31.Work Coaches are front-line DWP staff based in Jobcentres. Their main role is to support claimants into work by challenging, motivating, providing personalised advice and using knowledge of local labour markets. This involves conducting work-focused interviews and agreeing tailored “Claimant Commitments”. A job description is shown in Appendix 1. At February 2016, 11,000 whole-time equivalent Work Coaches supported nearly 745,000 out-of-work claimants across Great Britain. Each Work Coach is responsible for a caseload of around 100 unemployed claimants and conducts 10 to 20 claimant interviews per day.
32.In addition to supporting unemployed claimants, Work Coaches will be responsible for helping employed claimants in the pilot in-work service. In-work UC claimants will receive support from the same Work Coach throughout their claim. This will help to build a relationship with their Work Coach and provide continuity of support, an intention that was widely endorsed in evidence. Ross James said that the pilot would determine if Work Coaches need new skills in order to support in-work claimants, though his instinct was that “it is an extension of what we deliver already”. In contrast, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, Minister for Employment, described discussions with in-work claimants as “a more bespoke discussion” to understand the individual and their circumstances. The DWP’s training material states an in-work progression interview requires a more in-depth conversation than other claimant interviews. Providing a wide scale personalised in-work service would undeniably be resource intensive and will add to existing JCP workload.
33.Work Coaches will also be responsible for several additional measures, announced in the 2015 Spending Review:
34.A full JCP-led in-work service could apply to around one million people. Policy Exchange, a think tank, indicated that this would mean increasing footfall across the JCP estate by around 325,000 claimants a week, almost a quarter of the existing JCP footfall. Yet the DWP faces tight resource budget restrictions. It must reduce its day-to-day spending by 19% between 2015–16 and 2019–20, a reduction of 41% compared with 2010–11. In light of budgetary pressures, several witnesses were concerned that JCP would lack the capacity to add personalised in-work support to its existing services. CPAG was concerned that this would result in “a poor quality programme”, suggesting claimants already feel rushed in Jobcentres. Gingerbread, a charity that supports single parents, said the pilot will need to assess whether an in-work service is feasible when rolled out on a wider scale.
35.In response, the Minister told us that the DWP recruits Work Coaches “depending on the need locally within the community”. Ross James acknowledged that “to work with 1 million [in-work] claimants, we need to think very carefully about how we differentiate the service”. He said this might involve providing online support in lieu of face-to-face interviews. Policy Exchange favoured giving JCP flexibility in dealing with an increased number of claimants by, for example, trialling expanded use of group or digital support for those in need of relatively little intervention.
36.Work Coach training and recruitment will need to adapt to reflect the additional demands of the role. The DWP is aiming to train 3,000 Work Coaches to support pilot participants fully by summer 2016. These Work Coaches will receive “substantial” additional face-to-face training, including:
Working Families, a charity for working parents and carers, recommended the DWP use the pilot to “consider the training needs of the work coaches, given how important and sensitive their role is”. Barnardo’s called for “specific accreditation” for Work Coaches delivering the in-work service, given the particular requirements of in-work support.
37.Emma Stewart told us that effective in-work support would “change the competencies” of Work Coaches:
It is not simply a question that you can say to out-of-work workers, “Here is a list of jobs. Can you go and apply for them and I will help you with your CV?” It is a very different kind of intervention, so there is a capacity and a competency issue that we need to address there”.
These additional demands on Work Coaches were, she argued, in contrast to the general move in recent years from tailored JCP interventions towards broader coaching.
38.DWP training material outlines the perceived barriers that Work Coaches should consider, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Work Coach support must consider in-work claimants’ perceived barriers to progression
Claimants’ individual circumstance or perceived barrier
Tailored support that Work Coaches should provide
Qualified or motivated claimants who lack relevant experience
Identify their transferable skills and how they can sell these to prospective employers
Claimants who feel comfortable in their current employment
Manage their expectations and fully consider their current circumstances
Claimants who are currently in work but are unable to progress
Increase their confidence in their ability to explore different opportunities
Claimants who think they are low paid because they are low skilled
Support them to increase their skills and/or qualifications, which could include additional support with CVs and application forms
Claimants who have no direction at present
Focus them on the advantages of working and increasing their financial independence, using their own initiative to drive the requirements
39.Analysis by Policy Exchange demonstrates the variety of individual circumstances that will face Work Coaches. Of the one million people eligible for the scheme as currently conceived, a large majority of the group are not currently looking for additional employment. Substantial minorities have caring responsibilities, including many lone parents with school age children. Nearly half have low, or no, formal qualifications. Many are subject to significant structural barriers to employment. Structural barriers may relate to skills, qualifications and confidence; health conditions; access to transport; and caring responsibilities. The LWI noted that there are “very different barriers and motivators for different groups”.
40.People with ill health or a disability may have limited scope to increase their working hours. Similarly, the availability of adequate childcare can be a key determinant of the ability of parents to take on additional work. Emma Stewart advocated specialist Work Coaches to assist specific groups such as single parents or disabled claimants. Other witnesses suggested Work Coaches should help claimants find appropriate childcare and signpost claimants to suitable training opportunities.
41.Tony Wilson emphasised the potentially “revolutionary” role of Work Coaches in identifying local opportunities for people on low pay to increase their earnings. To achieve this, Work Coaches must engage with employers to understand their needs better. The Minister said the three-way relationship between the claimant, the Work Coach and the employer was “crucial”:
The work coach can pick up the phone, effectively, to an employer, and say, ‘This claimant has only been working X hours right now. He or she now feels they are ready to work more hours or develop or be supported into a new role’. That kind of interaction changes the relationship in a way that did not exist previously.
The DWP’s pilot includes qualitative research with Work Coaches and employers to understand the effectiveness of the three-way relationship.
42.Pauline Crellin, Head of UC Labour Market Policy at the DWP, told us that the Department is taking a more systematic approach to identify and act on labour market needs at a national and, in particular, local level. The Minister acknowledged this would be a substantial change in the relationship between Work Coaches and employers, which had been “somewhat passive” to date.
43.We heard that encouraging employers to redesign jobs to incorporate more flexibility or opportunities for progression would be a key component of Work Coach engagement. But no one should underestimate the pressure this change will put on employers. Tony Wilson said that working with employers “feels like the big gap” in the DWP’s current approach. Higher-grade posts, for example, were often not advertised as flexible working opportunities. In some industries in particular, line managers tended to be responsible for large numbers of employees and therefore had little insight into individual skills, circumstances and potential. The DWP claims that, with Work Coach help, employers will be able to design and advertise a greater range of job opportunities, including those that are short-term, irregular or flexible in nature. Employers will also have access to a wider pool of job applicants, via the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch service.
44.David Coutts, Head of Human Resources at FirstGroup plc, a transport company, stressed that to succeed, support for in-work progression needed to match available employees accurately to the job specification. This required employers to engage with the in-work progression policy and understand its potential advantages to them. We heard, however, that employers “were almost universally unaware” of the scheme.
45.For in-work progression to succeed, Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coaches will need to be a new kind of public servant, possessing new skills and operating on a new agenda. They will need to address structural barriers to progression, such as access to childcare, skills development and job opportunities, on a personalised basis. They will also need to understand local labour markets and engage with employers to a far greater extent than they have done before. Compared to the existing role of moving people out of work into employment, this will require the DWP to nurture Work Coaches with a substantially expanded set of skills. Should a full service be delivered in-house by JCP, supporting an estimated one million in-work claimants will also entail a sharp increase in JCP workload.
46.We recommend the DWP uses its pilot to evaluate fully:
This assessment should be used to estimate the budget required to provide such a service.
70 The DWP introduced the Work Coach role in 2013, and is largely similar to the previous advisor role. See: DWP press release, , 14 October 2013
71 Personal correspondence with DWP officials showed that there were 10,799 whole-time equivalent Work Coaches as at February 2016
72 Office for National Statistics, Claimant Count data. As at February 2016, there were a total of 744,515 JSA and out-of-work UC claimants. Out-of-work benefits include: JSA and UC, as well as Income Support for people who do not qualify for JSA or Employment and Support Allowance (paid to people who have limited capacity to work because of sickness or disability) and do not have enough money to live on
73 Personal correspondence with DWP officials
74 DWP (). See also: (Ross James). For examples of praise for personalised support see Community Links (), Oxfam GB (), and Crisis ()
75 (Ross James)
76 (Priti Patel)
77 DWP, , November 2015, p. 35
78 See, for example, Employment Related Services Association (), Learning and Work Institute (), Prospects Services (), University of York (), University of Glasgow, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (), Working Families (), Gingerbread (), Child Poverty Action Group (), Remploy (), Mind (), Community Links (), Crisis (), and Centrepoint ()
79 HM Treasury, , Cm 9162, November 2015, para 1.129
80 DWP, , 14 January 2016
81 (Ross James)
82 Garaud, P. and Oakley M., , Policy Exchange, March 2013. Note: this assumes a monthly average of the use of JSA-style conditionality, with fortnightly appointments staggered across two weeks evenly
83 HM Treasury, , Departmental Resource Budgets (Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit excluding depreciation), HC 901, March 2016, p. 91. The DWP’s estimated resource budget (for day-to-day spending) in 2015-16 was £6.2 billion. Its planned resource budget for 2019-20 is £5.4 billion. This represents cumulative real growth of -19%. In 2010-11, the DWP’s resource budget was £9.1 billion (see National Audit Office, , June 2015, p. 8). This represents cumulative real growth of -41%
84 We will examine the implications of these planned changes for resourcing and capability in our inquiry into . The Department plans to achieve savings through reducing the size of its estate by 20% and co-locating JCP offices with local authorities. See: DWP, , 25 November 2015
85 See, for example, Working Families (), Employment Related Services Association (), Learning and Work Institute (), Prospects Services (), PCS Union (), Gingerbread (), and Child Poverty Action Group ()
86 Child Poverty Action Group ()
87 Gingerbread (). See also (Julia Waltham)
88 (Priti Patel)
89 (Ross James)
90 Garaud, P. and Oakley M., , Policy Exchange, March 2013
91 Oakley, M., Joseph Rowntree Foundation, November 2015
92 DWP ()
93 DWP (). The key topics covered in the training include: the purpose and significance of in-work progression, the benefits to in-work claimants; eligibility criteria for participating in the pilot; conducting interviews with participants in the two treatment groups, including focusing on earnings progression rather than rigidly focusing on hours, finding opportunities, providing support and encouragement, applying mandatory requirements and holding challenging conversations. It also covers the in-work Claimant Commitment and agreeing reasonable activities tailored to an individual’s circumstances
94 (Ross James)
95 DWP, In-work progression: supporting information for Work Coaches ()
96 (Ross James)
97 DWP ()
98 Working Families ()
99 Barnardo’s ()
100 (Emma Stewart)
101 (Emma Stewart)
102 (Emma Stewart)
103 Garaud, P. & Oakley M., , Policy Exchange, March 2013
104 See, for example, (Emma Stewart), (David Massey), Learning and Work Institute (), Employment Related Services Association (), Gingerbread (), Working Families (), Child Poverty Action Group (), Oxfam GB (), Barnardo’s (), Remploy (), Money Advice Service (), Citizens Advice Scotland (, National Numeracy ( )), Centrepoint (), and Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath ()
105 See, for example, (Emma Stewart), Business in the Community (), Community Links (), Prospects Services (), Wheatley Group (), and University of York ()
106 Learning and Work Institute ()
107 Disability Benefits Consortium (). See also: Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath ()
108 Citizens Advice Scotland ()
109 (Emma Stewart)
110 On childcare see, for example, (Dr Anthony Rafferty and Emma Stewart), (Tony Wilson), Child Poverty Action Group (), Gingerbread (), Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath (), University of Glasgow, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (), Oxfam GB (), Learndirect Limited (), Employment Related Services Association (), and Centrepoint (). On skills see, for example, (Faye Goldman), (Emma Stewart), Citizens Advice Scotland (, Employment Related Services Association ( )), Gingerbread (), Oxfam GB (), Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath (), and Working Families ()
111 (Tony Wilson)
112 See, for example, (Tony Wilson), Learning and Work Institute (), Employment Related Services Association (), Learndirect Limited (), Disability Benefits Consortium (), Crisis (), and Child Poverty Action Group ()
113 (Priti Patel)
114 (Priti Patel)
115 (Ross James)
116 (Pauline Crellin)
117 (Priti Patel)
118 See, for example, Employment Related Services Association (), Learning and Work Institute (), Gingerbread (), Crisis (), Centrepoint (), and Working Families ()
119 (Tony Wilson)
120 See, for example, (Emma Stewart), (Faye Goldman), Learning and Work Institute (), and Business in the Community ()
121 DWP, In-work progression: supporting information for Work Coaches (), see section 3
122 (David Coutts)
123 See, for example, Business in the Community (), Remploy (), Learndirect Limited (), Mark Cosens MA MIEP (), and Reed in Partnership ()
Prepared 06 May 2016