORIF and Innovation Guidance and had an opportunity to comment on it. I understand a workshop has been arranged for this Friday to drive forward how the introduction of innovation will be streamlined in each of your pilots. Inevitably, in agreeing to innovations wider issues (eg any legislative constraints, health and safety etc) will need to be considered. However, we are proposing that the authority to decide whether or not to seek wider sign off within the Agencies/LAs is vested in the PSG Chair/Contract Signatory to help streamline the process. I will be keeping these arrangements under review to ensure they work satisfactorily from the perspective of all parties.

  I hope that the clarification of the future arrangements for ORIF, the various discussions now underway and my response to the points raised in your letter will together provide a basis for agreeing the operation of your ONE contracts in ways that will allow innovative aspects to be developed, agreed and implemented. I know we all share the aim of working together to provide a high quality and innovative service to clients going through ONE in Leeds and Suffolk.

  I have copied this letter to Richard Granger.

Clare Dodgson

5 April 2001

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