Posts Tagged ‘Job Coach’
Work and Pensions Committee : ‘Concerns’ over “Policemen” Work Coaches and Work and Health Programme.
Job Coach Client.
Work Coaches are front-line DWP staff based in Jobcentres. Their main role is to support claimants into work by challenging, motivating, providing personalised advice and using knowledge of local labour markets. This involves conducting work-focused interviews and agreeing tailored “Claimant Commitments”. A job description is shown in Appendix 1. At February 2016, 11,000 whole-time equivalent Work Coaches supported nearly 745,000 out-of-work claimants across Great Britain. Each Work Coach is responsible for a caseload of around 100 unemployed claimants and conducts 10 to 20 claimant interviews per day.
A new approach to the role of work coaches in the Job Centre Plus (JCP) programme is needed as its approach shifts to helping more complex cases, the Work and Pensions Committee has said in a new report.
The report said that changes such as the introduction of the Work and Health Programme and Universal Credit mean that JCP will deal with more claimants ‘in-house’ instead of through contracted-out provision and with more claimants with complex needs, such as health problems and disabilities.
However, it said that these changing needs were combined with a move to a “generalist” model for work coaches.
(Hat-tip to Benefit Tales.)
Committee Chair Frank Field said:
“The government is basing the future for the new Job Centre Plus advisers on too narrow a financial and administrative base. It is in danger of missing this opportunity to create a world-class first in respect of its job advisers, and a world-leading employment support programme for disabled people in Job Centre Pluses by not thinking through the demands to be made on what is, in reality, the same old system financed by a much reduced budget.”
Against the backdrop of a much changed labour market, the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit and the scaling down of contracted-out welfare-to-work programmes, JCP will be expected to provide employment support to a broader and more challenging caseload of claimants, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and the long-term unemployed.
In the report summary this is well-worth noting,
Culturally, JCP must ensure that it becomes an inspirational place from which individuals find and succeed in work. JCP Work Coaches—front-line advisors—will play a pivotal role. Too often, JCP staff have been cast in the role of policemen rather than supporters who help people progress to and in work. Major changes will be required of Work Coaches. There is a case for some Work Coaches to specialise in helping specific claimant groups, while others take a higher caseload of more general cases. There should also be a clearer route for Work Coaches themselves to progress in their careers in providing tailored employment support, reflecting the increased demands of today’s labour market.
The success of the new Work Coach model will depend, in part, on Coaches’ awareness that they are not experts in all areas—including disability and health conditions. They must, therefore, embrace working alongside more knowledgeable third parties and charities. To make a success of its new, expanded role, JCP will have to ensure that it is open to working in ways that are increasingly flexible, adaptable and experimental. It must strengthen working relationships with employers and other external partners in order to ensure that specialist support is available to claimants when it is needed. It will also need to demonstrate an ability to learn on the job and adapt its provision, both to changing labour market circumstances and as it learns what works in supporting claimants. This new role will also need to be reflected in its opening hours.
Previously, many of these claimants would have been supported outside JCP, through the contracted-out Work Programme and Work Choice. Whether the employment support that the Department offers to these claimants is successful will largely depend on its Work Coaches – front-line support staff. The Committee identifies several concerns about this approach:
- Work Coaches will increasingly have to provide positive coaching and address claimants’ barriers to work, yet many claimants currently view Coaches as “policemen” due to their role in administering sanctions: two potentially conflicting roles
- Work Coaches will be generalists who support claimants with a wide range of needs. However, addressing their claimants’ barriers to work requires specialist skills and knowledge that many Work Coaches currently lack, and have little incentive to develop
- To compensate for their lack of specialism, Work Coaches will be increasingly required to identify and refer their claimants to appropriate external support: for example, from charities and third parties. This, in itself, requires a level of specialist knowledge
- The requirement to refer to third-party support, alongside the more complex caseloads and extended support role, will place increasing pressure on claimants’ appointment times with Work Coaches
The Committee is also concerned about the “manifold reduction” in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents. It will have a budget of £554m over its lifetime: substantially less than the estimated £1.5bn that was spent on disability employment through the Work Programme and Work Choice it replaces. Witnesses told the Committee that this reduction in programme capacity meant that many of those who might benefit from participating would be unable to access it. Given the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap, this is a disappointing development.
This is also worth noting: Conclusions and recommendations.
3.We recommend the Department set out how it will support Work Coaches to strike the right balance between coaching and conditionality—potentially conflicting elements of their role. Work Coaches should be given more comprehensive guidance on how to adopt a flexible approach to conditionality for vulnerable groups of claimants, such as those with health conditions or housing problems. The guidance should include multiple examples illustrating the circumstances in which different levels of conditionality, including frequency of meetings, would be appropriate and effective. (Paragraph 22)
4.We recommend that the Department monitor the extent to which claimants consider Claimant Commitments personalised. This should include adding a question on this topic to the annual Claimant Experience survey. (Paragraph 23)
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The success of the Department’s approach will depend on supporting people who, in many cases, are long term unemployed or have substantial health issues back into work. Many of these may have seen Jobcentres as enforcement agencies, and their staff as police, and have been poorly served in the past. Instead of building on examples of successful programmes such as Work Choice, the Department is overseeing a massive reduction in the spending on the replacement Work and Health Programme. Compensating for this will require a massive cultural shift and practical shift in JCP, enabling it to become a place that supports real progress to, and in, work. We are not convinced that JCPs and Work Coaches will have the necessary resources, skills and expertise to do this, and especially not at the rapid and ambitious pace that the DWP is expecting.
The Government has expressed the need to reform capitalism, and to “make work pay”. We welcome the Department’s willingness to take a flexible approach to JCP’s services, and to try to support those who have been inadequately served by the current system. But we have grave concerns that shifting a raft of new, specialised demands and requirements onto JCPs, without significant training and preparation and with greatly reduced resources, is simply front-loading this brave new world for failure.”