Select Committee on Work and Pensions First Report


The Work and Pensions Committee has agreed to the following Report:



Jobcentre Plus, the new agency bringing together the Employment Service and Benefits Agency services for people of working age, will be officially launched on 1 April 2002. Behind the creation of Jobcentre Plus lie a series of twelve pilots - the ONE pilots - which, since April 1999, have been testing the new Jobcentre Plus approach: combining a one-stop shop for benefits and employment advice, a personal adviser service to help people back into work, and work-focused interviews for all new benefit claimants of working age. The ONE service aimed to create an entirely new culture which put work first, and provided a modern, integrated service for all.

This report examines how the ONE pilots, covering around nine per cent of benefit claimants of working age in Britain, have fared in practice. The goals were ambitious, and the Committee pays tribute to the staff and managers of the ONE pilots who have worked, often under considerable pressure, to apply the ONE vision. In practice, it has proved hard to translate the goals into operational reality. There is an 'implementation gap' between policy makers' aspirations and delivery on the ground. Despite the 'work first' agenda of ONE, the employment effects so far have been disappointing, particularly among clients who are not immediately job-ready; whilst the aspiration to provide an integrated service through a single point of contact has proved difficult to fulfill.

Much has been learned through the ONE pilots, but we believe that more remains to be done. There is a danger that, within Jobcentre Plus, the sheer scale of internal organisational change will dominate the management agenda. Yet Jobcentre Plus will not succeed unless, at its core, lies the creation of a new culture where all benefit claimants of working age have the support and encouragement to move towards independence and work. This will require new ways of working for staff; a greater emphasis on flexibility, innovation, and ongoing learning; and a greater involvement of partnerships at local and area level with local authorities, employers, voluntary and private organisations - all of whom have a role to play in the welfare to work agenda. It is important that the lessons from ONE are fully absorbed, if Jobcentre Plus is to succeed.


1. At the heart of the Government's welfare reforms is a focus on work as the best way to lift families out of poverty, to raise incomes and to combat social exclusion. "For too long," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, "the welfare system had let down lone parents, disabled people, and older workers who had been made redundant. At best, the system failed to encourage and support people to move into work, and at worst it provided clear disincentives to work."[1] The welfare system is being reconfigured to support the new 'work first' agenda. From this April, a new organisation, Jobcentre Plus, will be launched, bringing together the Employment Service (traditionally concerned with finding unemployed people jobs) and the Benefits Agency (traditionally focused on providing benefits for other people out of work). According to a recent Government paper, "Jobcentre Plus will enshrine the principle that everyone has an obligation to help themselves, through work wherever possible. In return, the Government has an equal responsibility to provide everyone with the help they need to get back to work, when they need it, as well as making sure that there is greater security for those who cannot work."[2]

2. Behind the launch of Jobcentre Plus lie a series of twelve pilots known as ONE, which, since June 1999, have been providing information on how to create a single work focused service for all those out of work and claiming benefit. According to Budget 2000, "ONE aims to forge an entirely new culture, which puts work first and provides a modern, integrated and flexible service for all." It goes on to say that "ONE represents a fundamental shift in the way that the Government supports people - away from a culture that asks simply 'what can we pay you?' to one that says 'how can we help you become more independent?"[3] As the pilots commenced, their scope, organisation, and direction were the subject of a joint inquiry from our predecessor Committees, the Social Security Select Committee and the Employment Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Education and Employment. The Committees welcomed the ONE initiative as a big step towards a more integrated, efficient and customer-focused service.[4] The pilots, which are the subject of extensive evaluation, would, said the Government, "give us the information we need before deciding whether to introduce the single gateway throughout the country."[5] In fact, the decision to merge the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency was announced in June 2001, at a time when the pilots still had almost another year to run and evaluation of their performance was still far from complete. The newly formed Work and Pensions Committee took the decision that the lessons of the ONE pilots should not go unremarked and that it was important that the success or otherwise of the ONE pilots was scrutinised in order to analyse the effectiveness of the plans for Jobcentre Plus. The Committee's inquiry was announced in July 2001.

3. In conducting its inquiry into the ONE pilots and the lessons for Jobcentre Plus, the Committee received over 20 written submissions and took oral evidence from organisations representing the various client groups concerned, union and local government representatives, the private sector companies involved in delivery of ONE, researchers funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to evaluate the pilots, the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus and the Minister of State for Work. During the course of the inquiry, the Committee visited the Buckinghamshire and Leeds ONE pilots, and the Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder Office in Huddersfield. The Committee also went on a three day study visit to the Netherlands to examine the Dutch experience in developing active labour market policies. We are grateful to all those who contributed to our inquiry, and in particular to our specialist adviser, Professor Dan Finn of the University of Portsmouth. We also give a special thanks to everyone who helped in the organisation of our visits.

The One Pilots

4. The ONE pilots have four key objectives:

5. The ONE process was new in three main respects. For the first time, all new claimants of working age - not just jobseekers, but also lone parents, sick and disabled people, carers and widows - were offered a "work-focused interview " at the start of their claim. Until April 2000, work-focused interviews were voluntary for people other than those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (the 'voluntary phase' of ONE). But from April 2000, work-focused interviews became compulsory for all new working age claimants in the ONE pilots, both as an initial condition of claiming benefit and then at certain specific 'trigger points' during the course of the claim[7] (the 'compulsory phase' of ONE). Secondly, all new claimants, including jobseekers, were assigned a 'Personal Adviser,' who carried out the work-focused interview at the start of the claim and who could offer individualised help on a longer term basis in identifying the steps needed to return to the labour market, as well as dealing with benefit entitlements. Thirdly, the ONE pilots offered the promise of a single point of contact for access to services previously offered separately through the Employment Service, the Benefits Agency, the Child Support Agency, and the local authority Housing Benefit service, thus providing a more integrated service; hence the name ONE.

6. Three separate ONE models were established in 1999, each consisting of four ONE areas. The twelve pilot areas together represent nine per cent of benefit claimants of working age in Britain.[8] The split between JSA and non-JSA clients in each pilot is roughly two-thirds to one third.[9] The 'Basic Model' started in June 1999 in South East Essex, Warwickshire, Clyde Coast and Renfrew, and Lea Roding (North East London). Under the Basic Model, a new claimant goes through a two stage process. He or she attends a 'start-up meeting' when basic information is taken, advice given on any immediate job vacancies if appropriate, relevant claim forms issued, and the client advised if any additional information and evidence is needed to support their claim. The start-up adviser then arranges a work-focused interview with a Personal Adviser. In November 1999 a 'Call Centre model' started in Buckinghamshire, Calderdale and Kirklees, South East Gwent and Somerset. Under this model, the 'start-up' interview is done by telephone. The call centre pilots use scripted client handling systems and take benefit claims (Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance) over the telephone using an electronic claim form.[10] Also in November 1999, a 'Private and Voluntary Sector (PVS) model' commenced in Leeds, Suffolk, North Cheshire and North Nottinghamshire. Here, private and voluntary organisations are the lead delivery partners, and are charged with developing new and innovative ways of delivering ONE.[11] All twelve pilots were originally intended to run until April 2002, but have now been extended for a further year, to run in parallel to (and eventually be merged with) the roll-out of Jobcentre Plus.[12]

Jobcentre Plus

7. The "vision" for Jobcentre Plus is very similar to that for the ONE pilots. The objectives are to provide:

    Key differences include a greater emphasis on working with employers, and a decision that, unlike ONE, local authorities will not be directly involved as partners in the delivery of the new service. More generally, we are concerned that the objectives for Jobcentre Plus are less outcome focused and more process oriented compared to ONE - making the project less measurable in its achievements.

    8. Since October 2001, Jobcentre Plus 'Pathfinder' offices have been set up across England, Scotland and Wales in seventeen areas (over 50 offices in all).[14] These offices bring together Employment Service and Benefits Agency services under one roof, and are intended to "lead the way" in demonstrating the new service, culture and organisation which Jobcentre Plus will offer. Pathfinder offices operate in modern, refurbished offices offering a welcoming and friendly environment, designed to convey in itself the values of the new service. The offices operate along similar lines to the ONE Call Centre model, in that claimants will give initial information by telephone to a call centre, before having a work-focused interview with a Personal Adviser. Although Jobcentre Plus, as an Agency, will officially come into existence in April 2002 when the Benefits Agency and Employment Service disappear, the Department advised us that it would only be in 2003 that they would have "more concrete plans about how and at what rate we will extend Jobcentre Plus across the country."[15] The 2000 Comprehensive Spending Review did build in some provision for the roll-out of Jobcentre Plus in 2002-2003, but the pace of roll-out nationally will be decided in the next Comprehensive Spending Review. The Minister told us "it is our intention to roll out the Jobcentre Plus model at the same high standard currently seen in the pilots right across the country. I would like to be able to say to the Committee that I can tell you how many years that is going to take much money is going to be applied to it, but those discussions are currently the subject of the spending round bid with the Treasury."[16]

    9. The Minister described the new Pathfinder offices as "providing the service as a flagship in the way that we want." The offices were chosen on the basis that:

    • staff processing claims could be located close to the staff giving work-focused interviews;
    • there was sufficient space to cope with more customers;
    • it was possible to install electronic 'Jobpoints' by the Pathfinder launch date in October 2001;
    • the offices were in clusters linked to a single Benefits Agency district or office within a district, and they had boundaries which matched local authority boundaries; and
    • the offices had a high level of performance and good working relationships with stakeholders.[17]

    The evaluation of ONE

    10. An extensive programme of evaluation of the ONE pilots has been put in place to measure the effectiveness of ONE. There are four elements in the evaluation:

    The results of the evaluation are still far from complete. The policy and delivery evaluations published to date deal with the ten month voluntary phase of ONE (up to April 2000), and the first nine months or so of the compulsory phase. The final results of the evaluation, and the findings of the cost-benefit analysis will not be available until the second half of 2002. The results of the research so far are discussed in more detail below.

    11. We commend the Department for the quantity and quality of research which it has commissioned to monitor the effects of the ONE pilots. We recommend that the same elements of research are continued in order to monitor the impact of Jobcentre Plus, particularly the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus in improving labour market participation.

    The Changing Welfare State: Employment Opportunity for All, HM Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions, November 2001. Back

    2   Ibid Back

    3   Budget 2000, HM Treasury, paras 4.9 and 4.10, HC 346. Back

    4   The One Service Pilots, Seventh Report of the Social Security Committee and Sixth Report of the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, HC 412. Back

    5   Cm 4102, op. citBack

    6   HC 412, Ev. p.2. Back

    7   'Trigger' interviews relate to existing benefit claimants, and are intended to require a further work-focused interview at defined events: following a Personal Capability Assessment; when entitlement to Invalid Care Allowance expires but other benefits remain in payment; when the carer's premium paid with Income Support, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit ends; when part-time work starts or ends; when training or education arranged through ONE comes to an end; and annual triggers for lone parents except those on Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance.  Back

    8   The employment effects of ONE: Interim Findings from the full participation phase, DWP In-house Report 88, section 1.1. Back

    9   See further evidence from DWP on client inflows in each of the pilot areas, Ev 128. Back

    10   The Committee visited the Buckinghamshire ONE Call Centre pilot in January 2002. See Appendix 15 for a note of the visit. Back

    11   The Committee visited the Leeds ONE pilot in October 2001. See Appendix 14 for a note of the visit. Back

    12   See DWP memorandum, Ev 104, para 54. Back

    13   See DWP memorandum, Ev 100, para 17.  Back

    14   The Committee visited the Calderdale and Kirklees Pathfinder Office in Huddersfield in October 2001. See Appendix 14. Back

    15   DWP memorandum, Ev 104, Para 54.  Back

    16   Q. 392. Back

    17   Official Report, 29 October 2001, col 522W. Back

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