A new name and a new approach to what has been the Welfare to Work Convention means we need to have new ideas. Here are my thoughts on three issues we need to cover in Liverpool this week.
1. The Good News – and why that means supporting the IEP
We need to spread the news on what is working. How even in the recession good advisers and focussed support helped people get back to work. Dedicated staff need to get better recognition for what they do. The difficult stories, the hard numbers, the Public Accounts Committee reports, make their own way to the front page. We need to get more out there about what works. The Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP) has to part of that story. We need to share best practice, train our staff and promote the professional status of the people who deliver employability services.
2. Better commissioning
We need to acknowledge the problems with the Work Programme. Payment by results (PBR) has led to creaming, i.e. organisations improving the metrics at the top end. But it has not improved the outcomes for those further from the labour market, even though a clear aim of the programme was to end the parking of those hardest to help. The intention of differentiated PBR was to create an increased reward for those providing the most extensive support, with the government gaining the savings through DEL/AME switch – but this seems to have been forgotten. The next programme needs to recognise the journey travelled as well as outcomes and needs to include more effective rewards for helping the hardest to reach so that people get the help they need.
3. New partnerships
Organisations outside Welfare to Work are showing effective and innovative ways to help people. We work with Children’s Centres and can testify not just to their dedication, but also their deep understanding of the needs of parents who want to work. This is gained through their local presence and the fact that parents trust them and are willing to work with them. Housing Associations too have deep roots in their own communities and the recent ERSA conference on Housing and Employment had brilliant and varied examples of what can be done in local communities. W2W needs to build those partnerships – especially if contracts are to become more localised.
Hope to see some of you there.