Youth Unemployment and the Future Jobs Fund - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

7  Lessons learned from implementation

Early delays in the programme

82.  A number of witnesses told us that, because the programme was set up at great speed, providers did not have enough time to prepare before FJF work started. In his oral evidence, the Minister pointed out that the Future Jobs Fund had been established as an emergency measure.[102] Mark Fisher from DWP described the challenge to the Department in setting up the scheme so quickly:

The scheme was announced in May. We had to build an entirely new supply chain with a whole new set of partners we had never actually done business with, and we got the first jobs through the door in September/October.[...] It was delayed but it was quite an achievement in simply getting the whole scheme running and getting to an industrial scale in really quite a short time.[103]

83.  Sandwell Metropolitan Borough summarised their experience of the problems this caused:

The programme had little central guidance initially which delayed the development of the programme. Information relating to the programme was not received by those implementing the programme immediately, which delayed the number of referrals that could be matched to jobs.[104]

DWP accepted that fewer FJF jobs than expected—only 5,000—were created by the end of 2009.[105] It suggested that the reasons for these early delays were: "Over-ambition from bidders, delays in issuing grant letters (issued in early September), delays in these letters being returned, changes to guidance for Jobcentre Plus advisers, and severe weather in late 2009."[106] Julia Sweeney from DWP expanded on this:

Frankly, we underestimated how long the recruitment process took for a lot of participating organisations. Many used their mainstream recruitment systems, which took up to three months, particularly if there were Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks involved.[107]

84.   A number of other witnesses also pointed to the length of time it took to process CRB checks as a contributory factor to delays in the programme.[108] Mark Fisher confirmed that the Department would be applying the lessons from the FJF in future, in terms of how to make the CRB checking process as efficient and swift as possible whilst applying the full rigour only in areas where it is needed.[109]

Role of Jobcentre Plus

85.  A significant theme running through much of the written evidence was perceived inconsistencies in the service provided by Jobcentre Plus (JCP), particularly in the early stages of the programme. Some witnesses were concerned at the capacity of JCP offices to refer suitable candidates for FJF posts or provide appropriate information to candidates and employers. For example, Crisis UK suggested that there was "a lack of clarity and understanding for appropriate referrals from Jobcentre Plus".[110] The National Young Volunteers Service said that the service provided by Jobcentre Plus was inconsistent across the country and that its advisers should have received better communication about the FJF.[111] The National Children's Bureau suggested that JCP offices did not offer individuals sufficient support in terms of writing suitable CVs, preparing candidates for interview and providing timely and informative information to candidates about FJF vacancies.[112]

86.  Liverpool City Region stated that employers found the standard of written application forms to be lower than they would have expected, but that the calibre of individuals was high when they had an opportunity to meet them.[113] Again, this suggests that some young people might have received more effective support during the application process.

87.  However, some witnesses were more positive about the role of Jobcentre Plus. Wakefield Council described their relationship with Jobcentre Plus as an "excellent partnership" which:

[...] puts the young person as the focus at all times but also creates discussion concerning the nature of the vacancies to be created, the planning of recruitment, job matching by JCP staff, easing transition to work, regular contact 'behind the scenes' and where unavoidable the sensitive transition back to benefits.[114]

Tracy Fishwick also defended Jobcentre Plus, saying it had experienced an increase in customers at the time the FJF was introduced, and that it did not receive guidance straight away on the rules and eligibility criteria for jobs. FJF partnerships had had to define the process individually with Jobcentre Plus, hence the variation between JCP services in different regions.[115]

88.  The Department's evidence states that costs were incurred in addressing "early performance deficits", particularly within Jobcentre Plus. This activity included "introducing new initiatives to encourage more bids, performance improvement planning, putting on Jobsfairs and work to help Lead Bodies to streamline their recruitment processes". However, "once the Future Jobs Fund's policies had had time to bed in, Jobcentre Plus reported good progress".[116]

89.  We accept that the FJF programme was, by necessity, implemented at speed, and that some teething problems were inevitable. The recession meant that Jobcentre Plus offices were already under significant pressure at the time the scheme was rolled out. Nevertheless, many provided an admirable service in delivering the FJF programme and we congratulate those JCP staff on this achievement.

90.  We do however have some concerns. Some young people were not properly prepared for the application and interview process. Jobcentre Plus has a clear role to play in supporting candidates in the application process, including the preparation of CVs and developing interview skills, and in ensuring that employers receive accurate information about candidates. DWP must ensure that JCP has the necessary resources and support to provide this service.

91.  Jobcentre Plus will be required to play a significant role in implementing the Work Programme. The Department must ensure that managers and frontline staff are properly prepared for this and other new programmes so that support is delivered to a high and consistent standard across the network of JCP offices. We will return to this issue as part of our forthcoming inquiry into the contracting arrangements for the Work Programme.

102   Q 121 Back

103   Q 137 Back

104   Ev w59 Back

105   Ev 49 Back

106   Ev 49 Back

107   Q 116 Back

108   Acacia Destiny, Ev w17; Hampshire County Council, Ev w79; Community Skills Partnership, Ev w49, and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, Ev w59. Back

109   Q 141 Back

110   Ev w39 Back

111   Ev w128 Back

112   Ev w24 Back

113   Ev w151 Back

114   Ev w19 Back

115   Q 85 Back

116   Ev 49 Back

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Prepared 21 December 2010