PACE partnership review: September 2019
How local PACE partnerships are operating and what current issues they may face.
Background and objectives
Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is the Scottish Government's strategic national partnership framework for responding to redundancy situations. PACE aims to minimise the time individuals affected by redundancy are out of work and is delivered primarily through 18 local PACE Partnerships, each operating with a high level of local flexibility and independence. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) coordinates and chairs each local partnership; and membership varies across different areas depending on the local organisational and delivery context.
This work has been commissioned on behalf of the Ministerial PACE Partnership to provide an updated picture of how local PACE Partnerships are operating and what current issues they may face. The aims and objectives of the study were to:
- establish the membership of the 18 local PACE Partnerships;
- establish the operation of the PACE Partnerships;
- highlight local communications and reflective practice mechanisms;
- establish the processes adopted to respond to redundancy situations across the Partnerships;
- gauge the views of individual local PACE Partnership members on their involvement in the local PACE Partnership including input to strategy and provision of services;
- identify new opportunities for PACE to develop and to refine the current model;
- make recommendations for improving the reach of PACE, particularly in respect of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and smaller numbers of individuals affected by redundancy;
- make recommendations for any improvements to the PACE support provided; and
- seek views about a PACE Pledge agreement for local PACE Partners to sign up to.
This research is based on primary research carried out in early 2019, including focus groups and interviews with local PACE Partners and Chairs; an online survey of Partnership representatives and interviews with national partners and wider stakeholders.
Local PACE Partnerships are led and chaired by SDS, who work closely with local authorities and staff from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)/Jobcentres in delivering PACE support to individuals affected by redundancy. While these three partner organisations play the biggest role in PACE, they work with Colleges, Business Gateways, Enterprise Agencies and Citizens Advice Bureaux to plan and deliver support. Each partnership area also brings in other organisations to deliver services, which include libraries, training providers, trade unions, third sector organisations specialising in areas such as pensions advice, and mental health. Across Scotland, there are 154 organisational representatives involved in local PACE Partnerships.
Roles and responsibilities not always widely understood
While the majority of local PACE Partnership Chairs have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of partners; this is not always true of partner organisations. This is particularly likely to be the case where there have been staff and organisational changes. Chairs rely on 'mature relationships' to resource and deliver support, but these relationships take time to build up, meaning those new to the role can sometimes find it more difficult to engage partners for redundancy responses.
Informal partnership structures
We identified only one local partnership which had a written partnership protocol. Outside of SDS, the commitment of partner organisations relies on existing relationships and their having adequate resources to deliver PACE services effectively.
Varied approaches to governance
The majority of local PACE Partnerships have no scheduled meetings, coming together only when they are delivering PACE services. The remainder meet between two and four times a year to discuss and agree on the PACE offer, to update on any key organisational changes and to share learning. Around three in ten PACE Chairs would like to have more formal partnership meetings. However almost four in ten are happy with not having scheduled meetings and only meeting when necessary.
Risk from budget and service changes
Our research suggests that lack of formal arrangements can lead to problems particularly when there is a combination of:
- staff changes;
- service changes; and
- changing needs.
Where there is no formal commitment to local involvement, it is potentially an easy area for service cuts. PACE provides coordination of existing services only, so local authorities and other key partners do not have a budget allocation against delivering it. The danger of this is that its resources can be removed unintentionally as part of budget savings.
Training needs among less experienced staff
Outside of SDS, the majority of those who are delivering PACE support have not received any specific training related to their PACE role. Those with less experience with PACE are the least likely to have received training. There is no formal induction process for representatives joining local PACE Partnerships, with new staff learning through shadowing, handover support and through doing the job.
Training needs are mainly linked to information sharing
While there would appear to be a high demand for training among respondents to the survey, when we look at what respondents need, most requests focus around understanding the offer, knowing what all partners deliver, and finding out about recent changes. These issues might more effectively be addressed through improved information exchange rather than through formal training.
Communication between SDS and PACE Partners is effective
PACE Chairs are responsible for communicating with other local partners and they do this largely through email, phone calls and through existing relationships and forums outside of PACE. Communication channels within local PACE Partnerships are generally considered to be effective, and the effectiveness of how SDS communicates with other partners has improved over recent years. Almost nine out of ten partners surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that communication was effective (87%); an improvement on previous internal monitoring in 2015 (70%).
Communication and support from the SDS National PACE team was generally considered to be effective and responsive. Some partners identified potential areas for further national support including providing a directory of specialist advisers across the country and providing template documents that local partners could edit and use.
More reflective learning opportunities
Local Partnerships have a range of different approaches to reflective learning, which tends to be informal and incorporated into other meetings. Where regular partnership meetings take place, this is usually an item on the agenda. All areas we spoke to would like to allocate more time to reflective learning, and only just over half of partners surveyed thought that the current arrangements for sharing good practice were sufficient. Partnerships identified more sharing of learning between areas, more written case studies, and more use of web-based approaches to sharing learning.
All local partnership representatives who had engaged with the national Continuing Professional Development (CPD) PACE events had considered them to be useful and worth attending. Partners generally wanted them to be more frequent, possibly delivered regionally and more accessible to wider partners.
More follow-up and impact information
While PACE customer information is gathered at the national level, several local partners highlighted a lack of locally available information on impact beyond anecdotal feedback. No organisation tracks the progress of individuals and the PACE Client Experience Survey is the main way of identifying the impact of PACE services. Partners would ideally like some level of more formal PACE Client Experience survey feedback locally on impact and how their customers were progressing.
PACE responses are effective
There is a well-established and largely standardised approach to how local partnerships respond to redundancy scenarios. This works well, with local partnerships augmenting the formal approaches with wider contacts and networks to pick up and share local intelligence. Our survey found that the vast majority of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that management approaches for PACE were effective (81%); an improvement on previous internal monitoring in 2015 (73%).
Identifying effective resources becoming harder
When there is a large redundancy situation, PACE Chairs alert partners who will be required to provide staff to attend information sessions and provide support to those affected. While local partnerships appear to be resourcing PACE services and responding effectively to employers and employees, there appear to be some emerging issues around resourcing. Budget tightening across partner organisations has already led to service delivery and/or staff changes in at least three local partnerships. These have included reductions in funding to areas such as employability services and financial inclusion advice within some local authorities.
Enterprise Agency representatives were more likely to identify issues in providing staff to attend PACE meetings and respond to redundancies. Partner representatives with less experience of PACE delivery were also less likely to be confident of resourcing PACE responses appropriately. This may be linked to the importance of the 'mature relationships' outlined earlier, in coordinating services.
While most partnerships considered that they engaged effectively with employers in their areas, there were always some instances where employers chose not to, or were reluctant to, engage. These were generally smaller employers who did not know what PACE was, or who had misconceptions about what their role was. There were also employers who did not want to bring PACE into the workplace because they did not want their employees' time taken up. Local partnerships had generally worked around these problems to support employees outside of the workplace and make sure they knew what support they were entitled to.
Partners were keen to ensure that PACE was visible and that those requiring the services could easily find out about it. However, there was a certain reluctance to proactively market PACE services to employers; because some partners considered it might give out the wrong messages or appear too negative.
Gaps in services
There were two consistent areas where local partners highlighted there could be improvements to the services provided through PACE. These were:
- mental and emotional wellbeing; and
- funding for training.
Several respondents highlighted a growing demand for mental health and wellbeing support; particularly as part of large-scale responses. Most partnerships provide referral information only for these types of services; either to the NHS or to third sector specialists. One partnership incorporated specialist mental health services into its core response to larger scale redundancies.
The lack of, and variability of, funding for training was widely reported throughout this research. Issues included the lack of availability of Employability Fund places, local variations in Local Authority and Rapid Response funding and the capping of Individual Training Account places in late 2018.
Participants agreed that there should be a national standardised PACE offer, so that all customers know what service they are entitled to, regardless of where they live. This would help to address some of the 'postcode lottery' perceptions. However there also needs to be flexibility at local level to reflect varying need and differences in the local delivery landscape, Each local partnership benefits from 'on the ground' intelligence, a good knowledge of their local labour market and strong networks and relationships.
Each local partnership should have a partnership protocol setting out the roles and responsibilities of partners and outlining the approaches involved in the PACE response. This will help partners who are not as closely involved to improve their understanding of what other partners are delivering and provide an easily accessible mutual reference point. The National SDS PACE team should provide a basic template for this, if required.
Each partner organisation should provide a high-level commitment to delivering the PACE response based on the protocol.
Information sharing and updates
Each partnership Chair should identify effective ways of sharing information between partners, including updates on services and roles and feedback on PACE delivery. Partners should come together formally at least once a year to share experiences, reflect on delivery and update each other on any organisational changes. The Chair should consult on the timing and format of meetings, however they should have a focus on learning and information exchange. Where regular physical meetings are impractical, partners should consider video-conferencing or skype meetings.
Induction for new partnership representatives
Each partnership should identify how it will support and train new partnership representatives. This should form part of the written protocol outlined above. Guidance for SDS Chairs on carrying out induction for new representatives should be provided.
Widening access to CPD
The SDS National PACE team should support partnerships to develop wider opportunities for learning and CPD around PACE. This should include planning skype calls with external input and developing online learning resources that can be accessed by local partners.
While many of the training needs identified by PACE Partners could be addressed through the measures outlined above, Chairs should identify any specific additional training needs among partners and feed these back to the SDS National Team.
Strengthening mental wellbeing support
The SDS National PACE Team and Scottish Government should support local PACE Partnerships to incorporate mental wellbeing into their PACE offer. This could include improved guidance and signposting as part of the information sessions and dialogue with potential service providers.
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