100. The quality of the premises within which Jobcentre
Plus offices will operate is very important. The physical layout
will help determine people's perceptions of the new organisation.
ONE similarly tried to create a physical environment which was
qualitatively different from the old Benefits Agency or Employment
Office. Ms Angela Eagle, the Social Security Minister at the time
of introduction of ONE described it as the "wow factor."
She added: "[people] will be coming in to modern civilised
areas where there is security and privacy...It will give a very
powerful signal that this is a collaborative effort between them
and the agencies to find a better way forward."
101. In practice, the private sector partners in
particular were unhappy at the poor quality of premises they had
been required to occupy in delivering the PVS ONE model. According
to Reed, the ONE offices they occupied which were 'stand-alone'
and not co-located with a Jobcentre were generally of poor quality,
and poorly sited away from high street locations.
Similarly, Deloitte complained that, in the Suffolk pilot, ONE
had been accommodated in premises which were unsuitable, lacking
privacy and raising health and safety issues. As a result morale
had been affected and productivity reduced.
Deloitte were particularly critical of the fact that they were
expected to deliver a service to clients who were disabled, yet
seventy per cent of their offices were up stairs with no lift.
DIAL UK also drew the Committee's attention to access problems
for disabled people within ONE, mentioning the Leeds ONE office
(run by Deloitte) in particular.
102. The DWP has committed considerable funds to
ensuring that the Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder Offices which have
opened to date are fully refurbished and accessible to all.
The modernisation and refurbishment of offices to create a completely
new environment is a key part of the vision offered by Jobcentre
Plus, influencing the behaviour and attitudes of both clients
and for staff. At present, in addition to Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder
sites, the DWP has established 'work-focused interview' sites
in 40 locations. In these areas, a person of working age who claims
a benefit from the Benefits Agency is not treated as having made
the claim until they have undergone a work-focused interview.
This will usually involve a referral from the Benefits Agency
to the Jobcentre. These sites do not have the same integrated
management systems, IT support and brand identity as the flagship
Jobcentre Plus offices. As the service is rolled out across
the country, we believe it is it is important that all offices
offer a fully integrated service and have the same high standards
of appearance and access. We therefore seek confirmation from
the Department that the roll-out of Jobcentre Plus will take the
form of fully integrated, refurbished offices with the Pathfinder
offices as the model.
103. We recommend that the DWP undertake a full
scale estates review to ensure that Jobcentre Plus is delivered
from accessible offices which reflect the new ethos and culture
of the organisation.
104. The creation of Jobcentre Plus is an enormous
undertaking, involving the bringing together of two large organisations
- the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service - involving around
80,000 staff. It is a merger on a grand scale, where practical
matters such as resolving pay and grading issues, bringing together
different IT systems, and sorting out integrated premises and
boundaries at a local level could well take up the majority of
management time. The Minister has already indicated that the scale
of internal change was behind the decision not to include local
authorities as partners in Jobcentre Plus.
So far, the Jobcentre Plus offices created have been those with
the physical capacity to expand; where performance levels were
already high and working relationships with stakeholders good;
and where boundaries matched those for local authorities. Roll-out
of further Jobcentre Plus offices to the same high standards will
be an increasingly challenging task. The danger is that the organisation
becomes preoccupied with internal reorganisation, at the expense
of the wider vision.
105. Yet Jobcentre Plus will not succeed unless,
at its core, lies the creation of a completely new culture where
all benefit claimants of working age have the support and encouragement
to move towards independence and work. The creation of this new
culture will involve new ways of working for staff, a greater
emphasis on flexibility and innovation, and a greater involvement
in partnerships at local and area level with local authorities,
employers, voluntary and private organisations - all of whom have
an important role to play in enabling Jobcentre Plus to succeed.
It is crucial for the success of Jobcentre Plus, that the organisation
both learns from the experience of its own staff, and also faces
outwards in developing its links with the wider community.
106. The goals for ONE and now Jobcentre Plus are
ambitious. We pay tribute to the staff and managers of the ONE
pilots who have worked, often in difficult conditions, to put
the vision of ONE into practice. Much has been learned through
the ONE process. There is still a considerable way to go, and
the scale of the task in creating a new culture of work and independence
should not be underestimated. Our inquiry has uncovered a considerable
implementation gap between policy makers' aspirations and delivery
on the ground. This will take effort and considerable resources
to overcome. It is important that the lessons from the ONE pilots
are fully absorbed, if Jobcentre Plus is to succeed.
169 Q. 290. Back
Q. 250. Back
Q. 261. Back
DWP In-House report No 84, page 69. Back
DWP further note, Ev 129. Back
DWP Research No 156, sections 2.4, 3.4 and 4.4. Back
DWP further note, Ev 135, box 1. Back
DWP Research Report No 156, para 2.4. Back
See para 35 above. Back
See evidence of Mr Leigh Lewis, Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus,
QQ. 320-1. Back
Appendix 11. Back
Official Report, 8 November 2001, col 374W. Back
See PCS evidence Ev 28-29, and QQ. 75-85. Back
DWP supplementary memorandum, Ev 158. Back
Q. 77. Back
Q. 80. Back
Q. 307. Mr Leigh Lewis told the Committtee: "We have said
as an absolute, I have personally committed to the fact that we
will implement each and every recommendation of each and every
risk assessment." Back
See original ONE report HC 412, Q. 272. Back
Ev 41, para 21. Back
Ev 48. Back
Q. 110. Back
QQ. 45-6. Back
"The Jobcentre Plus offices have been designed by consultants
who are specialists in Disability Discrimination Act requirements.
Within the limitations of the current building stock being converted,
the standard is to achieve maximum accessibility for disabled
people" - written parliamentary answer by Maria Eagle, Minister
for Disabled People, Official Report, 20 July 2001, col 701-02W. Back
Q. 351. Back