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People in need of help don’t see their issues as separate and distinct. To them, all sort of things that government would refer to as ‘outcomes’; being in work, overcoming a skills deficit, or finding a stable home, are part of the same goal – trying to get on in life. Too often we treat these issues separately, sending people off to different providers and leaving them to be passed from pillar to post. 

This week Policy Exchange published a new report, ‘Joined Up Welfare – The next steps for personalisation’. The report looks to answer the questions:  How can we make services better reflect the expectation citizens’ have? And how we can truly join up services to make them cheaper and more effective?

We recommend that reform should follow three principles. First, services should be accessed from a central point of contact, whether you’re looking for work, or simply need some support. Second, provision should occur through a diverse range of specialist providers, rather than centrally commissioned services. Third, in order to enable this system, funding should follow the individual and be tied to the magnitude of their needs, rather than allocated through central contracting. This would mean that:

  • Jobcentres would be completely overhauled. The employment services part would be mutualised and be allowed to compete with the private and voluntary sectors as well as other public bodies to provide specialist support for people looking to find work.
  • The remaining part of Jobcentre Plus would be expanded and rebranded as Citizen Support. It would effectively act as the primary and central hub for accessing government services, enabling advisors to identify an individual’s specific barriers to work and suggest providers that could help meet that person’s needs.
  • The advisor would show the jobseeker the success rate of each provider using comparison data to help the jobseeker make a more informed decision about which providers are most appropriate to help them.
  • Instead of the budget being allocated directly from central government to different providers as is currently the case, the money would be allocated to the individual claimant and then be funnelled to the provider of choice who is paid on the outcomes they achieve.
  • Unlike the current system, the provider of choice would act as an individual’s ‘caseholder’ – a specific point of contact. That lead provider will then coordinate specialist support suited to that person’s unique needs.
  • This would be radical, and disturb much of the existing infrastructure. However, we think that now is the time to consider this type of reform. In-work conditionality, the renegotiation of the Jobcentre estate, an increasingly mature market for the provision of employment support, and advances in technology mean that now is the time to be bold.

As with any big picture approach, there is a debate to be had about implementation, and many details which would be need to be ironed out. We welcome thoughts and feedback on this plan and a discussion about the report. However,  the most important thing is ensuring that we provide support that is responsive, effective, and helps people make the best of their life. As our report states, it’s not about where it’s coming from, it’s about what works.