Publication - Research publication

Implementation review of transitional employment services 2017

Published: 6 Dec 2017

Review of the development and early implementation of the transition year employability services: Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland.

47 page PDF

450.6 kB

47 page PDF

450.6 kB

Implementation review of transitional employment services 2017
3. Governance arrangements and stakeholder engagement

47 page PDF

450.6 kB

3. Governance arrangements and stakeholder engagement


There is a clearly defined joint governance structure for the transitional employment services, which includes ministerial-level oversight and input.

3.1 There are four main elements to the joint governance structure for Work Able Scotland ( WAS) and Work First Scotland ( WFS):

  • Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare – established by the Prime Minister and the First Minister to provide a forum for discussion and decision-making in relation to implementation of the welfare and employment-related aspects of the Scotland Act 2016. The transitional employment services fall under the remit of the group, which is co-chaired by the Secretary of State for Scotland ( UK Government) and the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities (Scottish Government).
  • Joint Senior Officials Group – includes representatives from the Scottish Government ( SG), Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP), Jobcentre Plus ( JCP) and Skills Development Scotland ( SDS). The group was established to ensure senior-level engagement and oversight of the process of devolution of welfare and employability powers, which included the transitional year employability services. It reports in to the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare.
  • Scottish Government Employability Programme Board – established to oversee the design, development and implementation of devolved employability support services, including WAS and WFS. The Board includes representatives from across SG departments, observers from DWP, as well as other non-executive members. The Board originally included representation from SDS, also in the capacity as observer, but they removed themselves from this role to focus on operational delivery. The Terms of Reference for the SG Programme Board have been refreshed to reflect the role of the Board in overseeing the implementation and successful delivery of Fair Start Scotland from April 2018.
  • Joint Operational Group – set up to review progress and early implementation of WFS and WAS, and to provide an appropriate forum to raise and address any operational issues arising. The group meets weekly and includes representation from SG, SDS, DWP and JCP. It was originally intended to run for the first eight weeks of programme delivery, but is now continuing to facilitate ongoing performance improvement across the implementation of transition services.

3.2 In addition to the joint governance arrangements, Scotland's Devolved Employment Services Advisory Group was set up to support the Scottish Government through the devolution process. The Group acts as a critical friend by offering advice, support and challenge to the Government in regular meetings. Its membership includes representatives from employment services, local partnerships, national agencies, service providers, employers, the third sector and the Scottish Government. It is chaired by Professor Alan McGregor from the University of Glasgow.

3.3 The Work Able Scotland Delivery Assurance Group ( WASDAG) was set up to oversee the operational delivery of the programme. It is chaired by the Scottish Government's Employability Implementation Team Leader and comprises representatives of the Scottish Government's Fair Work Directorate, Skills Development Scotland and Jobcentre Plus Scotland. The Group meet on a monthly basis to review and discuss programme performance, expenditure, any delivery and implementation issues and operational risks. It complements a weekly telephone call between SG and SDS, which is the initial resolution point for any issues arising in relation to the programme.

3.4 The governance arrangements for the transitional employment services were reported by several consultees to be more comprehensive than most publicly funded programmes of this scale and nature. The level of political scrutiny and oversight of the programmes was considered to be beyond that of larger programmes. Consultees attributed this to two main factors:

  • This is the first programme to be devolved to the Scottish Government through the Scotland Act 2016 and could therefore be considered a 'pathfinder' in terms of devolving powers and developing a new level of joint working between UK and Scottish Governments
  • They are new, high profile programmes associated with a high level of expectation and political risk and scrutiny.

In addition to participating in joint governance arrangements, SG, DWP and SDS each have their own internal governance and reporting structures relating to the programmes.

3.5 DWP established an internal Scottish Devolution Programme Board to oversee the scope of what DWP was required to deliver in relation to the devolution of employment services to the Scottish Government, including the transition year programmes. The establishment of such a Board is the approach taken by the organisation to all major change programmes. The DWP team that is working on WFS and WAS report in to their internal Scottish Devolution Programme Board, which provides sign-off on key decisions relating to the DWP elements of the programmes. This includes the use of DWP IT systems for monitoring and reporting WFS activity, the establishment of DWP referral processes for WAS and WFS and access to work coaches to disseminate information relating to the programmes. The DWP Scottish Devolution Programme Board continues to meet, but its focus now is on the learning from the 2017 programmes and what this means for the 2018 programme.

3.6 The SDS team responsible for the design, development and implementation of WAS also has a range of internal SDS reporting structures and arrangements. At the development stage, governance was provided by a number of SDS board committees that the team reported in to. Once operational, WAS became business as usual and the reporting arrangements followed those for the other programmes and services that the SDS team deliver and manage.

What worked well?

Governance arrangements were reported to have worked well at both a senior and operational level, ensuring that early implementation issues have been addressed quickly and effectively.

3.7 The SG Programme Board was reported to be working well. It was described as a "very capable" group of people who are engaged and interested. Having senior-level SG representation on the Board was cited as a particular success factor as they have the authority to address issues as and when they arise. For example, the Director of Procurement sits on the Board and so any issues arising in relation to that element of programme delivery have been resolved quickly and effectively. Similarly, the three DWP observers on the SG Programme Board provide valuable input and challenge. In parallel to this, the Scottish Government Director for Fair Work, Employability and Skills, who has overall responsibility for ensuring that the programmes meets their objectives, has observer status on the DWP Scottish Devolution Programme Board, to promote a joined-up approach.

3.8 Moreover, several consultees reported that the papers provided to the Programme Board and Advisory Groups tended to be of high quality and that feedback and comments on these were listened to. That is not to say that they were always taken on board, but people did feel engaged. Also, where serious issues were raised, such as the decision of whether or not to go ahead with a transition year, detailed papers were produced to address concerns and guide decisions.

3.9 The Joint Operational Group meets on a weekly basis and has provided an effective forum for addressing delivery issues relating to WAS and WFS. It has opened up regular lines of communication between SG, SDS and DWP at an operational level, which provides a good basis for ongoing partnership working between the three organisations.

Access to expert resource and guidance has been a key success factor in shaping the design, development and implementation of the programmes.

3.10 The design and delivery of employability services is a new area of activity for the Scottish Government. They cite a key success factor as having been able to draw in expert resource and guidance to inform and support the process. This has been done through three main routes:

  • Establishing an experienced team – a multi-disciplinary team was set up within the Scottish Government to lead the design, development and delivery of the programmes. Team members bring a breadth of relevant experience and include a number of former DWP employees with direct experience of designing and delivering employability programmes, as well as good working knowledge of DWP operations and change landscape.
  • Drawing on the Advisory Group – the Group was reported to be working well, with high levels of engagement and input provided by stakeholders from across the sector. It has promoted open dialogue between providers, national agencies and third sector representatives. The Chair of the Group, Professor Alan McGregor, was reported to have been a key adviser providing valuable guidance and input throughout.
  • Consultation exercise – in advance of developing the programmes, the Scottish Government carried out a comprehensive consultation exercise, which engaged a large number of stakeholders from across the sector. The feedback from this has been valuable in informing decisions relating to the new programmes. Although, it is acknowledged that this did raise expectations around what the new programmes would deliver, some of which could not be met within the constraints of the transitional year services and the significantly reduced budget available to deliver the programmes (relative to what was originally envisaged).

What worked less well? What are the challenges?

Having multi-layered governance arrangements has highlighted conflicting organisational priorities.

3.11 DWP and SDS are key partners in the delivery of WFS and WAS. In addition to the joint governance arrangements for the programme that have been set up by SG, they have their own internal governance arrangements and decision-making structures. At times, this appears to have created challenges in terms of conflicting organisational priorities between the three organisations. These are high profile programmes for SG in the context of devolution and it is important to them (and Government Ministers) that they deliver against Ministerial policy ambitions. However, they form a relatively small part of the wider portfolio of programmes that DWP and SDS deliver, and there was a view amongst some consultees (although not from the organisations themselves) that they were perceived as less of a priority to them.

3.12 An example of conflicting priorities related to the challenges faced by SG and SDS in securing access to JCP Work Coaches in advance of programme launch and the decision taken by SDS to remove themselves from their role as observer on the SG Programme Board. In the former case there was a desire for earlier contact, which DWP did not agree with; and in the later SDS's change in status reflected emerging clarity about their role.

3.13 The multi-layered governance structures were also reported to have impacted on key decisions taken in relation to the design, development and implementation of the programmes. For example, the SG Programme Board signed off on a plan and timetable for engaging JCP Work Coaches. However, this was not agreed by DWP. The multi-layered governance structures were also reported to have resulted in some overlap and delay, with proposals having to be presented to multiple boards and groups for review and sign-off. However, despite timings and sequencing issues, this was not thought to have caused any major issues to date.

3.14 Consultees from both SG and DWP reported that it took some time to establish effective ways of working together. A particular challenge identified was the establishment of protocols to enable sharing of information between the two organisations. However, both parties approached this with a willingness to make it work and were successful in overcoming initial barriers to this, and it is an opportunity to embed a new level of joint working processes and behaviours between Scottish and UK Governments.

It has taken longer than expected to establish a team capable of delivering the programmes.

3.15 As noted earlier in this chapter, the establishment of a multi-disciplinary team within SG to lead the design, development and delivery of the programmes was identified as a key success factor. However, the process of recruiting the SG team was reported to have been very protracted, with HR processes and security clearance checks sometimes taking upwards of six months. A particular challenge has been in recruiting people with the right IT and project management skills, which has resulted in them having to shift resource around internally in order to address gaps. These issues have impacted on the time taken to get the team set up and able to deliver.