7. Preparation for launch
7.1 As part of their preparation for launch, the Scottish Government asked each WFS provider to develop a comprehensive Implementation Plan, which detailed the key activities that were to be undertaken to ensure they were prepared for their go-live date on 1 April 2017. Providers had fortnightly meetings with the Scottish Government to measure progress against their agreed targets. In the final weeks, this activity intensified and there were daily checklists of actions. In addition, the Scottish Government established a 'go-live' readiness checklist with Job Centre Plus to ensure that all the relevant IT, partnerships and communications and performance monitoring systems were in place for both programmes.
7.2 SDS oversaw the mobilisation phase of WAS and provided updates on progress to Scottish Government. In January 2017, SDS hosted a session with all WAS providers, the aim being for them to familiarise themselves with each other and to establish a collaborative approach to delivery.
7.3 Another key area of activity during the mobilisation phase involved preparing systems for monitoring and reporting WFS and WAS activity. SDS used their Corporate Training System ( CTS) for WAS, which they also use for their national training programmes and the Employability Fund. The Scottish Government agreed with the DWP that they would use their Provider Referrals and Payments ( PRaP) system for monitoring WFS activity. This required a number of technical changes in order to meet the reporting requirements for WFS. There were also legal protocols, including data sharing agreements, to be established.
What worked well?
Scottish Government and providers communicated well throughout the implementation phase.
7.4 The Scottish Government had good pre-existing relationships with WFS providers prior to contracts being awarded and these continued into WFS. The engagement of providers in advance of procurement established a precedent of collaboration ahead of the mobilisation phase and ensured frequent and open communication, which both parties reported as being beneficial. One consultee reported that this partnership approach had worked so well that it would be incorporated into the mobilisation phase for Fair Start Scotland. This feedback was mirrored in discussions with WFS providers.
7.5 WFS providers were reported to have responded well to the process for developing their Implementation Plans and monitoring progress towards these. Although, a key learning point for the Scottish Government was that they it would have been better if they had developed standardised Implementation Plans for each provider to complete at the outset, rather than personalised plans. This would have ensured greater consistency in implementation across the providers and made it easier to track overall progress.
7.6 Providers for both programmes reported that most issues could be resolved quickly as they were able to communicate openly with SDS and the Scottish Government. For WFS, this was attributed to the collaborative approach to the mobilisation phase from conception through to completion. WAS cited having access to a single point of contact within SDS through dedicated Skills Investment Advisers as being particularly helpful. This clarity of relationship was valued. Moreover, it was viewed as a mutually supportive relationship, with one provider commenting that they were seeking to solve problems together.
What worked less well? What are the challenges?
The IT systems for both WFS and WAS have created challenges.
7.7 The changes required to the PRaP system to meet the reporting requirements for WFS were reported to have been more extensive than originally envisaged. These were being made throughout the mobilisation phase right up to programme launch. There were also more legal protocols to be followed than originally envisaged to ensure appropriate data sharing arrangements were in place. Last minute changes were reported to have created discontinuity for providers and may also have contributed to confusion at the delivery level.
7.8 The PRaP referral system for WFS did not work on the day of programme launch. This was attributed to a simple administrative error (the wrong start date had been entered into the PRaP system by DWP) however the issue was resolved within 24 hours, without the need to invoke pre-arranged contingency plans. This event was recognised by one provider as an "unfortunate and unforeseen issue", and valuable lessons have been learned about the importance of contingency planning.
7.9 Another issue that became apparent to providers during this stage was that the monitoring system for WAS ( CTS) was not set up to handle employability programmes in the way that they had been used to. WAS providers reported frustrations with CTS, stating that there were too many fields to complete, with some less relevant for this exercise, which were taking up too much time. The original intention had been to use a different system (the Funding Information and Processing System – FIPS, which is the payment system used by SDS for Modern Apprenticeships), but this was apparently not ready in time. It is not clear if this would have improved the situation for WAS providers.
Scottish Government and SDS had different expectations about their respective involvement in the mobilisation phase.
7.10 One Scottish Government consultee felt that the WAS mobilisation updates to the Scottish Government needed to be more frequent and in more detail, to mirror the mobilisation reporting for WFS. However, this was cited as an issue by SDS, as they felt that the Government were trying to align WAS and WFS in spite of their differences. This comes back to the tensions reported earlier in this report about differentiating design and delivery, and the existence of two parallel programmes.
Information about the programmes was not delivered as broadly or in as much detail as would be expected. This resulted in insufficient briefing for JCP Work Coaches.
7.11 The Scottish Government, DWP and SDS originally planned a nationwide Implementation and Communication Plan to present information about WAS and WFS to JCP Work Coaches. However, this was significantly scaled back by DWP from what was originally planned. SDS, providers and the Scottish Government all cited communication to Work Coaches as being a major issue during this phase. There were two main issues:
- Firstly, there was a significant delay in SG and SDS getting access to Work Coaches, which meant they only received information about the programmes in the weeks leading up to the launch date.
- Secondly, Work Coaches were not given enough detail on the programmes, including advance access to the draft guidance that was jointly developed between DWP and SG, meaning that they were insufficiently briefed ahead of launch.
7.12 WFS and WAS providers reported that they were not authorised by DWP to speak to Work Coaches about the programmes until four weeks before the 'go live' date. This was (reportedly) contrary to the standard timescales for launching new programmes, which usually happens 2-3 months before the 'go live' date. This caused frustration among providers who were keen to speak to Work Coaches and share marketing materials as soon as possible. This element of the mobilisation phase was of particular importance for WAS because it was a completely new offer.
7.13 In addition, Work Coaches were perceived by providers as having not been sufficiently or accurately briefed on the programmes. This has resulted in some service users being unaware that WAS and WFS are voluntary services, and being referred inappropriately to a provider, including referring individuals who were not looking for work. Furthermore, one WFS provider stated that they were receiving referrals for customers who would be more suited for WAS. However, they had accepted them on to the programme anyway as it is in their interests to maximise their numbers.
7.14 The issues mentioned above with Work Coaches were not recognised by the DWP who reported that this stage of the mobilisation process had followed their standard protocol and had been successful. The lesson for future should be to have a clear project plan (with timelines) that is agreed by all parties to avoid any doubt.