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Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for introducing the regulations. Looking
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at them at 11.20 p.m., I have to say that they are as grim as it gets. There are nine pages of postal codes, which may or may not be designated areas, depending on what the regulations say. Even after re-reading the document, you do not get the feel of what it is about. Yet the Explanatory Notes say:

Late though it may be, it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could flesh out the details. What does it mean for someone who is unemployed to meet a contractor? How does someone, through meetings and whatever happens, become more employable and indeed employed? It would be useful to be reminded of the nature of the innovation and the flexible solutions.

As the noble Baroness has indicated, these regulations have been before the House before. We are here to approve them for another year, and there is a promise that we might be asked to do it in a year's time. Where is the scheme at the moment, what monitoring is taking place and how effective is the scheme for participants? It would be useful if the Minister could flesh out the details and give a little information on the scheme's effectiveness.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am very grateful to both noble Lords for creating the opportunity to say a little more on the detail and to answer some very important questions. If I cannot answer them, I shall have to write to the noble Lords. I shall start by responding to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, because they create a context for the more specific questions that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked. I appreciate the problems of reading such regulations without the context of primary legislation or the opportunity for a debate on their purpose.

I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, about the collection of postcodes at the back of the regulations; they look like logarithm tables. We tried to bring that information together in one place, as previously it had been published separately, so there was a reason for that.

What happens to the people—not necessarily just young people—who are placed on the schemes, which are mandatory? There is a two-stage or three-stage process. The first part of the process is the 28 days in which they are given intensive one-to-one counselling and advice. The barriers to re-employment that they experience are thoroughly explored. One of the things that we must bear in mind is that they are the most difficult people to place in employment. They have been out of the labour market for a long time, and they may have all sorts of problems. They may have problems with addiction, with language or with phobias, or they may have general cultural or attitudinal problems with work. In the normal New Deal process, many of those issues would be addressed but not in the depth that is necessary.

That introductory period is followed by 26 weeks—it might be less, it might be more—for finding sustainable employment in which to place people.
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That is the challenge. It is what the providers are there to do and what they get their money for. Because of the way in which the scheme operates, there is freedom to provide, for example, training outside an area or in a different set of skills—interview skills, technical skills or whatever. Some providers—I have case studies here—have gone to the extent of buying a wind-up alarm clock for somebody whose electricity supply was fitful, to make sure that they got to places on time. They may provide a decent suit, so that a candidate can turn up at an interview looking respectable. The scheme goes beyond the sort of thing that we can expect from the normal process.

If, by that time, clients still have not found a job and they go back to the normal scheme, Jobcentre Plus, they still have the opportunity to stay voluntarily with the scheme. It is a fairly continuous and consistent process of help, but the important distinction is that it is very personal. We have had many hours this evening to discuss the scheme, and I have been told by officials of the personal relationships that are built up between the personal adviser and the client, to the extent that they will each be on the end of a mobile phone most of the time. It is an impressive scheme, and that is why the evaluations that are coming back are so positive.

We need to extend the scheme because we need to build up a better and more robust body of evidence. The normal time for such research would be two if not three years, if one were doing a reasonably based study. We have done one year. We need at least another year, and it is possible that we will be back asking noble Lords to renew the regulations again. It is hard to say whether we will come back again twice. It depends on what we find. If we find that the scheme is working extremely well on some very stubborn problems, we may well ask the House for permission to extend it. I cannot anticipate what will happen.

We have not done quantitative work because we need the body of evidence. However, we have done qualitative work that shows that the policy is being implemented effectively. We are getting positive feedback on the way in which the random allocation works. Jobcentre Plus and the providers feel that the scheme is delivering equitable results. We get individual feedback from client surveys, and we have found that clients find it a very supportive process. We are beginning to pick up parts of the qualitative picture and, in June, we will publish some findings. In November, we will report on the provision for young people, who came into the scheme relatively recently, relative to the New Deal for Young People. In September next year, we will publish a report on client outcomes and further operational issues.

The point of the research, which in a way addresses some of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about cost-effectiveness, is that we are not looking only at the way in which the scheme delivers for individuals; we will also consider the cost-effectiveness of the scheme itself. It will be a comprehensive study. I hope that that takes care of some of the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland.
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11.30 p.m.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, we would seem to have some quantitative data already; namely, about only 10 per cent or so of the people have been found jobs. That does not seem to be a very high strike rate given the intensity of the communication between the provider and the candidate that the noble Baroness has described. So what has been the cost per job so far?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, if the noble Lord can give me a moment, I will find those figures. We have to be careful about thinking that the figure of 1,000 out of 11,000—which, as he says, is roughly right—represents the sum total of success. Of course, it is a snapshot to begin with. Some of those people will still be going through the system, so it would be right to suspend judgment until we have the longer study.

I come back to the point that those people present a serious challenge as regards placing in work. In the study, we want to see how the cost-benefit and the effort that we are putting in compares with what we are achieving outside employment zones. The cost per entry for mandated clients without their benefit costs is £1,575 each. With the cost of benefits, that sum rises to £5,550. But as more job outcomes are realised we expect those costs to fall.

I have dealt with the point about evaluation and I have said something about random allocation in that respect. The other thing to say about random allocation is that it is done using technology: it is not done by people. Clients are allocated to providers by the computer so that it is completely fair. One of the reasons it must be fair when using multiple providers is that you do not want to give all the most difficult clients to the same provider. When we say that it is independent of the effect of the labour market, it means that we are dealing simply with a random selection of people in different situations. They are being dealt with on that individual basis and do not have any choice. Sometimes clients do not want to work with a particular provider and, in that sense, sanctions can operate.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, raised a point about cost effectiveness. As I have said, cost information indicates that the scheme costs as much per additional job entry as the relevant New Deal. But we will not have the full picture until we do the full evaluation. We will also be looking at different sorts of benefits in that respect.
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The noble Lord also asked to what extent providers are free to place people into work outside the area in which they operate. There are no restrictions. They do not have to operate within the zone. If they are able to find an employer outside the borough or wherever, they can take that opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, also asked whether the scheme overlaps with the Jobseekers Plus scheme. Once a person has gone through the programme and has not been placed, the person is referred back to the Jobseekers Plus scheme. As I understand it, they are taken out of the Jobseekers Plus scheme for the duration of the programme.

The noble Lord also asked why we are doing this on a zone basis. I do not know the history of the zoning system in great detail, but I imagine that it follows the creation of education action zones and health action zones. Many of those have been around the same size as the employment zones. They are focused where we find concentrations of multiple deprivation. Sometimes that arises in relatively small neighbourhoods. A concatenation of circumstances arises which needs to be specifically addressed. While that may not be the wisest explanation, it probably covers the history of the system.

I should like to write to the noble Lord about evaluations within the zones because I shall first take official advice. The point is likely to be more technical than I had realised. Turning to how successful the employment zones have been in helping people to move into employment, we have addressed that and I shall send to both noble Lords further figures to flesh out the picture and provide more context.

I hope that I have addressed most of the queries that were put to me. When I read Hansard tomorrow—and I am sure that my officials will do so assiduously—if I find that questions have not received a response, I shall be happy to write. In the mean time, I hope that the regulations commend themselves to noble Lords and that they will give them a fair passage.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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