From education to employment

How will the Work and Health Programme Impact the Frontline?

Deborah Tillett, FIEP

Since the results of DWP’s Umbrella Agreement have been released, the focus has shifted to the procurement of the Work and Health Programme (WHP), with more details becoming available from DWP about what exactly the Programme will entail for delivery providers. Whilst we don’t know everything and delivery design is still very much “black box” we do know there are some important differences between WHP and the employability programmes that have come before.

Change: There will only be one Prime Provider in each Contract Package Area (CPA) and single CPAs cover significant geographical areas.

Potential Impact: Prime Providers will need to build comprehensive supply chains in order to ensure effective delivery across both urban and rural areas of each CPA. With a focus on localised delivery, we can expect to see more outreach work, co-located services (sharing delivery space with other providers and services) and an increased focus on effective supply chain management. DWP expects the programme to be accessible and this will require increased flexibility from Advisors in terms of delivery location, methodology and frequency of interventions. Large delivery sites that house big teams of Advisors, trainers and employer engagement staff in a central location and to which customers travel to receive support, may well become far less common in favour of flexible, peripatetic staff teams working within local communities.

Change: Whilst Providers will be paid based on results, DWP has pledged to automate the entire claims process; relying on Real Time Information (RTI) from HMRC to track customer progression into work and their earnings whilst in work. Providers will be paid a 30% delivery fee for each participant and the remaining 70% outcome fee when a customer reaches a certain earnings threshold while IN work.

Potential Impact: Provided DWP’s system of using RTI is effective, this should mean that Providers are able to focus resources on delivering quality interventions and In Work Support rather than tracking and claims validation. It is also likely to mean that we will see changes to DWP’s performance management regime, PAT audit processes and management information requirements. For front line advisors, an automated claims process should be a boon, freeing them from over bearing process and allowing them to spend more time and energy on delivering quality interventions.

DWP have yet to release further details on how RTI will be used, monitored and reported and the systems requirements of this new process, but one thing is clear – DWP intend WHP to be a contract that supports people rather than process driven delivery.

Change: A focus on people not process. It certainly seems that DWP’s intent in the design, procurement and ongoing management of WHP is that Providers focus resource on innovating and delivering quality, individualised support that meets the complex needs of the customer group.

Potential Impact: We know that WHP customers will have complex needs. We know that supporting them into work will require highly individualised interventions, likely drawing on the expertise of a number of agencies and support services as well as requiring Advisors to have a diverse and flexible skills set. WHP front line Advisors will need to utilize their ability to communicate in a range of ways, be comfortable using technology to support interventions, be able to build rapport and relationships with a caseload of customers with diverse needs, have the ability to co-ordinate multi-agency support for individual customers and engage effectively with employers to source vacancies and support in work progression. WHP Advisors will be expert people people who are also able to satisfy the evidence requirements of DWP (action plans, reviews, management information), albeit to a lesser degree than we may have been used to.

WHP heralds a new generation of Front Line delivery staff. DWP is looking for providers who ensure their staff teams are equipped with relevant skills, remain agile and responsive to a complex customer base, are flexible in their ways of working and performance focussed. The IEP is committed to enabling people working on WHP to ensure that they have access to best practice, knowledge, new skills, peer and expert support.

Deborah Tillett, FIEP 

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