On 9 January ERSA hosted a packed online review of the National Audit Office’s Restart Scheme report. Many thanks to the NAO’s Christopher Barrett and Joshua Reddaway for presenting their findings and answering members’ questions. The key points covered were:

  • Restart is now expected to support 692,000 people, 48% of the original forecast of 1.34m.
  • This is due to far fewer people being referred to Restart than anticipated.
  • Lower demand was due to a better performing economy and lower level of unemployment than expected. A smaller proportion (43%) of eligible people were also deemed suitable for the scheme by Jobcentre Plus work coaches. DWP expected this to be 82%.
  • Work coach non-referral decisions were often based on participants’ changed circumstances or complex barriers (health, homelessness etc) requiring bespoke and specific local interventions.
  • More visibility/mapping of funded local provision is required for JCP colleagues to make informed choices on the best referral routes for their participants.
  • Fewer people accessing Restart support has resulted in a higher cost per person; from an estimated £1,800 per participant to £2,429.
  • DWP could not significantly reduce costs per person when initial capacity estimations were deemed too high. The NAO deemed this to be an area of future focus.
  • Forced closure of JCP offices during the pandemic and staff churn has contributed to less close relationships being formed with participants.
  • Restart providers offer more intensive, structured support to participants than JCP work coaches, specifically by having time to build trusting relationships and understand employment barriers.
  • The NAO calls for closer integration of providers’ and JCP systems to lessen duplicative and inefficient handover processes, removing the onus from participants to keep their referral chain informed. Programme design encompassing relationship building between participant, work coach and provider is vital.
  • DWP now estimates that Restart will achieve £2.44 of social benefits per pound spent.
  • Nine new customer service standards introduced for Restart have mostly not been met.
  • The NAO estimates that 36% of Restart participants (expectation: 31%) will achieve a job outcome.
  • In general terms Restart looks to be working and is on course to deliver a significant benefit to the economy – but could have been delivered more cost effectively. Ongoing and eventual full evaluation of the scheme will be required.

View the event recording in full: https://youtu.be/s242H1xLxUQ

Download the slides:NAO Presentation Slides

Read the NAO’s press release (including link to the full evaluation report):