Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)|
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
260. Why do you think the housing benefit side
of the partnership did not work?
(Mr Kelleher) A lot does boil down to the incompatibility
of information technology systems. There are two major problems:
the main BA and ES ONE systems for handling and tracking benefit
did not cover the housing benefit system and made it extremely
difficult in the offices for people to report back to clients
as to what was the situation with their housing benefit. The whole
sense of an integrated service and a knowledgeable personal adviser
was very much undermined by the fact that the personal advisers
did not know what was happening on the housing benefit and council
tax benefit side. Allied to that, local authority information
systemsdocument management systemsare much more
sophisticated than BA and ES systems. We had this terrible incompatibility
of systems, where local authorities were simply too far ahead
in managing documentation and records. It was about IT, but it
was also aggravated by the fact that local authorities were brought
in late. Of course they were a core partner, because they were
told they were a core partner, and there was a certain amount
of resentment about this in the local authorities. Secondly, in
all areas it was not the case that senior officers in the local
authorities saw ONE as strategic. In some areas they did see it
as strategic and they understood it is not just about housing
and council tax benefit; they understood it is about local employment,
policy and social services, et cetera. And where they were able
to get behind it, interesting things happened. There is a sense
in which this was an opportunity that was lost. If I may be bold,
I would be concerned that this opportunity is being further lost
in the concept of Jobcentre Plus.
261. You have done a lot of work with the staff.
The impression we have is that the staff thought they were signing
up to one thing, which is that vision you talked about earlier
on, and in reality it turned out to be rather different. Is that
a problem with the objective, the vision in the first place, or
a problem with how it is being carried out?
(Mr Kelleher) I think it is a problem with the communication
of the vision. There were ambiguities in the vision and there
were tensions between the work focus and the ONE integrated service.
There was not sufficient clarity communicated by managementthrough
the training; by the targets; by the procedures that systematically
communicated what the priorities were and how the visions should
be expressed in practice. Staff often made the comment, "this
was not the job I signed up for". Staff often complained
of simply having too big a workload which was unmanageable. The
reason the workload was unmanageable was because their job was
unbounded. If their job was better defined and better bounded,
then it would be manageable with the available resources. The
expression of the vision in the actual work process was the key
262. It is not just a question of the process
pushing more into looking at benefits, which is what seems to
have happened, it is much more than that?
(Mr Kelleher) Much more than that.
263. It is not just a lack of training, it is
much more than that?
(Mr Stern) It is the reinforcement, the interaction
and the ambiguities of vision and the way it was communicated,
issues of training, issues of management messages on a regular
daily basis, expectations that people thought they signed up to,
so when those factors came together, that is when you had all
of these problems.
(Ms Youll) If I may just add, part of our brief in
this particular strand of delivery was to look not only at actual
people obtaining work through the system but also movement towards
employability. I think staff really took that on board and wanted
to make a difference at that point of moving people towards employment.
Going back to our earlier points about recognising rather different
cohorts of clients, even within those who are formally designated
job-ready there are distances from the labour market within that,
which people wanted to overcome. This was a client focussed, individualised,
personalised service and these are some of the tensions.
264. You did not get any brownie points for
moving people closer to work?
(Ms Youll) You might colloquially. What gets measured?
How do you measure distance travelled, and this became a point
that staff were extremely interested in and really wanted help
to think about. How do you measure distance?
265. Obviously there are huge variations, do
you discern any particular patterns, for example, in terms of
the relationship that can be built up and the effectiveness of
integration in the way the organisation has been able to respond
to challenges between, for example, cities, rural areas, towns,
discrete communities as opposed to parts of large communities?
(Mr Kelleher) The major difference that we observed
was not between types of areas and not between the different models
but was simply between individual areas and individual offices.
A lot depended on the calibre of the local managers and the decisions
that they made. As the pilot progressed more and more local managers
and area managers started to make decisions for themselves in
order to make the system work better, they waited and waited for
the centre to change things and then they did it anyway, some
told the centre, some ignored the centre. As they began to make
those changes, things began to become much better aligned and
much more effective.
(Mr Stern) On a related experience for New Deal for
Young People, we were always under pressure to say which model
worked, what type, and we endlessly concluded, having looked at
the evidence again and again, that you have to agree that several
models could work if they were thoroughly implemented in a consistent
and coherent fashion and were chosen to reflect the needs of the
particular area they were in. There is a whole series of nested
assumptions there. The only more generalised point I would add
to what John Kelleher was saying is to do with decentralisation.
It is, I think, one thing when people grab the initiative and
decide to do things themselves because they are tired waiting
for somebody else to give them the go ahead; and it is something
quite different, as did certainly happen in many parts of the
country, where they are sanctioned and encouraged to take the
initiative as part of a decentralisation process.
266. The ONE pilots are intended to provide
a work-focussed gateway to claiming benefit, but we have already
heard from evidence this afternoon that very often, particularly
in initial interviews, all the emphasis was on benefits and very
little on work. To what extent, do you think, that ONE has provided
a work focus both for JSA clients and non-JSA clients?
(Mr Kelleher) It is very important to distinguish
between the different meetings, between the initial meeting at
the start of the first personal adviser meeting and the second
personal adviser meeting. There is no doubt you cannot talk about
work until you get benefits matters out of the way. Very often
in complex claims that is all you can manage to do in the first
personal adviser meeting. It is at the second personal adviser
meeting that the real opportunities to deal with work come out,
and it could be argued that it is best to wait for the second
meeting because the real job seeker may never come back for the
second meeting because they have already found a job. It will
be the expectation that subsequent meetings in case loading would
reinforce the work part of it. However, we did not actually see
a great deal of evidence of third meetings and fourth meetings
and continuity between PAs and clients. So the work focus is something
which grows during the relationship. However, for JSA clients
in particular, of course they focus on work as an integral part
of JSA, so ONE is not that fantastically different. Sometimes
we were left with the question that between JSA and the New Deal
coming on-stream after six months, where was the space for ONE,
and I think in my answer what I am suggesting is that it is like
a ratchet effect, it becomes more and more work-focussed as time
267. Are we looking at the actual results of
research too early? What you are suggesting is that the work focus,
particularly for the clients who are going to be difficult, the
non-JSA clients, will take a great deal of time and a great deal
(Ms Youll) Yes. Work focus was always present; even
if it was squeezed a bit timewise, it was always present. Personal
advisers were meticulous about that. The quality of it though
took on a rather rote dimension,"We have to do this, we have
to do that". I think the opportunity kicks in, as John said,
at the 13-week interview for job seekers, and this is part of
the pattern, and I think it was an opportunity which in many of
our observations we thought was rather roundly missed because
of time pressures. It need not have been. I think there may be
several reasons why personal advisers did not feel quite able
to ask the questions, dig a little deeper, make a more systematic
assessment of what was going on. There was also an opportunity
lost with non-job seekers people in calling them back in, what
we would refer to as case loading. These are not the required
triggers and elements of the job seekers system; this is where
personal advisers can use their discretion to make arrangements
to see the client. I think there were opportunities that could
(Mr Stern) Can I directly answer your question as
to whether the research was too early? I think we may be confusing
hereand we have contributed to thatthe time cycle
for the client and the time cycle for the research. What we are
pointing out is that, depending at what point in the client career
you focus the research, you might get a very different impression
as to the emphasis of benefits focus or work focus. I think the
advantage of the very differentiated evaluation strategy which
is taking place in ONE is that it allows those different points
in time to be observed. So standing back from it, we would not
have the view that the work focus was not well represented, we
would take the view if you focus on particular points in time
you might see it as less representative than at other times.
268. John Kelleher mentioned the idea of breaking
clients into three groups, but at the same time you said that
the PAs were very poor at being able to put them into groups,
they tended to assess clients in a pretty informal way and you
gave one example. I do not know if you can give any more examples
of where you thought that assessment was wrong. If that is the
case, how are they going to be any better at determining which
of the three groups they should go into?
(Mr Kelleher) I think they can be helped and trained
to do that. They can be exposed a great deal more to external
partners where they can refer people for help, so if they had
more time to work with agencies dealing with substance abuse,
agencies dealing with illiteracy, for example, they would have
a much more sensitive understanding of what they might be confronting
and what the issues might be, and they might become better at
spotting it. Our observers were researchers, were social scientists.
We were able to spot a lot of these things, we are not doctors,
we are not educationalists, we have not been fantastically trained
to do it, but we have had some exposure to it. I do not think
it is an enormously difficult task. I think it is a combination
of what the process asks you to do as a personal adviser, how
you are trained to do it, and what sort of extramural experiences
and networks you have to support you in doing that.
269. You are saying you are not expecting personal
advisers to be the fount of all knowledge, but they have to know
who to refer someone on to. If it is an issue of disability, and
this came up earlier, many personal advisers just do not feel
comfortable about broaching work with someone who they perceive
as being ill or very disabled. You think that might be improved.
Do you think it might be the voluntary sector who would be providing
(Mr Kelleher) I think there is a very wide range of
expertise. There is the huge post-16 training and skills arena;
there are further education colleges; adult literacy, et cetera;
there are all sorts of different specialist agencies dealing with
all sorts of different disabilities and social disabilities, but
I think it is about knowing who to refer to. Many of the areas
put together very good compendiums of what are the available resources
and who you can talk to, but the frustration was that personal
advisers did not have time to work with them. It is about knowing
who to refer to and also about knowing what to look for. If somebody
has a very irregular employment pattern and keeps coming back
into the system, personal advisers need to know to look for the
obvious explanations, when there is not an obvious explanation
to see. So they need to look for mental illness, for illiteracy,
for various kinds of personality problems, they need to know that
is what they are looking for because what they find will determine
what they do in terms of referrals. What we are talking about
is not so much training, though training is important, we are
talking about protocols, how do you handle particular situations,
what is the routine you run through and what do you do contingent
(Mr Stern) There is a subtle distinction which sometimes
is difficult to make. If the problem is, why do in some cases
personal advisers inappropriately keep things to themselves and
not refer on, then it may be a question of, do they recognise,
it may be a question of do they have the resources available and
the time, or it may be a question of do they have adequate networks
and knowledge of the specialist resources, and it is sometimes
difficult to tell which one is going on, whether it is the desire
to keep things to oneself, whether it is just not knowing what
to do, or whether it is a range of alternative explanations which
come up in different cases or the same observed phenomena.
270. In the three groups that you identify you
suggest that only the second category, the clients moving to work
should be helped? If that is the case, are you not writing off
the third group, the most difficult to place, those not motivated
to work who have enormous barriers, who need the most help?
(Mr Kelleher) We are not suggesting they are write-offs.
What we are suggesting is there should be effective referral strategies,
move them in ways where their needs could be seriously examined,
probably by moving them very quickly into the New Deal, in an
appropriate New Deal.
271. Would that cover all of it?
(Mr Kelleher) It would not necessarily cover all of
them. In some cases we need to find new devices for dealing with
the bane of the third groups: short-term job placement. We observed
one interaction: somebody was sent to get a job, the personal
adviser observed the routine, you have been employed in this,
this and this place in the last six months but never paused to
say how come you have had six jobs in the last six months and
kept none of them, we will send you to another job. There are
categories that need intervention. If the new system becomes more
sensitised, can we begin to start generating innovative responses
to these problems. I think that the staff and management on the
ground already have the ideas and capacity to sort out a great
deal of these things but what they need is the space to perform
272. You said innovation. Do you have any ideas
of what those innovations might be for clients that we are talking
about who are unemployable. New Deal can only go so far.
(Ms Youll) In responding to that I have in mind the
New Deal for disabled people innovative schemes, which I think
demonstrate a number of ways in which innovation can take place
that would be quite appropriate to and sympathetic to the new
Jobcentre Plus objectives. What I think it means, and one of the
innovations that I think might be signalled, is to see a ONE type
service in Jobcentre Plus essentially to be woven into the wider
labour market system, wider community resources and to see itself
really as one element in a movement, for example, working more
closely with employers, family friendly policies, work-life balances.
These issues we know are being examined in other places.
273. Innovation might be to bring these elements
into some kind of conjunction, how would the Jobcentre Plus look
if it worked much more strategically with local authorities and
with other elements in the labour market, crucially involving
(Mr Kelleher) Yes, if the focus was not simply on
the individual and the individual's supposed employability or
unemployability and the focus was on the context and the system
by which they become employed. Because it is working with employers
and other agencies which has been proven in a tight labour market
to make a difference.
274. Is there a case for personal advisers being
more proactive and going out and getting involved with employers
and also getting involved with other agencies?
(Mr Kelleher) Absolutely, but they would need time
to do it, which is why the priorities have to be sorted.
(Mr Stern) There are alternatives. If the key point
that I understand we are trying to make is that innovation, which
is a much abused term, does not often involve blue-sky solutions
but tends to involve known things together in different ways,
then the issue that we are highlighting is, how do you ensure
that what ONE or Jobcentre Plus is trying to achieve is reinforced
with and consistent with drawing on a whole range of issues that
are work focussed, some of which can be addressed by the personal
advisers, some, which cannot. Some of the aspects of work in the
labour market context are beyond the remit of personal advisers
but would enhance the capacity of personal advisers if somebody
was doing it.
275. Just to go back to bring together the two
evidence sessions, is what you are saying that people have been
getting a better service from their own experience, but because
of the fairly clear targeting which was applied, and as Andrew
Dismore was saying, focuses on process, personal advisers have
been encouraged to offer that better service to people who it
is easier to place into jobs, so in a way it is serving people
who already had a good chance of getting back into the market?
(Mr Kelleher) I think that is one part of the explanation.
I think the nature and the quality of the process determines the
outcome. If we are trying to understand the impact or lack of
impact of ONE we must understand the quality of the interaction
that takes place between personal advisers and clients. There
were many obstacles to personal advisers effectively having positive
impacts on clients. Many of these things were practical resource
issues, IT systems, time limitations, available management, et
cetera. Much of it also, as we discussed, had to do what personal
advisers understood their job to be, how they understood the ONE
vision. Part of it had to do with how they understood what the
clients were and what they should be doing with the clients. All
three of those things needs to be sorted out. As I said, I think,
at the outset, most of the elements to make something like ONE
work, say in the context of Jobcentre Plus, would appear to already
exist, we have experienced them. What we have not experienced
is them coming together, far from it. It was the concentration
on the process that caused the problem. It was that we needed
more concentration on the design of the process and not to get
lost in the epiphenomenon of the process: did you see the person,
did they have their first person adviser meeting after three or
four days? That is not going to determine whether people get jobs
or not. There is the problem of falling back into all sorts of
bureaucratic default about saying that the system works, the queues
were not too long, we saw them in a certain time, we saw everyone
after 20 weeks, which is nice and good as far as it goes but it
is only quite tenuously associated with impact. It is the design
of the process to maximise impact which is the issue.
276. Can we focus on the ONE process? Were there
any particular recommendations you would make from your work coming
out of the study that was applied in ONE?
(Mr Kelleher) Yes. The information technology systems,
they were more of a hindrance than a help. It is very strange,
it seems to us, to organise a process based system, where the
information technology systems are not built in a dedicated fashion
for the job in hand. Normally one would expect that the process
and the information systems are developed in tandem. In fact what
we had was a number of very fairly ropy old systems patched together
in a fashion that was not effectively supporting the personal
advisers doing their work. IT systems were a major obstacle. The
second obstacle was the provision of training, adequate training
and just-in-time training. The third obstacle was the absence
of appropriate targets and appropriate priorities, all three of
those things could have improved the process greatly. However,
the fourth difficulty of the process was really an artifact of
the pilot. This was set up as a pilot, it was meant to run largely
unchanged for a couple of years so that it could be evaluated.
There was, of course, on the ground a crying need for continuous
process improvement and if there had been more continuous process
improvement at the discretion of local managers and if the learning
from that process improvement had been generalised across the
system we might well have seen much greater effects on them.
(Mr Stern) I raised the point earlier about pilots
and non-pilots and pathfinders, and I think the characteristic
of pilots is that they do try to minimise innovation in the course
of the process and know what it is that is happening. Whereas,
if you regard innovation as a learning process, as almost an action
research experiment, the idea that you can get it all right in
the beginning and have a clear cut hypothesis and clear specification
and a process designed which is noble at day one and then it is
a question of implementing it, is less credible, and one is more
open about saying there is inevitably when you are introducing
major innovations like this a process of learning and discovery
and working out where you need targets and what kind of targets
are appropriate and what level of management clarity is needed,
and what kind of training, and not to present people with the
expectation that we know it all and therefore if we do not deliver
it all we are failing, as opposed to, "This is a collaborative
learning thing and there will be a time when we will stabilise
it but maybe the point at which stabilisation occurs may not always
be the same as we have habitually tended to adopt in this kind
277. One of the things we have discussed is
the potentially confused expectations of people coming in expecting
a benefits experience and it turning into a jobs experience, and
that seems to have been reflected in Jobcentre Plus in the splitting
of the benefits interview and the work part of the interview.
Do you have any views on whether that is going to deal with the
issues you have highlighted in ONE?
(Ms Youll) One of our observations was that ONE was
never really adequately explained to clients, so there was no
real attempt to, in a sense, recruit the interest and participation
and collaboration of the clients, who are in a sense essentially
partners in the process. There was no kind of explanation of both
clients' rights and responsibilities and the expectations of the
system in terms of the requirement for a work-focussed interview.
Okay, there are always limitations about how much people can take
in at a first meeting, but we really did not see that attempt
to fully explain to people what was going on. Whether that is
something which will be taken on board in Jobcentre Plus I am
not in a position to say.
(Mr Kelleher) If I can give a particular anecdote,
what tended to happen was that the start-up adviser would say,
"ONE is about bla, bla, bla, but the personal adviser will
explain it fully at your meeting", and then the personal
adviser would say, "The start-up adviser has told you all
about what will happen." How you improve that situation is
about line management driving it out of the system through attention
to detail, through staff being properly trained and by it being
made a clear priority in the system. Then within some sort of
monitoring and continuous improvement process, I think this can
be ironed out. A lot of the difficulties we have come across in
the ONE pilot are susceptible in Jobcentre Plus to simple, good
management on an on-going continual process.
278. So you think that model could have been
made to work? You do not think they should necessarily split out
the benefits part?
(Mr Kelleher) Not at all. I do not think we have felt
at all there was a need to split out benefits from the job part.
What we did feel was extremely valuable was the use of benefits
experts, where some of the detail of the processing forms was
done by a second person while the person advising was dealing
with the more general issues of the work process. Where there
was a benefits expert on site dealing with the details of forms,
often coming at the end of the personal adviser meeting saying,
"Can I just check this or check that", it was enormously
productive and enormously successful, and we would certainly argue
that that should be generalised for the whole system.
(Mr Stern) I would like to correct one impression,
Chairman. We are not saying the problem was there was in a global
sense, inadequate management. What we are saying much more is
that management was uneven and that the reach of management and
the range of managers available to do some of these things was
less than you might have wanted, and there were very, very good
examples. The reason we feel confident it can be addressed is
that we saw good examples of where it was very well addressed.
It is important not to ignore the good practice which exists as
well as the evident lack of consistency you might take from across
279. Did you feel any one of the models in ONE
was more promising than the others? Or did you think they could
all be made to work?
(Mr Kelleher) We will never know whether the private
and voluntary sector could have innovated successfully because
they were bound hand and foot by the contractual arrangements,
which gave them very little space to do so. Secondly, on the face
of it, the call centre model still seems like a good idea but
the underlying IT systems would have to be radically improved
if we were to get the benefits from it.