Evaluation of Scottish transitional employment services: interim report August 2018

How programme design impacted the quality of delivery and customers’ experience of Work First and Work Able Scotland services in the first 6 months after launch.

Customer engagement and referral process


This section sets out the delivery arrangements established by lead providers and their supply chain and how they and JCP partners worked to engage potential customers and ensure that they were supported in referral.

Key findings on referrals

  • The issues in setting up the programmes and ensuring effective co-working with JCP colleagues have been covered elsewhere. However, it is clear that this has continued to affect programme performance – the proportion of referrals starting both programmes is lower than could have been achieved.
  • An issue for both programmes has not just been the volume of referrals but the proportion who subsequently start programmes, particularly for WAS.
  • Despite referral guidance for providers and JCP WCs, there is no effective process to ensure that prospective customers are interested in work. The engagement of WAS customers in particular needs more time for them to consider their options, particularly as many have had limited recent contact with JCP.
  • WAS providers, in particular, were reliant on JCP for referrals and did not initially consider that they needed to undertake outreach and engagement activity. There are reasons for this – this was a new customer group, so providers had limited prior experience. The business planning assumptions did not consider prospective customer characteristics in enough detail, existing alternative provision for the same group and their current distance from a work agenda.
  • A deeper engagement process through community and health services would have been very challenging to establish in the time available but providers see this as being an important consideration for future programmes.
  • Providers (and many JCP WCs) reported viewing warm handovers as an important part of ensuring prospective customers are fully aware of the programme offer and its requirements of them. This is as much about selling the potential of the programme as voluntary participation. Providers are able to explain their offer in greater depth and give examples of similar customers who have worked with them successfully in the past.
  • Providers and JCP WCs all suggest that engagement and good communications with their local JCP offices were key to the scale and quality of referrals across both programmes. Day to day communications with JCP WCs has been a challenge and many providers suggested that it would be beneficial to have a single point of contact to help them source information on claimants etc.
  • Feedback to JCP WCs is another important part of the process of improving communications and co-working. Some providers were making an additional effort to report back on the progress of individual customers to demonstrate their effectiveness to JCP WCs.

Establishing an employability services infrastructure

Although Scottish Government had for many years been closely involved in employability policy, no systems or structures had been established necessary to support and govern employability service contracting and delivery at the scale envisaged in planning for Fair Start Scotland. The Scottish Government were mindful of the need to ensure continuity of service, while developing the space for a distinctive Scottish approach to employability support. This was particularly important, given the short timeframe available, to establish a functioning infrastructure for WFS and WAS.

Discussions with UK government at the Joint Ministerial Working Group around the implementation of the Scotland Act 2016 had led to the development of a Joint Operational Employability Framework to facilitate close joint working between both governments with respect to the development of Scotland's employability services. This enabled strategic level discussions on the shared responsibility for benefits and welfare to work services, particularly around developing a clear referral strategy that considered the role of JCP alongside that of SG and the providers.

Establishing shared access to information was vital so that SG and JCP/ DWP could efficiently monitor progress and performance of the programmes. For WFS, SG decision to adopt DWP's Provider Referrals and Payment ( PRaP) system enabled this process and meant that a fully functioning system was in place for the start of delivery. SDS were not able to utilise the PRaP system so used their existing Corporate Training System ( CTS) training provider payment management.

The Joint Operational Framework led to WFS and WAS establishing monthly meetings:

  • Joint Operational Working Group that was between DWP, SDS and SG officials and looked at the delivery issues on Transitional Employability Services ( i.e. both WAS and WFS).
  • This Group also had a forum that brought respective providers in to discuss issues but alternating between WFS and WAS providers.
  • For WFS there were also individual Contract Performance Reviews for each provider (at CPA level) to which DWP Third Party managers would be invited to.
  • WAS Delivery and Assurance Group comprising of SG with senior representation from SDS to oversee performance which then invited DWP and was extended to include senior representatives of providers.
  • WAS also conducted Contract Performance reviews including SDS Skills Investment Advisers and JCP staff from the CPAs and the relevant provider.

In addition to these contract management arrangements, The Scottish Government recruited a team of contract managers to oversee the operations, compliance and quality assurance of the WFS programme. SDS drew on their existing team of Skills Investment Advisers who had previously worked on the Employability Fund programme.

Developing this necessary structure has been an achievement in the limited time available. It has delivered significant learning around contract management and governance systems but has also been the basis for developing closer working relations between The Scottish Government and JCP/ DWP staff which will be essential for the future development of employability services in Scotland.

What has been less successful has been establishing a learning process with the providers. Providers reported that the focus of many of the meetings had been transactional and not performance or learning orientated. Lead providers from both programmes felt that it had been a missed opportunity, given the similarities in delivery, to get them all together as a group to discuss key issues and learning from delivery. Scottish Government has however been able to take learning from discussion with individual providers into FSS development. The Scottish Government also held lessons learned sessions with the national Employability Advisory Group, made up of external stakeholders and advocacy groups, including provider representation through ERSA (the Employment Related Services Association),

Delivery structures and subcontracting arrangements

Lead providers and their supply chains

Lead providers in both WFS and WAS have generally adopted mixed delivery models. These typically involve:

  • Lead providers all having a role in delivery themselves to a greater or lesser degree
  • Subcontracting is on an 'end-to-end' basis – i.e. the subcontractor controls the whole delivery process for a defined geographic area from referral to sustained job outcomes. The key drivers for selecting this approach to delivery were:
    • There was a general perception among providers that a 'pure prime' model (where the lead contractor receives a management fee and manages delivery entirely through subcontracting and seeks to add value through performance managing the supply chain) would not be favoured by The Scottish Government.
    • This was reinforced by the view that there was insufficient funding in both programmes to consider a multi-stage specialist delivery model (where customers move between providers to receive specialist engagement/counselling/health and wellbeing and employability support). Lead providers on WFS also felt that multi-stage referrals would be challenging to arrange within the six month pre-employment period.
    • That, even for those organisations who might prefer to deliver more themselves, the ability to provide cover all of the CPA was a challenge. Providers reported that a one-year contract offered limited opportunity for them to set up and establish offices in new areas and sustain them. For WAS, the number of anticipated programme starts further limited this option (although it should be noted that providers were allowed to retain their service fee at contracted levels to avoid any more significant cost pressures).
  • For WFS the pattern of subcontracting reflected previous arrangements established to deliver Work Choice. These had been operating for the life of the Work Choice contracts and therefore were long-established and familiar to providers.
  • For WAS, new subcontracting arrangements were required by lead providers. In such a short-term programme of this scale it was essential that these built on pre-existing relationships and could make use of existing infrastructure.
  • One lead provider had been part of the supply chain delivering the Work Programme and drew on the existing infrastructure of the prime contractor and other local organisations to present an offer across the CPA they bid to deliver.
  • Others drew on other existing relationships or engaged with partner organisations outside their core delivery to fill in those areas where they did not currently serve with other contracts.
  • Some lead providers did expect to use specialist support in providing some health and wellbeing services. This ranged from the establishment of health and wellbeing hubs as part of one WFS lead offer to another lead engaging a specialist mental health counselling service to support their customer offer.

WFS contracts required lead providers to demonstrate that they could deliver services consistently across the whole contract package area. In practice, some lead provider organisations for WFS, did not have local offices or in all locations across their area and so the sub-contracting model afforded a mechanism for achieving the full coverage required.

WFS contractors had the obvious advantage of being able to build on established systems and procedures. WAS required all these to be set up and running in a relatively short timeframe, and lead providers reported that this strained their management capacity in some cases.

In the majority of cases, provision was in place and ready to deliver but in one local authority area, due to an oversight, the lead WAS provider had not previously established a supply chain. This meant no provision was in place until May.

Although end-to-end supply chain partners were expected to report into lead provider systems and some were offered access to leaflets and other publicity material, in many cases, these were adapted or simply produced locally.

Sharing of risk and reward

Lead providers and their supply chain were understandably reluctant to share details of their financial success or otherwise on the WFS and WAS programmes. Most did not see a positive contribution to their balance sheets and some felt that they will have lost money (at the time of interviewing). A further nine months remain on both programmes to realise any further customer outcomes.

All providers reported variation in referrals at a local level, and highlighted the challenges this posed to managing capacity. For WFS providers, there were additional costs in responding to a much larger volume of referrals than expected,a significant minority of which did not then translate into programme starts. For two of the three WAS providers, the lower number of starts meant that (at the time of interview) they had generated less revenue than expected, but retained capacity. It is also worth noting that all providers had considerable experience of delivering different national employability programmes, were aware that estimated referral volumes for a voluntary programme would be indicative, and benefited from an agreed service fee, to maintain core capacity acoss the lifetime of both services.

WAS lead providers were also concerned that eligible customers had higher needs and barriers to employment than they had expected, and that this would impact on their ability to secure job outcome payments. Some WAS supply chain members have relinquished their contracts as they could see no financial benefit in continuing. Some expect to have a relatively small number of customers to support over the remaining time on programme which will make the cost of delivery more challenging. Much depends on whether they have other contracts, especially whether they are part of the FSS supply chain.

Supporting Scottish provider capacity

Many providers saw the opportunity to get involved in Scottish Government employability services as being a means to bid for larger more sustained contracts in the future. Providers felt that they were experienced in working with customers similar in nature to those expected to participate in WFS and WAS, particularly in relation to accommodating different health conditions in their client management practices and supporting people with such needs into appropriate work.

Some WAS providers had been involved in the Work Programme supply chain and were keen to secure participation in Scottish Government Employability Services in advance of FSS. Getting in 'on the ground floor' and working with Scottish Government and partners was seen as an advantage, as developing policy signalled greater interest in person-centred delivery models and co-design, and a move away from the 'black-box' programmes of the past. Others felt that they simply could not afford to pack up their teams and await the start of FSS.

Providers knew of the requirement for a transitional phase to allow for development of the fully devolved service. They were all experienced employability delivery organisations and were fully aware of the timeframe and risks inherent in both programmes. Most therefore expected to achieve a pragmatic break-even position as the short-term nature of both contracts would put a cap on any losses.

Identifying and engaging eligible clients

This section draws out the referral issues in both WFS and WAS and seeks to highlight differences between programmes around the key stages of the process.

Referrals to providers

Participation in WFS is voluntary for customers who must meet all the following criteria to be eligible to participate:

  • be of working age
  • have a recognised disability (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) that means they find it hard to get or keep a job
  • cannot be helped through other existing DWP provision
  • require support in work as well as help with finding work
  • have in work support requirements which cannot be overcome through workplace adjustments required under the Equality Act 2010 and/or Access to Work support
  • The Customer must also be assessed by the JCP WC as being able to enter work for a minimum of 16 hours within 26 weeks (with the possibility of extending this to 34 weeks in some cases)

The latter criterion is central to the referral process in order to meet "Scottish Government ambitions that work will be a reasonable objective for customers within the length of this programme" [11] .

The original expectation was that 3,300 customers would start WFS between April and the end of December 2017 when referrals to the programme would cease. In November 2017 Scottish Government extended the WFS referral period to 9 March 2018, in response to feedback from JCP and providers.

Participation in WAS is also voluntary for customers who are:

  • At least 18 years old
  • In receipt of Employment Support Allowance ( ESA) and is within the Work Related Activity Group ( WRAG) or Universal Credit subject to conditionality level 4 (limited capability for work)
  • Assessed as being able to enter work for at least a minimum of 16 hours per week within a twelve-month period or less
  • Not participating on any other employment, training or enterprise programme funded by any government department or SDS

It was envisaged that up to 1,500 customers would start WAS between April and December 2017. Referrals on to the programme were similarly extended until 9 March 2018 to allow providers further time to work with caseloads.

There were a number of factors that meant the referral process for both programmes was less effective than expected:

  • JCP offices were undergoing a number of major structural changes in line with national DWP policy – the roll-out of Universal Credit, new WCs being added to the team at the same time that DEAs with who previously could draw on their knowledge of the disabled claimant group being moved into more supervisory roles, and, in some locations, the re-organisation of JCP office locations. For these reasons, DWP senior management had been reluctant to add to the workload of their JCP offices in the run up to both programmes commencing.
  • This meant that the engagement of WCs in JCP offices was late in the process and gave little time for WCs to understand the offer from local providers. Pre-existing connections with WFS supply chain helped but this was not in place for WAS. Many WAS providers in the supply chain report that it was into May 2017 before they were given the opportunity to access local JCP offices to engage more proactively with them, prompted by the absence of referrals.
  • For WFS, the shift away from the previous Work Choice warm handover model removed a platform for engagement with providers, and in particular the regular contact between provider and JCP staff that had previously been used to identify potential customers who were not committed or ready to participate in the programme. Providers could have informal discussions with potential customers to ensure that they were fully aware of the support available to them, as well as what might be required from them in terms of commitment. This was not a needs-based assessment, but really aimed at identifying which potential customers were serious in their desire to move into employment.
  • WAS had a new target customer group, who, typically visited the Jobcentre infrequently.

JCP frontline staff echoed the challenges they faced in absorbing the new services at a time when many were in the midst of significant procedural and structural changes, notwithstanding that DWP were fully aware and commited to the devolved employment support that was taking place. Most frontline JCP staff felt that the extension of WFS presented fewer challenges as they had existing relationships with providers, referral procedures and a clear understanding of the type of customer eligible for the service. There were, however, a number of issues facing JCP staff in identifying potential customers for WAS:

  • While in principle, the ESA WRAG client group was large, eligibility for WAS is determined by other programme support not being relevant for the client. Once other programme selection criteria were applied, the remaining group in scope was much smaller.

"You might have 250-300 on ESA WRAG locally but by the time you have taken out those with on-going addiction issues, awaiting a Work Capability Assessment and other criteria, you may have only 35-40 left. That's before you have asked if they are interested" [ JCP WC].

  • Contact with customers who would be eligible for WAS is widely reported to be 'infrequent' and:

"In theory they should attend a meeting every six months but there are lots of reasons why they may miss an appointment – being ill or having a hospital appointment etc., so longer durations between visits can happen" [ JCP WC].

  • The operational changes within JCP, noted above, meant that the customer group were allocated across the expanded WC teams so few had personal knowledge of individual claimants.

Some JCP staff reported that they were having to make a case for participation when they did not fully understand what the providers' 'offer' was to potential customers:

  • Familiarity with the providers' offer varied amongst WCs – some offices report that they did not get any publicity material or could only access photocopied leaflets, despite leaflets and a promotional video being made available. In some cases, as outlined above, it took time for providers to engage with their local JCP offices to help build relationships and understanding of the service offer. WCs report that even when leaflets and group briefings were provided, they had only limited information on how best to promote the voluntary WAS offer to customers who are traditionally hard to engage.
  • These comments mainly related to WAS provision as the existing providers on WFS engaged informally. That said, WCs identified a number of local areas where in principle two WFS providers were operating but in practice these were left to one or the other provider due to lack of local supply chain or the scale of referrals.
  • Some WCs felt that much more pre-publicity would have helped give the programmes some profile with potential customers. National adverts in the media might have helped get the message across to the target customer groups, especially the WAS eligible customers, but this may not have been value for money within a short transitional programme. Providers were very focused on JCP as the only source of referrals when more engagement in the community may have made a much bigger difference. However, programme rules specified that due to benefit rules JCP was the only source for WAS referrals until the later months of WAS referral. SDS WAS programme rules make it clear that appropriate marketing materials would be required.
  • Greater contact with providers was welcomed. Many felt that the warm handover procedures that had previously been in place for other programmes were ideal for both WFS and WAS in ensuring that the customer was aware of what they were engaging with and had at least met with the provider and started a relationship before agreeing to join the programme. However, DWP had not felt able to guarantee formal warm handovers across both services, so this was only undertaken more informally, where local relationships were already established.
  • The potential for using warm handovers as a basis for providers 'cherry picking' the best candidates was raised with WCs. While this was recognised as a potential issue in some other UK programmes, most felt that having a higher quality referral process outweighed this concern.
  • WCs considered the process for referrals to WFS as relatively straightforward using DWPs own Provider Referral and Payment ( PRaP) system, which had been adopted by Scottish Government for WFS. However, it was not possible to set up equivalent arrangements for WAS due to technical issues with the interaction with the SDS CTS MIS system. DWP agreed to use the same process that JCP use for Employability Fund referrals in absence of WAS providers having access to the PRaP system. This meant WAS referral had to be made using a paper-based process that was seen as time-consuming and resource intensive by WCs, as internal procedures had to be adjusted to fit an 'old style' referral.
  • Frontline JCP staff felt that they had made a major effort to increase referrals to WAS in May and June after a slow start. They felt this had been successful, but raised concerns that when significant numbers of potential customers had been referred, providers and their supply chain could not cope and there was a danger that customers were lost as they had to wait longer for appointments. Providers did put a process in place to follow up with those who failed to attend during this spike period to address this issue.
  • In hindsight, WCs felt that they may have exhausted the pool of WAS-eligible customers with this process, meaning that recruitment became no easier afterwards.

JCP WCs proposed and WFS and WAS providers confirmed that in their view an 'ideal' referral process involved:

  • Providers attending Group Information Sessions at JCP where customers who were eligible for the programmes had been invited by JCP in order to explain their service offer and answer any questions from customers.
  • Regular provider attendance at weekly JCP office meetings to speak about the WAS offer and answer any questions from WCs and enable on-going communications between WCs and provider.
  • Improve the wider engagement of the target customer group by working with Statutory Referral Organisations [12] ( SROs) and building better links to organisations in the health sector who may have much more frequent contact with customers and offer a more neutral place to discuss their employment aspirations. Although SROs are formally part of WFS delivery, the intention here is to explore how the appeal of employability services can be spread into community organisations who may engage with potential customers on a more regular basis.

Some providers have recognised that SROs could have played more of a role at the start of the programmes and they report that their engagement with SROs has increased more recently in an attempt to engage with potential customers. Other providers felt that the potential role of SROs in engaging with potential customers was limited by:

  • For WFS, referrals from JCP have always been healthy but have not produced the proportion of starts that providers were expecting. Providers did not need more referrals but more appropriate referrals, so that they did not spend time trying to engage with customers who did not ultimately want to start. A renewed focus in some areas on warm handovers was reported to have improved the quality of referrals.
  • A concern expressed by frontline advisers and some SROs was that there had been instances where their customers had expressed an interest in participating in WFS with the intention that they would start with a particular provider, only to find that JCP would not commit to refer to that provider where there were two providers in competition. As a result, the SRO stopped making referrals as they could not guarantee customers' wishes. This may have been a misunderstanding of WFS guidance, as referrals to the service were clearly set out as a customer choice.

WAS lead providers report that they had perceived that they would benefit from a steady flow of customers who would have opted to participate and so be relatively straightforward to engage in support. No provider had actively considered offering outreach and engagement services as it was assumed that there would be no need.

A WAS supply-chain provider highlighted frustration that while they had developed very strong relationships with health organisations in one Local Authority area, their WAS contract was for a neighbouring location where these links had not yet been established. They did approach equivalent health providers only to be told that the service would not engage, as in the past they had built up customers' expectations and enthusiasm only to find the employability support service had come to an end - "You are here one minute and gone the next" [local health organisation]. The provider felt that being able to engage with such organisations would have added considerably to their ability to engage a wider range of customers, but recognised that their partnerships elsewhere had been developed over a much longer period.

Assessing customers' prospects for securing employment

A core requirement in the referral process for both programmes was that JCP staff should consider the customers willigness and ability to secure employment of at least 16 hours per week within six months of engaging with WFS and 12 months for WAS. No such process is in place.

JCP WCs felt that they had no clear information or close knowledge of individual customers on which they could base such a judgement and so it was not a realistic request. This was primarily an issue for WAS but a number of lead providers, and some supply chain organisations delivering WFS, felt that there were customers who were being referred who would have great difficulty being able to secure employment within six months. This is a judgement call for WCs and clearly there is some room for variation.

Some WCs reported that the JCP internal guidance (version 4) specifically states that no such assessment should be undertaken [13] . It was suggested that the appropriate mechanism for undertaking an assessment of customers' ability to work was the Work Capability Assessment ( WCA). However, the backlog in undertaking WCAs (reported to be between six and 14 months) was a root cause for a limited pipeline of ESA WRAG claimants and so a particular issue for WAS referrals as WFS could draw on a wider group of claimants.

Lead providers and their supply chain were clear that too little assessment of the barriers faced by customers moving into work was being undertaken and was a major reason for the relatively high proportion of referrals who do not start on both programmes.

Voluntary participation and customer choice

The decision to make participation in both programmes voluntary was endorsed by all stakeholders and delivery partners. Providers see a huge advantage of working with customers, whatever their needs, if they themselves have taken a positive decision to engage in the process.

That said, not all customers were fully engaged in returning to work from the outset. Both JCP WCs and provider frontline advisers reported that a small proportion of customers decided agreed to start on the programme because it was what they thought was required of them [14] . So, while they recognised there was a choice – they perhaps had an impression, it wasn't really voluntary and that a refusal to participate might have consequences for their benefit entitlement. Equally, in a small number of cases, customers were happy to attend provision as it got them out of the house and socialising, even though they felt that their health condition prevented any realistic prospect of work.

For their part, some JCP WCs and DEAs endorse voluntary participation, but also recognised that this represented a cultural shift, particularly for those in receipt of benefits, and that it would take time for those customers to get used to the idea. In addition, they also pointed out that as part of ESA WRAG or JSA groups, claimants were faced with other benefit requirements which are compulsory. We are aware of at least one case where claimants' attendance at a JCP Group Information Session ( GIS) about WAS was mandatory for customers. This was in an attempt to get potential customers to listen to the provider offer. It is interesting to note that this did not work, with attendance not much above that achieved by the voluntary GIS.

A number of JCP WCs also highlighted that the Work Capability Assessment procedure could have a negative impact on customers. Notifications of WCA do not give a specific date but provide a wide timeframe, often leaving customers with a feeling of " threat hanging over their heads for weeks" [Provider frontline adviser].

All stakeholders agreed that customers who received a notification of an impending WCA " go into a tailspin" irrespective of where they are in the process. Any interest in moving back into work is dropped. Customers expect to have their benefits cut and feel that they will be harshly judged on any evidence that they may have shown interest in moving back into work.

Providers and WCs had no direct evidence to suggest that the fear of showing too much interest in work may have made some customers awaiting WCA more reluctant to participate, but there was a view that it may have been a consideration for those who were not sure, to play safe and turn down the opportunity.

Customer referrals and starts on programme

The proportion of referrals who agreed to start on both WFS and WAS programmes was highlighted by providers as a key metric in their performance. A steady flow of new customer starts were required to achieve successful ouctomes for participants and maintain provider staffing and infrastructure. Where a higher proportion of referrals do not start, the provider can be involved in considerable activity to engage with customers, in the knowledge that this may not always result in a start on the programme.

By end of October 2017 [15] , just under 5,000 referrals had produced 2,978 starts on WFS, representing 60% of referrals. Lead providers point to this being markedly different to their previous experience on Work Choice contracts, on which they had based their business planning assumptions for both the volume of referrals and rate at which these customers convert to starts the programme.

WFS starts are substantially above the starts recorded by Work Choice in the four CPAs in Scotland in both 2015/16 and 2016/17, when under 1,000 customers started over a similar period. However, data for Work Choice suggests that, for the programme as a whole, the conversion rate of referrals to starts is higher than for WFS, at 67% for the period July 16 to June 17 [16] .

There is no clear pattern of the transition rate over time. In fact, data for one provider had an average conversion rate of 65% for the first 4 months but 53% for the last 3. The volume of referrals had declined from June 2017 and proportionately fewer customers started WFS. There was no evidence of a learning effect and a more likely explanation is that the pool of eligible and potentially interested customers has declined over time.

Table 3.1 WFS Referrals by Month April – Oct 2017

Referrals Starts Conversion rate
April 631 459 73%
May 845 559 66%
June 871 557 64%
July 750 465 62%
August 752 466 62%
September 599 352 59%*
October 505 120 24%*
Total WFS 4,953 2,978 60%

* A proportion of September and October referrals would not have had time to start WFS

Source: PRaP WFS data April-October 2017 at 31 October 2017

A total of 1,617 customers had been referred to WAS providers between April and October 2017. To the end of October 2017 just under half those referred to WAS started the programme. Provider frontline staff point to a number of factors behind the conversion rate for WAS:

  • WAS customers were considered to have high health needs and other barriers to work. This was a new target customer group and lead providers also reported that they found customers to have higher barriers to work than they had expected.
  • Many customers had not considered the prospect of work. For some, the Initial Assessment interview with the provider might be the first occasion that they were given a full understanding of the WAS offer and that participation was entirely voluntary.
  • Being further from the labour market, some customers needed longer to think the prospect of work through where their ability to manage their health condition alongside working was more of an issue. Some supply chain advisers felt that the WAS 'offer' might work better coming as part of health-related support – for example, occupational therapy where the customer could discuss and gain confidence from a medical expert. Whether this could have been achieved within the short lifespan of the programme was recognised as a major issue.

There is some evidence that the WAS conversion rate improved over the first few months of the programme as WCs became more familiar with the customer group – fewer than 16% of referrals in April and May started the programme compared to 60% or more July to October 2017.

Table 3.2 WAS Referrals by Month April – Oct 2017

Referrals Starts Conversion rate
April & May 165 26 16%
June 534 145 27%
July 304 197 65%
August 238 142 60%
September 203 165 81%
October 173 112 65%
Total WAS 1617 787 49%

Source: WAS MIS CTS data April-October 2017 as of end of February 2018.

Reasons for not participating

Data on the reasons customers provided for not starting on both programmes is inconsistent for a number of reasons:

  • There is no record of customer details if they fail to attend initial interviews.
  • Even when they do attend, some customers decide that they do not want to start without going through the registration process.

Data capture of the reasons why customers choose not to start WFS and WAS is therefore limited and no data is available for either programme as a whole and so must be treated with some caution.

One WFS provider recorded 743 exits from the programme (38% of all referrals) where the customer did not start (up to end Oct 2017). Almost half had decided not to participate when contacted by the provider and 21% were cancelled when the customer failed to respond. The next largest group were referred in error or ineligible. Some 12% reported either health related or personal issues preventing their participation, but we cannot rule out that these are the underlying reasons for opting not to start in the other groups. In 6% of cases either the provider or commissioner made the decision to exit them from the service but is unclear what reasons lay behind this category.

Table 3.3 Exit reasons recorded against WFS referrals who did not start

Reason Percentage of known
Customer does not wish to continue participating 46%
Cancellation (failure to attend) 21%
Referred in error/Customer not eligible 13%
Health related issues 8%
Commissioner/provider decision 6%
Personal issues prohibiting participation 4%

Source: Provider MIS for WFS
Source: WFS Provider MIS data April-October 2017

A WAS provider had reviewed their internal systems to explore in more detail the reasons given to frontline advisers by potential customers for not participating, and shared these results. Long-term health conditions preventing work is the reason provided by almost a third of customers. However, over a quarter suggest that they are not ready to consider the offer, suggesting that a sizeable minority of ESA WRAG claimants might be interested in such an offer in future.

Table 3.4 Reasons given by WAS referrals for not choosing to participate

Reason Percentage of known
Long-term health condition prevents working 32%
Not ready to participate 28%
Does not want to participate 14%
Other reasons (already have part-time job, approaching retirement, custodial sentence, etc. 8%
Short/medium-term health issue prevents work 4%
Appealing WCA decision 3%
On other training programme 3%

Source: Provider MIS for 97 WAS referrals where a reason was known from 273 customers who decided not to participate to December 2017.

Communications between JCP WCs and providers

Providers and JCP WCs all suggest that engagement and good communications with their local JCP offices were key to the scale and quality of referrals across both programmes:

  • JCP WCs felt that there could be significant variation in the engagement with local providers – "Some are in here all the time and yet other offices say they hardly see their providers" [ JCP WC].
  • For their part, providers across all CPAs report that some JCP offices are very supportive and will go the extra mile to ensure the process works, while others do not. This was not put down to the process but more the prevailing culture in some offices. "We've tried different ways to get more involved but without much success, it seems to be the way in some Jobcentres" [ WAS frontline adviser].
  • WAS providers also point to the existence of other programmes operating in Glasgow and Edinburgh city regions that were also targeting the same customer group. JCP WCs raised the point that they were required to consider which might be the most appropriate support for the customer and felt this sometimes became lost in discussions about referral numbers. WCs identified a number of other services - All in Edinburgh, Working Matters (Glasgow City Deal area), supported employment programmes and more recently Journey to Employment (J2E) community job clubs - which may be more appropriate to potential WAS customers.

It also needs to be recognised that good communications are a vital part of an effective delivery process – not just to the referral – as customers may often say one thing to one organisation and quite another to the other, depending on what they believe each organisation wants to hear. There appear to have been some structural challenges to establishing such communications:

  • Individual WCs have responsibility for specific customers and so any enquiries relating to that individual have to be answered by that WC.
  • WCs are busy and often have no space in their diaries to respond to telephone calls – " we have to hope that a WC has a cancellation, then we know that they will have 20 minute gap in their day – it's the only time you can really talk to them" [ WFS frontline adviser].
  • JCP offices will not accept email communications which means repeated phone calls to try and catch a WC when they happened to be free.
  • The volume of communications was only increased by prospective customers failing to attend initial appointments as providers chased contacts to offer alternative dates (providers were required to offer three appointments before they were exited from the programme).


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