Work and Pensions CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Nottingham City Council

Summary

This submission provides feedback on 3 specific issues being examined by the Committee including:

1.Jobcentre Plus’s (JCP) employment services including “Get Britain Working”, the Work Programme and the Flexible Support Fund:

Performance of the wage subsidy.

Work with Work Programme providers.

Use of the Flexible Support Fund.

2.The effectiveness of JCPs relationships with other key stakeholders, particularly local authorities.

Local partnership working including with the Local Authority and the Local Strategic Partnership.

Issues around signposting and communications with the Local Authority for new local welfare provision schemes.

3.JCPs effectiveness in matching jobseekers to suitable job vacancies including through the Universal Jobmatch and whether JCP is sufficiently focussed on sustained job outcomes as well as off-benefit flows and how this is, or should be, measured.

Universal Job Matching service.

1. Jobcentre Plus’s (JCP) employment services including “Get Britain Working”, the Work Programme and the Flexible Support Fund

1.1 There are a wide range of Get Britain Working Measures. This makes the landscape confusing with no clear path between different provision. More scope for local offices to apply flexibilities to meet local need would mean that they could be more effective. A recent example is the Wage Subsidy (where the Government offers a subsidy to employers to offset the costs of wages) which offers something similar but not as attractive to employers as the Nottingham Jobs Fund delivered by the council. The wage subsidy is not allowed to be used alongside other programmes (whereas other government incentives for employers such as the AGE grant through BIS). This means that the wage subsidy is underperforming locally and a stronger incentive is needed for employers to encourage them to offer more opportunities to those who are furthest away from the labour market.

1.2 While JCP have brokered relationships with Work Programme providers’, inroads in terms of working with the providers have been slow.

1.3 The use of the Flexible Support Fund has been positive, however the decision making process is slow and held centrally, once over a certain amount, which reduced the ability to respond to local need.

2. The effectiveness of JCPs relationships with other key stakeholders, particularly local authorities

2.1 JCP in Nottingham have an excellent track record in working with partner organisations to align activity designed to match jobseekers to vacancies and in identifying their barriers to employment. They play an active role in local partnerships and we have a strong working relationship with them as a local authority where we a work together to identify local priorities and to develop appropriate solutions.

2.2 Last year JCP led a local partner initiative, Project 365, which significantly increased the number of apprenticeships, work clubs and work experience places.

2.3 Locally, JCP have shown enthusiasm in working with Nottingham City Council’s Local Strategic Partnership, One Nottingham, and the Workers Educational Association on progressing the Digital by Default project which aims to provide citizens with I.T. skills to enable them to use on-line services. However, it has been noted that the project is experiencing a delay in the release of funding.

2.4 Emergency Hardship Support Scheme

The approach of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff to automatically signpost to the Nottingham City Council Emergency Hardship Support Scheme in the first instance has been unhelpful for citizens as they had to be referred back to the local Jobcentre Plus for the appropriate financial support. The DWP policy of not making a short term advance available until they have fully processed the claim means that claimants may experience financial hardship because of the processing time.

Citizens are being inaccurately signposted to our service by JCP, where they have had a change in circumstance (eg, moving from JSA to ESA) but need a short-term advance:

These citizens are not able to access our local scheme.

DWP will not pay a short term benefit advance until their claim has been fully processed.

This drove unnecessary demand for our services. In the first month of the EHS in Nottingham 27% of the 1,100 calls to our Emergency Hardship Scheme were people who should have gone direct to the local JCP for a short term advance.

JCP are also automatically signposting citizens, who have been sanctioned and are in need of emergency support, to local authorities:

Our local scheme does not help anyone who is being sanctioned.

DWP hardship payments should be made available to citizens in the first instance (although DWP will not make these payments until two weeks into a sanction), rather than first sending them to us.

3. JCPs effectiveness in matching jobseekers to suitable job vacancies including through the Universal Jobmatch and whether JCP is sufficiently focussed on sustained job outcomes as well as off-benefit flows and how this is, or should be, measured

3.1 Locally JCP appear to have coped well with the introduction of the Universal Job matching Service but largely due to their prioritisation of off-flow (jobseekers being signed off from a benefit), rather than ensuring sufficient resources are available to provide job sustainability.

3.2 Whilst job sustainability is a difficult outcome to measure, by capturing the “return to benefit” time (the speed of the revolving door), inter-district and longitudinal comparisons can be made which would then be useful to improve sustainability support processes.

24 May 2013

Prepared 27th January 2014