Public Accounts Committee

Written evidence from Department for Work and Pensions

Q266 Guto Bebb: My concern is very simple. The figures show a significant disparity between the performance of the best and poorest providers, yet nobody is actually hitting their minimum performance targets. Now, is there any mechanism in the contract to allow you to invoke that competitive element, even though nobody has actually hit the target?

Robert Devereux: Okay, I understand the question. I think I don’t know, but I will go and check whether the competition inside the market can still apply even if they are not at minimum performance. I am not currently aware whether, if they are not above minimum performance, the term does not apply, because that would be slightly odd-

RESPONSE

Market Share Shift is designed to reward better performing providers by giving them a higher share of new referrals. It is conditional on the better performing Provider meeting all MPLs, passing the Merlin Standard and having a good or better PAT assessment. We are currently reviewing how Market Share Shift is applied to ensure we provide the best value for money for the tax payer.

Q269 Meg Hillier: I have a couple of questions. First, on the employment support group, have you done or will you be doing any analysis of which bits of that group are doing better? For instance, my constituency has a high incidence of people with mental health problems that are on incapacity benefit. I have talked about the challenges they have getting into work, and we know that that is quite a difficult group to get into regular employment. Will you be disaggregating the outcome in your ongoing evaluation?

Robert Devereux: Again, I would have to check. That is not a particular data marker that would be part of the contract, because we do not ask that within the ESA. It would not surprise me if the research contracts we have got going, which uncover the sort of things that the Chair has talked about, indeed dig into that, but I will have to check.

RESPONSE

The Work Programme evaluation includes quantitative and qualitative research which will explore the experiences and outcomes of participants with health conditions and disabilities, including those with mental health conditions. Initial findings will be available from summer 2013. A final report will follow in 2014.

Q270 Meg Hillier: Okay. If there is any information that you can give us on that, that is quite important, because the hardest-to-reach groups will be the most challenging.

Robert Devereux: You’re asking about whether there are mental health issues within each group.

Q271 Meg Hillier: Well, actually, yes. Sorry, I should have declared an interest at the very beginning. My husband is a non-executive director of a Work programme provider. Say G4S-there is no connection-was doing a particularly good job in its percentage on people with mental health problems, would you be learning lessons from that? You talked about learning lessons, but would you break it down to that level where there was particular expertise?

Robert Devereux: The answer would be, insofar as the research contracts that we have going are capable of looking at that level of detail, that yes, we would. I do not know what they are, so can I find out and let you know?

RESPONSE

The evaluation will explore variations in the performance of providers operating in the same contract package areas to try to identify the factors influencing their performance, including differences in their relative success with particular sub-groups. However, this is exploratory analysis and robust results, especially for very specific customer groups, are not guaranteed. If successful, this research will report in 2014.

Robert Devereux
Permanent Secretary

7 January 2013

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Prepared 19th February 2013