Personalisation for unemployed people?

Today the government launched its new Work Programme. Described by Employment minister, Chris Grayling, as ‘revolutionary’ the new scheme will sweep away the previous collection of programmes and focus all welfare-to-work under one banner. Contractors, all large, mostly private contractors will get chunky cash rewards for their back-to-work services on a payment-by-results basis – the results being that a million people will hopefully move from welfare to sustainable employment in the next two years.

Interestingly, the BBC reports that: “The contracts are run not only on a payment-by-results basis but also on what’s called the black box approach. This means government won’t tell suppliers what kind of support they need to give, promising not to interfere in the running of schemes.”

This may or may not be a good thing. It’s certainly good if it means that advisers will be able to concentrate on helping people get jobs rather than following impractically bureaucratic DWP procedures. It’s less good it if also means that providers will be able to chose to prioritise support for those unemployed people who need the least support to find work (and thereby generate a results based payment) over those who need a lot of support to be ready to enter (or re-enter) the job market.

Either way, though, I feel that there’s a strong possibility that the Work Programme actually doesn’t go far enough in terms of promoting competition in the back-to-work market. A key principle of Andrew Lansley’s, admittedly controversial, NHS reforms is the principle of “no decisions about me without me”. A important element of that thinking is the move towards increasing personalisation of health services – following on from similar developments in social care.

While the actual allocation of personal budgets is only one aspect of the move towards personalised services, it’s something that could usefully be considered in the field of back-to-work provision. What if people who had been unemployed for a period of six months or more were allocated a personal budget to spend on the support that they felt would help them get back into work? That would force back-to-work providers to compete for business by giving unemployed people a clear explanation of how they would benefit from their service, and ultimately to tailor that service to the needs of their customers. Some people might chose to use a package of different services from a range of providers.

Back-to-work personal budgets would also allow smaller organisations – including many social enterprises – a clearer route into the market based on their understanding of how to support unemployed people in their particular area or with particular needs. This wouldn’t prevent a significant percentage of the payments organisations received being based on the outcomes achieved once people had chosen to use their services.

It’s too soon to say what the Work Programme will achieve but, in its present form, the danger is that it will, possibly inadvertently, end up being a radical scheme for empowering large outsourcing companies. The real challenge is to put some power in the hands of people who use services. This is clearly an approach that present government is committed to in other policy areas. While there may be a minority of unemployed people who just aren’t interested in getting into work, the vast majority are desperate to do so. Creating a personalised system – maybe, initially as a pilot scheme – would be a good way of the government giving unemployed people the power to transform their own lives and, in doing so, treating them with the same level of respect accorded to other systems. Ultimately, it might even save money.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Personalisation for unemployed people?

  1. Personalised budgets would be fantastic for both job seekers and support agencies but this Government only wants to pay for result not process. Sidestepping the issue of the value of preparing people for work through personal development and increasing their skills this programme is all about results. I think it is absolutely inevitable that most of the providers will go for low hanging fruit, my hope is that the social enterprises will look beyond that and look to work with the hardest to reach. It is true that the tariff is greater for those groups but if you are paying up front for process and are only reimbursed for the most part when the person enters work and has remained there for a minimum of 6 months, you increase your risk by selecting candidates with longer odds. Maybe Ladbroke’s should have a shot at this?

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  2. beanbagsandbullsh1t

    Well, yes. I’m sure the government’s aim is to offer financial incentives to companies whose interventions make a real positive impact on people’s chances of securing work – rather than rewarding those who are best at guessing who’s most likely to get a job. Let’s hope that’s how it works out in practice. I definitely think there’s scope for move towards a more personalised system. I think this is an area where there needs to be a sensible balance between funding activities and rewarding specific results.

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  3. shaun saunders

    As one of the unfortunate unemployed I can see nothing in this scheme to genuinely assist people like me to get back into work. After twenty five years of employment with just two employers, both of which were involved in iindustries that are now declining, I am regarded as having few relevent skills. I also was foolish enough to become unemployed at the age of fifty which appears to mean that I am on my last legs! I have consistently asked the jobcentre about training opportunities but there has been no budget for training in my area. I had decided to bite the bullet and try self employment but was told that the scheme which allowed you to claim a self employed allowance for the first sixteen weeks had been withdrawn. In real terms I have seen no offer of real assistance beyond haveing someone look at my CV. If this changes things then great but I am not holding my breath.

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  4. Pingback: Opening up to what? | Beanbags and Bullsh!t

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