The Work Programme - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Annex: Recommendations from the Comptroller and Auditor General's report[26]

In developing the Work Programme and future contracted out welfare-to-work schemes the Department should:

1.  Ensure sufficient time to develop a robust performance framework

·  The Department should avoid rolling out future programmes before it has had time to develop contracts and the performance framework.

·  It should assume that, like the Flexible New Deal and the Work Programme, future programmes may have slow starts and uncertain volumes and factor this into decisions about timing, roll-out and design.

·  The Department should identify ways to assess contractors' additional impact on participants' employment outcomes using control groups.

2.  Improve the setting and monitoring of minimum service standards

·  The Department should review any findings from post-Work Programme evaluation and views on how the Work Programme has affected the prospects for people who complete two years on the programme without finding a job.

·  The Department should review whether payment groups require different minimum service standards, for example, where particular barriers to work exist.

·  Even where minimum standards are common across payment groups, the Department should monitor minimum service standards by payment group, rather than just overall, to ensure that contractors are not 'parking' people.

·  The Department should gather other standard measures of services (beyond minimum service levels) in order to identify good practice or potential 'parking'.

3.  Eliminate spending on invalid sustainment payments

·  The Department is negotiating with contractors over a new approach to sustainment payments and will need to show it has eliminated invalid payments to contractors.

·  It should set out: how much contractors have returned from past payments; the new arrangements for sustainment payments; and the costs the Department has incurred to agree new contracts, for example by increasing payment levels.

·  In future programmes the Department should review contracts to identify whether similar problems might arise.

4.  Improve performance management measures

·  Contractors should not receive incentive payments based on flawed measures of performance. The Department recognises that minimum performance levels have not worked well in managing contracts and has developed a new cohort-based measure of performance.

·  Future programmes should use cohort-based measures for determining whether an incentive payment is merited, introduce relative as well as absolute thresholds, or remove these payments altogether.

·  The Department should extend its use of the HM Revenue & Customs' real-time information to help prime contractors to identify people that are no longer in employment to support them back into work.

5.  Develop a clear approach to making any future termination decisions

·  After it has agreed termination costs, the Department should evaluate the impact of terminating a contract.

·  It should set out clear principles for making future termination decisions using break clauses in the current contracts.

·  In future contracts it should include relative as well as better absolute measures of performance in setting the conditions under which it could terminate contracts at no cost.

26   C&AG's report, paragraph 30 Back

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Prepared 6 November 2014