From education to employment

Alan Cave says goodbye to Welfare to Work sector

Alan Cave, former DWP Delivery Director, reflects on the industry he has left as he prepares for a new role in Serco outside the welfare to work division.

It is with mixed emotions that I say goodbye to a job and an industry that I have enjoyed being part of for so long and move onto something new. I have worked with some extraordinary people inside the department and in the sector and have been part of creating changes that will make a real positive difference to jobseekers.

Supporting the delivery of the Work Programme, the biggest welfare to work programme in the UK, was, to put it mildly, a challenge. After an extremely quick start up last year, the programme has settled into place, with providers helping jobseekers across the country to find sustainable employment. With the Work Programme, DWP has pioneered a shift in government commissioning towards payment by results, a shift which is now spreading to other departments – such as the Ministry of Justice – as the government seeks to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent more effectively.

The Work Programme also saw a change in role between the department and providers. Instead of prescribing the exact service to be given to jobseekers, the Work Programme gives providers the freedom to help job seekers find sustained employment, in the way that they find most effective. Looking at how providers have already been using this freedom shows the potential for innovation and dynamism in the sector, and hopefully we will see this increase in the next year as providers discard things that aren’t working and share learning to create new techniques and processes to support jobseekers.

The welfare to work industry has therefore had to deal with a lot of change, fast, and it is still developing itself. As an industry, welfare to work is still relatively young. The industry has only this year created its own professional body, The Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP), of which I am an honorary member.  The IEP encourages the raising of standards and the CPD of its members. Already the IEP has seen a large amount of interest from a range of organisations and industry professionals; from those who have recently joined the industry as frontline advisers, to operational directors of multinational service providers. What these IEP members have in in common is that they wish to raise the standard of their provision to ensure the best possible outcome for jobseekers.

The IEP has the potential to play an increasingly central role in the industry over the next few years as employability professionals see the value of IEP membership and their employers see the value of having IEP members as staff. It seems to me that an employee who is committed to raising standards and their own ability to perform has to be the sort of person you want on board in an industry so reliant on results.

As delivery director my role was to oversee the performance of the Work Programme and other employment programmes. We have been waiting for a big shift, a rev-up in gears from the industry in regards to performance levels. I am positive that it will come but it is hard to predict what will really push it; it could be an entirely new way of working, of increased collaboration and sharing of best practice, or maybe it will come from the individuals in the sector, who, with help from the IEP, are driving forward industry standards.

With such a fast changing industry, it’s impossible to predict the future, we will just have to wait and see.

Alan Cave, former DWP delivery director, is joining Serco, the main contractors on the Work Programme in Yorkshire and the West Midlands

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